October 23, 2013

Street Art in the East End of London

I am currently sitting in the library at Goldsmiths University and although this will not be the focus of my post, I just want to take this opportunity to vent.  If you go to a school where you are not asked to share two textbooks with 50 other students, consider yourself lucky.  I have been looking for the same textbook for three days straight now and it is nowhere to be found.  I think the girl sitting across from me who has continuously been checking section Q378.07-Q613.7071 is suffering the same fate I am.  Apparently, students like to hide required textbooks for themselves in small nooks in the library as they cannot be taken outside the building.  Looks like the opening portion of my upcoming essay might be slightly lacking.  (If you are not a Lafayette student reading this, fear not, we Leopards do not face this library problem.)

I digress.

What I really want to focus on for this week’s post is a tour I recently took with the other London Lafayette students.  Up until this point we have mostly been exposed to the “touristy” side of London.  This past Tuesday we had a taste of what most London eastenders call home.  Our tour guide took us through the borough of Tower Hamlets, an overall impoverished neighborhood suffering from rampant economic inequality.  However, one thing that the folks of Tower Hamlets can enjoy is the beautiful street art lining their city blocks.  Many of you reading this may have heard of Banksy, arguably the most famous London street artist.  While we did not see any of his original pieces (many of them have likely been painted over, torn down, or otherwise ruined) we did see some fantastic pieces.  Here are some of them:

A painting on the side of a building of a cowboy wearing a red hat in London, England

Painted by an American artist over the course of 10 hours

A portrait of an unknown man created by chiseling away at a wall in London, England

The portrait was created primarily by chiseling away at the wall. Done directly under a CCTV camera, the artist is making a social statement against the lack of privacy Londoners have.

Huge paintings on the side of a building at the site of a WWII bombing in London, England

A collection of huge paintings at the site of a WWII bombing. These paintings are an attempt to make beautiful what was once morbid.

The following collection of street art, painted by the artist called “Stik” may not seem special, but they are actually remarkable.  All of the paintings portray stick figures, so the artist is quite aptly named.

A street art stick-figure painting of a Muslim woman and white man holding hands, with red in the background

A Muslim woman and a white man holding hands, the red in the backdrop symbolizes bloodshed.

A street art stick-figure painting of a man in white and yellow paint

A partially ruined painting, this father used to have a son looking back up at him, a construction project destroyed the son.

What I found so remarkable about Stik is obviously not the intense detail included in the paintings but the story behind the artist.  Once a homeless man, Stik used street art as a means of releasing anger, hatred, and sadness.  One day, a museum proprietor saw one of Stik’s pieces and was impressed.  He extended the opportunity to Stik to showcase his art in the museum and it was a fantastic success.  Now, Stik’s work is known worldwide and recently one of his pieces sold for £80,000, or $129,336.  Stik’s story is a heartwarming one because unlike some folks who use graffiti and street art as a means of vandalism and public disturbance, Stik portrayed important social issues affecting the people living in his neighborhood.

My final thoughts: although I am not condoning street art (it is illegal) I want to make my point clear that every once in awhile you should stop, take a moment, and appreciate what you otherwise take for granted.

posted in Kenny Morse

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