A Quick Guide to Street Art in Europe
Article submitted by Gregor Henderson from Eurodesk UK Partner Yipworld.
'Primavera' in Łódź, photo courtesy of Sainer
An hour and a half west of Warsaw, the city of Łódź has been cultivated into something of an outdoor gallery. Scattered throughout the centre of the town, a patchwork assortment of massive murals adorn the ends of large apartment blocks. Many of them are figures and portraits in the distinctive, slightly characterised style of Eastern Europe with an immersing range of colours and themes.
You will see work by Spanish illustrator Aryz, whose massive characters often appear in a palette that’s cold and muted yet diverse and interesting at the same time. His range of figures – both people and animals – often incorporate cross-sections of the body and the inner imaginings of his posed subjects.
There’s also a collaboration from Aryz featuring Brazilian duo Os Gemeos, who introduce their trademark yellow characters to the city.
Sainer and Bezt who combine to form the Etam Crew, have created several massive graphic portraits and scenes throughout the city which are in their distinct style, reminiscent of surreal folklore. These can be found throughout the streets, breaking up the buildings with their bold colours and creative compositions. As well as all of these, there are plenty of less figurative designs to be seen; text and graphic based work, abstract scenes and fantastical geometric arrangements.
A city with massive graffiti and street art heritage, Berlin continues to play host to some of the most progressive and impressive walls in Europe.
Victor Ash’s massive Astronaut Cosmonaut has been one of the most recognised images of the city for years. There are also multiple paste-up works by French artist JR who takes insightful and socially conscious photographic portraits of locals and displays them around the world, although his collaboration with Blu on their famous East West mural has been painted over in protest of site development issues.
Belgian monochromatic muralist Roa’s work can be seen throughout the city. Massive depictions of animals – in particular rodents – in a variety of situations, alive and dead and always exquisitely executed, can be seen If you can make it to the RAW site at Revaler Straβe. Roa’s work there and elsewhere is accompanied by a plethora of local and international writers and artists alike.
Roa in Berlin
Source: Boris Niehaus (JUST) (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
As well as the stunning architecture, aestheticists now have another reason to visit the Portuguese capital. Over the last few years, Lisbon has become one of the prime street art destinations in Europe.
Another of Os Gemeos and Blu’s collaborations brings an international flavour to the scene and shows their ability to play with their surroundings and react to the architectural nuances of their canvas.
There are also few better places to see the work of local artist Vhils who, in a reversal of conventional street art detracts from the surface of his walls rather than adding to them. Using a unique technique, he chips away portions of walls to create his remarkable characterful portraits.
Bordalo II is another Lisbon artist who is making waves on an international level; his large trash animals – sculptures formed of rubbish – are created to draw attention to the massive waste problem which comes hand in hand with modern day consumerism and can be found throughout the city. His work is often topical, witty and colourful, and ranges to figurative portraits and more subtle interventions.
While much of the most high-profile street art in Britain is found in the major English cities, a little further north, Glasgow showcases some of the best examples of Scotland’s colourful murals and graffiti.
Glasgow staple Rogue one’s realistic commissioned aerosol work is some of the most visible in the city.
Among some of his most popular projects, it’s easy enough to find his light hearted take on hip-hop puppetry on John Street. Further down towards the Clyde, on Mitchell street; a taxi begins to float away, hoisted into the air by a cluster of bright balloons. From that point you can also see Glasgow based, Australian artist Smug’s work brightening up a dreary end wall. Smug’s work tends to be photo-realistic, playful and cheerful and is well worth seeking out. Just around the corner from each other on High Street and Ingram Street, his rendition of the various Scottish seasons is bursting with nature and his modern day take on the story of St Mungo (Glasgow’s patron saint) and his resurrection of the robin is delicate and endearing.
Finally, the work of Klingatron – or James Klinge as he’s now known – is an exemplary show of stencilling and definitely worth a look. As you cross the Clyde towards the city centre, his face-on rendering of a tiger is striking and dramatic. Other amazingly accurate and cunningly set depictions of animals include a large panda and a bold crocodile lurking in their respective lanes and under bridges.
St Mungo, by Smug in Glasgow