Thursday, 22 August 2013

A different side to London town

Recently I met up with a friend who suggested that we embark on an alternative London street art walking tour.

At first I though this was a quaint idea and a chance to discover more of the city I love.

London changes everyday and street art changes all the time.

Why not have a wonder and see London through the eyes of a street artist and try and understand it some more.

Alternative London offer walking tours for which you make a donation depending on what you get from it.

They start at Spittlefields market near Liverpool street and wander along all over East London and the city.

You will discover all the streets off Brick Lane and see such a diverse array of street art that sometimes you would think that they should be in museums and galleries.

To be fair I knew very little when we set out. I of course knew of Banksy and that was about it. To me he is an artist but many just scribble rude words on walls.

During this walk I would see the development of scribble and taggers to full on artist and be told which art works were legal and which were illegal.

Street art is not just spray paint; oh no. On this tour I saw tile work, plaster that had been chipped and blasted away, stencils, freehand and sculpture.

Even in the most inconspicuous places available a piece of artwork would pop up and hold a hidden meaning.

Adorning the top of street signs are bronze casts with environmental messages. These can be found all over London and are by the Welsh 60 odd year old artist Jonesy. They are blink and you will miss them item which have to be pointed out to you.

Other art works are less subtle. The giant Roa artworks of a crane and a hedgehog fill an entire wall of a private property making them totally legal and quite a tourist attraction.

One such art work was is near Shoreditch station and is a giant tiled piece where Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker battle it our with lightsabres.
This piece is totally illegal and brilliant. The shear audacity to do this at night in a cherry picker with all the lights on in hi-viz jackets and a look out with a clipboard pretending to do routine maintenance. This happened even though the police drove up and had a chat.

This star wars piece really impressed me as sometimes real art can be spontaneous and naughty at the same time.

The further we wondered the more I saw and took in and the more I realised that I had only seen a tiny little part of the East London street art scene.

There were roads galore, alleyways and walkways with loads of art in them that we did not have chance to see. It is a good thing that as the art changes the tours change to suit them. They adapt overtime and develop and therefore no tour is ever the same.

My friend recommended doing one every 3 months as that gives you a chance to see different pieces of street art that replace the old. Almost like a snake shedding its skin for a new colour or a moth becoming a butterfly.

This little tour just goes to prove that no matter how much you think you know a place; it will and can always surprise you.

Try it yourself. Next time I may do the cycle tour to get further afield!

This artwork was done by plastering a wall and chipping it away.

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