London's Impermanent Street Art
Check out London's provocative street art and let it WOW you!
When you're on vacation in London and have had your fill of the London museums and shopping on Oxford Street, make a diversion to Shoreditch, the artistic, playful and often startling gateway to London's East End. Shoreditch is the gentrified home to a flamboyant and dynamic culture of international street artists who have all left an ever-evolving kaleidoscope of creativity on the streets.
The brick shop fronts of cafes, bars, galleries, vintage clothing stores and fabulous curry houses is the canvas that sees street art merge with dark humor—with doorways, lamp posts, sidewalks, windowsills and pretty much every other spot taken up by comic strip art or provocative images and messages.
Street art could be taken as insensitive—intimidating even (after all, gangsters spray signs marking their neighborhoods). Equally, urban graffiti can send a message too, providing a sense of positivity, of community cohesiveness, which is the case for most of the works in Shoreditch. Here murals push the boundaries of contemporary and urban art. Some are weirdly wacky or raw and disturbing; others in-your-face political statements, but mostly all they demand is an immediate reaction.
The district's collages are constantly revived and always astounding. One day you are bereaved over the loss of a masterpiece from street staples like Invader, Scavage, Stik or ROA, who provide stunning murals, environmental art and freehand painting; then the next day you are left breathless in finding a shocking collaboration between the bold political statements of Ronzo and Thierry Noir, graffiti master Dscreet and the Banksy-like Pablo Delgado.
Big names on every corner
Take a walk down Shoreditch High Street and you'll see John Dolan, one of East London's most infamous artists. He sits every day with his dog capturing the detail of the architecture which surrounds him. His images enrich the old, decaying buildings which are often not seen by passersby and through his vivid portrayals his audience is forced to reconsider what to them is purely a backdrop to their day.
John Dolan may tell you about Zomby, one of London's most respected graffiti writers and whose instantly recognizable approach and style has exerted an enormous influence over the development of graffiti in the city. Zomby is part of Diabolical Dubstars (DDS), one of London's most productive and legendary graffiti crews who are the undisputed kings of London train graffiti and have been active for +20 years.
If you come across catch phrases like “Oh my days” which spans an entire wall, you've most likely found the work of Kid Acne who paints oversized idioms on buildings depicting expressions people easily relate to. One such message was painted on a wall of his old art college before it got knocked down. It said: “You'll Miss Me When I'm Gone”.
You'll know you've found a RUN original when you stand beside it. RUN, from Gdansk, Poland is a prolific big name contemporary street artist who now lives in London and creates elegant large-scale murals of breathtaking proportions.
Knowing where to go and finding your own way around can be a little overwhelming and sometimes confusing which is why we recommend a two-hour guided Street Art Tour with Insider London who provide a knowledgeable local with all the insider secrets.
Pack your spray cans. No just kidding but do find cheap flights to London from Boston and Washington, D.C. with WOW air.
Text and photos by Cindy Lou-Dale