The street art in London, covers the walls of its East End. The traditionally working class, and now ultra hip area of London is a hotbed for street artists to paint, spray, paste, and sculpt their trade. This has bred an outdoor gallery of street art that few places in the world can match. The world’s most famous street artist, Banksy, has plied and perfected his trade on these walls. Beyond Banksy, however, is a world of talented, innovative, and creative artists. Some are famous, others less so, but one thing is for sure: world-class street art adorns London’s East End.
In order to explore what street art in London had to offer, I took a tour with Street Art London. Our guide for the day was not only a guide, he was a talented street artist himself. Griff is deeply connected to not only the London scene, but the worldwide street art scene. Griff arranges visits by internationally renowned artists, helps secure legal walls so there is no need to rush their trade, connects artists with the art collector network, and develops street art apps. In short, Griff is the man you need to know in London when it comes to everything graffiti and street art.
Our tour started from the Old Street underground station. Our first piece, was literally a piece – a piece of gum. You see Ben Wilson is not your typical street artist. He has chosen to search for pieces of gum on the sidewalk, brush them off, and spend hours lying on the ground, intricately painting scenes on old pieces of gum. When he is done, he varnishes them and protects them from the elements. His paintings can last years of abuse, and rain.
Our next stop brought us to a work by Stik. Stik has become famous for his simplistic style of drawing stick men. This was born out of necessity. Stik paints fairly large pieces, and in order to put them up before the bobbies bore down on him, he needed something that was simple and fast. He’s now famous enough that he no longer needs to rush his work, but he still paints with his signature stick man style.
From here we were taken to see the first of a few of ROA’s works. ROA is from Belgium and paints huge animal pieces in black and white. His work is amazing in size and detail. I had never seen anything quite like his style before, and his work is all over London’s East Side.
One of my favourite parts of the tour was encountering pieces by Colombia’s very talented Stinkfish. His work is very easily recognizable by the vivid colours and psychedelic portraits he paints. His work is all over Bogota, and apparently he has a few pieces in London too. I was happily surprised to see that a building that a friend lives in is adorned with a beautiful piece of Stinfish’s work.
There are so many artists that contribute to the street art in London. One of my all -time favourites, however, is a man called David Walker. His portraits of women are nothing short of incredible. The use of colours, and vivid emotions make his work immediately striking. If there are any detractors to street art, they would be hard pressed to argue with the talent that David Walker so boldy displays on the walls of East London.
The tour wrapped up in an alley with some massive Ben Eine lettering. It was put up for the Olympics. One side had the letters P-R-O and the other side A-N-T-I. Apparently Ben Eine originally only put up the anti side, but later added the pro. Ben Eine is now one of the most famous contemporary street artists, with his big break coming in the form of a gift to President Obama from Prime Minister Cameron. No amount of painting in the streets will get you press like that!
This tour was truly one of the best, and most informative tours I’ve ever taken. I normally steer clear of tours, and try to explore cities on my own. I, however, had a limited time to explore the street art scene in London, and wanted to get the most out of it. Without a doubt, it was worth every minute, and every pence spent on the tour. The people at Street Art London are truly “in the know.” If you don’t have the time, or are looking for more info on some of the art you see adorning the East End walls, I’d highly recommend downloading the Street Art London App.
This is such a glowing review you may be thinking I was paid to write this article. That would be incorrect, I just truly enjoyed the tour, and think that his tour should be put right next to a visit to the Tate Museum as a “must do” while in London.