My interest in street art was born from seeing the most incredible artworks just round the corner from me in Shoreditch, east London. This is the epicentre of the London street art scene. Each year dozens of international artists visit the area to paint and leave their fantastic works behind for admirers as myself. While Shoreditch is the only street art scene I am truly familiar with, I’ve been seeing more and more epic street artworks in various parts of London pop up in my Instagram feed. Camden in north London seems to become one of the new established street art scenes so when I received an invitation from Camden Street Art Tour in my mailbox I was more than happy to accept and explore unknown territory.
To be honest, I don’t like Camden that much which put me off visiting the area to search for street art. I think it’s touristic and has lost its authentic alternative heart years ago and what is presented to us now as edgy and alternative is rather artificial, an image keenly kept up by the stall and shop owners selling their souvenirs and gothic fashion. In the light of the current developments in east London, I fear this will also be Shoreditch’s future.
Despite my hesitations towards the area, the fantastic tour led by the super enthusiastic guide and street art expert Nelly Balazs inspired me to go back to Camden even after that day in search of new art.
Over the last year I’ve met some incredible women involved in street art: Anna Stolyarova, director of Street Art Museum Amsterdam, Femme Fierce organiser Ayaan Bulale, the many talented female artists I met through Femme Fierce, Bri Patty, founder of The Spring Projects and now Nelly Balazs. Nelly has always had an interest in street art and started to document works from 2012. But Nelly’s passion for street art doesn’t stop here. When I spoke to artists recently and mentioned Nelly and the tour, they all immediately said how great she is and one even said she had been his first contact for finding walls in London when he started painting here a few years ago. After one of her tours, it’s not only the great art you will remember afterwards, but also Nelly’s passion, enthusiasm and knowledge. The tours she runs in Camden are born from an initiative between Nelly and Global Street Art, an organisation based in Shoreditch that has organised hundreds of legal murals over the last three years. The majority of works we came across during our 2hr-walk had been made possible by Global Street Art and The Real Art of Street Art.
The first piece we saw on our tour however was entirely illegal, but as it is high up a building no-one can be bothered to get up there to remove it. The work is by Mau Mau and is painted on top of a so-called ghostsign, i.e. faded shop signs painted on buildings. Apparently there is a fascinating ghostsign tour in Stoke Newington which is definitely on my to-do list!
The following portrait of Amy Winehouse (who lived in Camden and was dearly loved by the locals) is by Bambi who has been dubbed as the female Banksy and has huge celebrities among her fan base including people like Brad Pitt and Kanye West, which explains the protective layer of plastic put on this work by the homeowner. I find the appraisal of her work highly surprising as I’m not particularly wowed by them. Is it a matter of good marketing I wonder? No doubt the guessing work towards her real identity plays a fair part in this. Main suspects are famous female singers such as Paloma Faith, M.I.A. or even Victoria Beckham…
I’m a fan of Italian visual artist Alice Pasquini who started out in the 90s with smaller stencils. Here you see her mural outside a Greek restaurant. The Greek text says ‘everything flows’.
The following two pieces are by London-based Chilean artist Otto Schade. I’ve seen lots of his work around east London over the last years. He has two distinctive styles as you can see in the photos below. I’ve been told that should you follow the ribbon in his ribbon-style works, that you will discover it actually consists of a single piece of ribbon. I haven’t checked this yet, but it’s a very cool detail and great piece of information! Interestingly, Otto only started painting a few years ago. Before that he was an award-winning architect. He had always been fascinated by Surrealist paintings which inspired him to create his own art. He has now become a successful artist.
This mural by Sr. X was one of my favourites of the day. I hadn’t seen any of his works before so this was a great discovery for me.
I was pleased to finally see this fantastic mural by Gnasher of my all-time favourite Muppet, Animal, in real life after seeing photos of it for weeks on social media. Below Animal you see “The Boy” by Chinagirl Tile who primarily works with ceramics.
Dale Grimshaw‘s artworks always have a great impact on the viewer. The painting below is part of his 2 worlds theme series which reflects both innocence (the tribal element) and corruption (elements from popular culture). His works are a combination of freehand style and stencils.
Saki & Bitches is an artist with not only a naughty name, but who also makes naughty art. I like her works as they are colourful and always reflect a great sense of humour. She does murals, but also interactive wooden installations as the one below. This one was stuck on a traffic light right next to Camden Market, but I’m sure it’s often overlooked by passersby. By rotating the separate parts of the four pin-ups you can assemble your own creation.
It’s always a great pleasure to come across one of these masks by French artist Gregos who puts up his self-portraits on walls all over the world. I could tell he’s been to east London recently again as the streets there are now adorned with his colourful, striped masks.
Another artist who pastes self-portraits in the streets is C3. Here you see one pasted on a piece of metal fixed onto a wall.
This extraordinary mural is by Irony and has not only set the wall on fire, but also social media a few months ago when he first painted the piece.
Mr Cenz is another artist whose works I’ve seen a lot around east London. He received first art commission at the age of 11 for a family friend and is now a professional graffiti artist. For his recent works like the one below, he uses photos of models in magazines and gives them a futuristic look.
I’ve come across the works of Louis Masai over the last year now and am pleased to see him regularly being featured in the papers. Masai’s works are aimed to make us aware of our environment and endangered species. Last year he drew our attention to the importance of bees and the impact of their extinction on human life via his Save the Bees project.
I learned that the word ‘toy’ is an insult in the world of street art and graffiti which means amateur.
This mural by Brazilian artist Digo Cardoso was another favourite of the day. Note the crushed and gold-sprayed cans stuck onto the wall between the figures.
This portrait of Zabou was made by Alaniz. I first saw his works in Amsterdam last year and was immediately drawn to them. Zabou is a great stencil artist who has been very busy around London for the last months I guess as I keep seeing new works by her all the time. On the right you can see the top of the mural by Captain Kris.
I’m a big fan of Brazilian artist Alex Senna‘s touching, often romantic, black and white murals.
On this wall two works that definitely complement each other. On the left you see Hunto, an Italian artist now based in London. You can clearly see the Cubist influence in his bold and colourful works. On the right you see a jaw-dropping piece by DANK, or Dan Kitchener. His pieces are truly stunning and have to be seen in real life instead of on a screen.
I recently had the pleasure of meeting Vanesa Longchamp whilst painting in Shoreditch. Here is a mural by her in Camden, which is surprisingly more ‘evil’ than anything else I’ve seen by Vanesa.
Here’s another mural by Alaniz.
The girl and rat below were painted by Mr Shiz, an artist I was previously unfamiliar with but I was really impressed with this work. Sadly it was painted over when I revisited the street recently, but that’s the game of street art of course.