At the end of January, I took a long weekend in London to visit some friends who live between there and Barcelona. I’d only been to the city twice before, once in 2012 for an 8 hour layover, which allowed me a short overnight stay in an airbnb near Paddington Station, and once in 2003 on another short weekend during which I coincided with the global Iraq War protests. Neither visit has permitted me the time I would have needed to get a good feel for the city and, of course, its art.
In this most recent visit I was blessed with fine weather, though chilly by Barcelona standards, and a slight overcast sky, which is always better for getting pictures.
As for the art that I saw, I had heard and seen much about the scene in London, and I wasn’t disappointed. The hotspots of Shoreditch and Brick Lane is where most of the shots on this post were taken. I found quite a bit of politically-motivated work, much of it lampooning Brexit PM Theresa May and her equally-adored ally President Donald Trump (still feels strange to type those three words), as well as some work from familiar artists such as C215.
I was also introduced to a well-known London street artist named Nathan Bowen, whose online shop you can find here.
As with any city the size of London, I didn’t get to nearly enough, but the ease, convenience and price mean that I can get away whenever I have a three, or four day mini-holiday.
PS: If you look carefully, you’ll find a rare shot of this blogger among the pics.
Impermanence is one of the things that most appeals to me about art found on the streets. I can return after a few days, weeks, or months, and find a completely different work of art. There are many people that would lament the damage done to the two images I present today, and I doubt that the person who scratched out the eyes on the stencil of the little girl from C215 had art in mind when he or she acted. Nonetheless, I think we have to accept, or even embrace this proces of decay and regeneration in the creation of a completely new work of art. If we want protected art, we can always go to a museum where the works are mostly (with this recent exception caught on video) protected from accidental and non-accidental damage. I’m not even sure damage is the correct word. Transitional blemishes?
One of the teachers who had the most impact on me in my years as a university student was Ilja Wachs, who taught a course on 19th century fiction. He was a chain-smoker, constantly bumming cigarettes from me during our bi-weekly conferences in his office where we would talk about the personal project work I was doing in addition to the class assignments.
My project second term was the novel The Brothers Karamazov, which I dutifully read and prepared a well-detailed outline which would culminate in an analysis of the main character’s motivations as well as his relationship with the world around him, careful to include details from the novel, to show that I’d really read the book. After I’d presented my outline, Ilja stubbed his cigarette out on the sole of his shoe, took my 5 page pre-magnum opus and tore it into little pieces over his tiny, grey wastebasket, overflowing with small coffee cups and what I can only imagine were the outlines of my classmates.
“That’s bullshit,” he told me. “Go back and read it again. And re-read it. You’ll find something new every time. Then we can REALLY talk about this book.” So I did re-read it. Not twice, but 1 1/2 times. And some passages dozens of times. Which is pretty good considering the number of books I’d bought and never opened. And he was right. The re-read always revealed something new, as if Doestoevsky had secretly changed something around while the book sat on my desk between reads. The paper that I wrote is long lost, but still remains one of the most meaningful pieces of work I’ve ever done in my life. Without an outline and not a single citation of the text. Just my impressions as I strolled, and re-strolled the side streets and alleys carved out by Dostoyevsky.
In case you’re interested, here’s a video of Ilja in action.
I try to take the same approach when I walk through the streets looking for my shots. Barcelona is geographically a small city, so the possibilities of finding completely new images every trip through are finite. As I’ve stated in previous entries and in my “about” page, part of my objective in this blog is also to re-visit certain favourite places and watch them change with time, an opportunity we don’t have in a museum with their scolding security guards and multi-million-dollar works protected by glass and laser alarms.
Here are a few re-visit shots, in various states of flux and decay.
Over the last weeks on a few of my instagram feeds and the Barcelona urban art blogosphere, there have been rumblings about some new pieces by French artist c215 that had popped up in the Poble Sec district. As I have only passed through this neighborhood a few times, I knew I would need most of the morning, and I was right, While on my way, as often happens, I managed to discover two images of Amelia Earhart on a large wooden warehouse door. I eventually did find three of c215’s pieces, though I was only able to photograph two, as the third one was under some scaffolding where a man was stripping bits of paint and loose plaster from the side of a building. I decided not to risk a stray brick to the head and return another day. The pair of red eyes can be found on the concrete steps leading to the huge portrait of the old woman. As for what streets they can be found on, well, as another blogger noted (in Spanish): the search for these pieces cost me two afternoons, but that’s part of the fun. If you ever wanted a good illustration of why the journey is more important than the destination, just go out street art hunting one day.
Monday, my first day in Amsterdam, I was pleasantly surprised to find this image from another one of my favourite artists, c215. As with the previous entry, I think this one also might be a self-portrait. And because it’s in Amsterdam, this portrait was of course framed by a bicycle.
There are numerous ways to get from the buzz of downtown Barcelona to the small-town charm of Gràcia, but one of my favorites is the Carrer Riera de San Miquel, which starts at one of Barcelona’s busiest crossings, Avinguda Diagonal and the glitzy Passeig de Gràcia, and winds its way up, ending at the famous Travessera de Gràcia. It also runs parallel to the wider and more well-known Gran de Gràcia, and for this reason is quite easy to miss. Even easier to miss was this piece from C215, which is on the street-facing side of an electrical box, partially blocked by the metal support structure protecting it from errant drivers who go a little too fast on this street’s narrow curves. Car-damaged electrical boxes are an everyday sight in Barcelona, along with the resulting chaos if that box contains control switches for nearby traffic signals. This box seems to have fared pretty well so far. Could this vigilant face be watching out for it?
I read a week or two back in this article in Barcelona Metropolitan magazine about a solo exhibition of some work by French artist c215, who makes quite a few appearances on this blog. The exhibition is being held in the gallery section of a paint shop downtown. Although the exhibition was small, I think it was a good survey of c215’s work. One of my favorites was the huge painting that’s on the wall and visible from the front window of the gallery. I didn’t take any photos, as I feel a bit strange taking photos when visiting an art exhibition. I feel as if it could be disrespectful to the artist and his/her work. Yet on the street I have no problem snapping away. Am I alone in this?
The photo accompanying this post is not a part of the exhibition; it was found near the window of a bike shop right next to the gallery.
The c215 exhibition can be seen until 2 February at the Montana Gallery Barcelona, Comerç 6 BCN, http://www.montanagallerybarcelona.com
From artist C215, this image was found on a doorway near a workshop or garage of some sort just a the northern edge of the Raval. I’ve always been a fan of the color blue, so this one immediately caught my attention. It wasn’t until later that I noticed the phrase “It gives me a tingle” running down the side of the picture. The phrase most likely was placed there separately, though from my smoking days I do remember cloves and menthols inducing a rather creepy tingle. The cloves a tingle and numbness in the mouth and the menthols more of a deep respiratory tingle, neither of which are probably very good for longevity. It’s fitting that this image is found in a doorway, as most smokers nowadays have been condemned to standing in doorways. Though I quit nearly three years ago, I do miss the smoky little bars and cafes that were such an important part of the landscape here.
My neighborhood of Gràcia, or la Vila de Gràcia as it’s officially known isn’t exactly the epicenter of Barcelona’s vibrant street art culture. But when you find an image, usually on the side of an electrical box on a side street, what you’ll find is usually a gem. This image is a perfect example, and comes from one of my favorite artists, c215. I especially like this woman’s glance, sidewise, as I’ve suggested in the title, with a special emphasis on the “wise”. I think this one is still around and can be found very close to the Plaça de Vila de Gràcia (the one with the big clock tower in the center). What does she know that we don’t?
This piece is from artist c215, who has made various appearances on this blog. I think this one might be my favorite (so far). I found it last week in the raval, a welcome splash of color on the increasingly grayer autumn days.