From Vhils' hammer drilled carvings to Three’s plaque tags to Jonesy’s sculpture bombs; graffiti is taking on another life form. Shoreditch is blessed enough to play witness to this street art revolution, as urban intervention evolves not just from 2D to 3D, but from pretty daring to downright mad. Contemporary artists are spewing their creativity onto our curbs, using laborious processes despite the threat of law to realise their individuality and standout in an already saturated mosaic of originality - here we follow the rebellious tracks of five others who against all odds, catch our eye.
Chewing Gum Miniatures
The street element of most street art is usually metaphorical, but Ben Wilson actually gets on his hands and knees to paint chewing gum that's been spat onto the concrete maze of London – as street as it can get really. Each discarded bit of grey Wriggleys is brightened up with a tiny masterpiece or mini landscape inspired often by a life story or the immediate environment – there is one of Shoreditch Town Hall (bottom left) and one outside Old Street station (bottom right ) depicting the surrounding buildings, a red bus and a lone figure whose name is spelt out of the pavement: Karim. Karim Samuels is a street artist and guide, understandably this is the piece he starts his tours off with.
Ben's story is itself one to tell: the last decade of reinvigorating the masticated resin on our pavements has been a struggle. He's had run-ins with the police, confrontations with security guards, and even gotten beaten up and had a stint in prison – ‘benefitting’ from the legal loophole of painting on splats of gum rather than public property. Despite the daily adversities and destruction of his pieces, Ben continues in the hope of giving his environmentalist, humanist and witty narrative an improbably miniature yet hugely impactful platform.
Shoreditch is home to the uniquely wonderful, and Christiaan Nagel's famous squiggly mushrooms certainly fall into that category. Installed into the local skyline guerrilla style under the cloak of night, the vivid and sometimes neon toadstools are pre-made in the artist's home using a web of expanding foam, fiberglass and stainless steel. Sprouting from the rooftops of East London’s brick facade buildings, this form of three-dimensional street art is catching eyes and craning necks with curiosity everywhere from Old Street to Brick Lane. Made in Shoreditch asked him why mushrooms? “It’s a metaphor for how it works in nature. Mushrooms are transient, quick lived things, just like street art. I like how you’d walk down the same street you do every day and suddenly mushrooms have sprouted everywhere. It’s fast, modern art in contrast to someone like Da Vinci who took years to complete a fresco.” What a fungi.
Cityzen Kane, the clue is in the name. Using crystal plaster of paris, this artist creates mystical sculptures that are accentuated with kitsch hues and sparkling metallics to bring a captivating psychedelic energy to walls - once you spot one, it really is very hard to look away. In an interview, CZK as he’s also known, told of how the house music revolution of the 80s changed his life and brought this meditative quality to his work; “Being very much involved with the scene, I considered it to be a very enlightening and spiritual experience for me. I would have amazing visions of organic shapes and colours in symmetry, so I decided to express these visions through my art.”
Often reminiscent of Hindu goddesses, native African representations and natural bulbous forms, his work plays with light and speaks to the conscience - often drawing people in to touch. If your hands are itching now, head to the end of Redchurch Street to check out a red and black motif surrounding a masked face, done in memory of the artist's son.
Francisco de Pajaro transforms rubbish into eclectic disposable art. Striking before the bin men do, he refashions trash into comical figurines using spray paint, paste ups and an arresting sense of humour. Cast-off mattresses, cardboard boxes and black bags make for the three-dimensional heads or bodies of cartoon characters, while flailing legs and arms sprawl off onto adjacent walls and pavements, creating a hilariously grotesque impression of drunkenness that’s part real, part imaginary. Francisco also has a knack for modifying billboards and double yellow lines, hitting the streets where he’s least expected - his work is here today and gone tomorrow, so keep an eye out for when he next leaves his recyclable mark.
INSA brings technology to the curb and takes street art to the next level, with a free downloadable augmented reality app that animates static wall murals into moving image. Just point your phone camera at his graffiti and watch it come alive on your touchscreen as a GIF - the resultant mesmerising effect is thanks to pictures he’s taken at intermittent stages during the creative process, which involves layering his paintwork up to 12 times. Most graffiti is reduced to pixels, shared through the Internet and digested in whatever screen resolution you have at your disposal, so INSA’s counterintuitive idea was inspired by a want to reclaim the power of impact stolen by photography.
Dubbed GIF-iti, this inventive concept has already been taken to insane new heights, literally - with INSA being commissioned to create a frieze in Brazil that’s so big it can be captured by satellites in space. But luckily for you, you only need to head so far as Rivington Street (above) to check out his work, or Redchurch Street (below) where The Cycle of Futility whirls through the spectrum of life from our spermatic beginnings to our skeletal ends, with love and authority also playing a part in this relentless visual kaleidoscope.