After several failed attempts over the past years, I finally made it to Upfest in Bristol last month. Upfest may have started out as a small-scale paint jam just 10 years ago, but has now become Europe’s largest street art and graffiti festival, which is also entirely free to visit! In this blog post I’ll be sharing my personal highlights of Bristol Upfest 2018 with you. Upfest was one of the 10 European street art and graffiti festivals on my recommendation list for 2018 (find the article here).
Considering I took over 200 photos of artworks created by the 400+ participating artists at Upfest, it’s been extremely difficult to select only a few dozen photos to feature in today’s blog post. I therefore decided to divide the works into different categories and to highlight a few artworks for each category, limiting my top choices to only 13 pieces (it was difficult, let me tell you that!). I’ll start with some amazing artists that were new discoveries for me.
1. Insane51 from Athens, Greece
I can’t recall seeing Insane51’s works on my trip to Athens earlier this year which is a shame as he was definitely one of the best artists I saw at Upfest. Since the weekend was typically a total washout after months of drought, most of the artists weren’t able to finish their work within the designated timeframe. Although I was already impressed with this magnificent mural by Insane51, it changed dramatically after I left Bristol again as he painted a second layer over the artwork, creating one of his signature 3D murals which are best viewed using 3D glasses.
2. Piet Rodriguez, Belgium
Belgian artist Piet Rodriguez only started painting a few years ago, but the two artworks he made for Upfest 2018 both received a lot of attention, and for good reason as you can see here for yourself.
3. Bristol-based artist Jody
This stunning mural by Jody was painted for Upfest 2017 and is one of the few older surviving artworks since the majority of the walls are painted over by different artists again each year. There were a few new Jody artworks painted in bright gold over the area, but his major work for Upfest 2018 remained far from finished by the time I left, due to delays caused by the bad weather.
4. Angus, Bristol
Another Bristol-based artist whose works caught my eye was Angus. His cheeky mosaics dotted all around the area all made me smile.
5. Famous chickens by …
Covering three large walls of a shed next to the Hen & Chicken bar and restaurant, this must have been one of the most elaborate artworks I saw during my weekend in Bristol. Everywhere you look, you’ll see countless references to famous films, artists and iconic public figures. Can you spot Harry Potter, Darth Vader, Princess Leia, Spider-Man and the references to the TV-series Breaking Bad and surrealist painter René Magritte for instance? Unfortunately I have no idea who painted this nor when it was created, but it was definitely one of my favourite places to hang out and rest my feet for a moment.
How The Simpsons made a weekend trip from Springfield to Bristol
This year’s theme for Upfest were the world’s most famous yellow family: The Simpsons. Although the theme wasn’t forced upon the participating artists, I found a few references to the longest-running TV series in the streets of Bristol. The Simpsons creator Matt Groening even handpicked three artists to create work inspired by Bart, Homer, Marge, Lisa and Maggie!
6. Nomad Clan, Manchester
Manchester-based muralist duo Nomad Clan have been at the top of my favourite street artist list for a while now, but I think it’s safe to say these awesome ladies are two of the most important names in the scene at the moment. Over the last few months they’ve been invited to create jaw-dropping greater than life murals across Shoreditch, London’s street art hotspot, but also for Berlin Pride and even in the States. It’s therefore no surprise they were granted the most prominent wall for Upfest where they created their ‘Be More Lisa’ mural in collaboration with The Simpsons and Bristol Women’s Voice over a few days of extensive painting.
7. Bao, Hong Kong
Hailing all the way from Hong Kong, Bao was another artist selected to reinterpret The Simpsons. She painted several murals in Bristol for Upfest, including the one below.
8. Soker, Bristol
Graffiti writer Soker, who’s been active in Bristol since the 1980s, was also one of Matt Groening’s picks. Here you see Soker’s re-imagining of The Simpsons.
9. Tim Marsh, Paris/Barcelona
Paris-born artist Tim Marsh used his signature geometrical shapes and forms to create his mural ‘Salvador Banksy’ which is of course a reference to Bristol’s most famous and enigmatic street artist, Banksy.
10. The Simpsons hand puppet by …
Besides walls, artists also painted on boards set up in public spaces such as the school playground where I spotted this (unknown to me) artist working on his Simpsons-inspired hand puppet.
11. L7matrix, Brazil
L7matrix has been one of my favourite artists for years now. His elegant bright-coloured birds spray-painted in swooping lines are always a real treat to the eye. I regret not having been able to catch him paint life, but finding these two murals he painted for Upfest 2018 were a wonderful consolation.
12. Irony + Boe, London
This cheeky pigeon peeking his head out from the streets was my favourite artwork in Bristol, but it was actually painted last year already. So was the mural of the cat and mice, although a few mice were newly added during Upfest 2018. London-based artists and frequent collaborators Irony + Boe were the creators of both murals and I think you’ll understand why these muralists appear at the top of my list of personal favourite street artists.
13. Odeith, Lisbon
Oh how I wish I could’ve seen the exquisite Portuguese artist Odeith paint live at Upfest! Since first seeing his work in London over 5 years ago, I’ve been a massive fan of this talented artist who is a master of 3D murals. Here you see his piece which appears to be a water bassin housing an alligator with the artist name on the walls in the background.
And some photos to finish my Upfest 2018 blog post
Want to see more photos of Upfest and read more blog posts about this event? Then head over to these articles by my friends and fellow bloggers Inspiring City and Giulia from Blocal. Besides seeing all the amazing street art, it was a real pleasure to have the opportunity to meet up with these guys!
Have you ever been to a street art festival? I’m curious to know which one that was and how you experienced it!
Thanks for sharing your thoughts in a comment below, Zarina xx