London Mural Festival Tour
the Hang it team
02 March 2021
As a result of the pandemic and the tier system in place in the UK, visiting galleries together wasn’t really an option at the end of 2020. So, as a group, we went on our own little walking tour of East London to visit some of the works done as part of the first ever London Mural Festival in September 2020.
We pinpointed some interesting murals and created a route to follow. We looked at work by artists: Woskerski, Marija Tiurina, Camille Walala, and Mad C.
And what a perfect place to go for it. The East End is already dominated by a cacophony of colourful street art and wall murals.
Listen to our recorded audio thoughts as we stand reflecting in front of each of the murals on a freezing cold day in London.
"This really is just like a bit of a wonderland for street art. Just everywhere you're surrounded by colour."
Notes and links
The London Mural Festival 2020 (LMF) showcased over 150 international artists and took place all over the city (not just the East End!) They were given walls in suburban areas as well as in the busy hubs.
Together and individually the mural festival has brought even more colour and life to a part of London already dominated by street art and murals. Its aim was to bring art to the public, as well as providing a legal space for the street artists to showcase their work.
The included artists were selected via an open call, and were not asked to follow any particular shared theme. The organisers wanted to promote local partnership and so allowed the wall-owners or local communities to choose the artist and artwork they wanted.
Artist's Instagram Accounts:
Language is fluid and so are definitions of art, but here’s how I understand it:
A mural is a piece of art painted on (or applied to) a wall or ceiling. This can take place inside or outside, and incorporates the architectural elements of the wall. Importantly, it is also done with permission of the wall-owner and the artist often signs the work. A very famous mural is Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper (late-1490s).
Street art is the umbrella term for a work of art that’s done in a public place. The terms covers a variety of medium - it can be painting, sculpture, performance, etc. Often it is done without official permission.
Graffiti also takes place in public, and is done without permission. But it often uses letter-based tagging and signage, in spray-paint or paint, to claim a space under a pseudonym.
A 20th century artistic movement that explores the unconscious, using dreamlike and fantastic imagery.
Black Lives Matter (BLM)
BLM is a political and social movement that protests police brutality and racism against Black people. BLM protests peaked in 2020 with the murder of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
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London Mural Festival has also provided a map (live and downloadable) of all included murals
Found here: https://www.londonmuralfestival.com/map
Tagged map: Mural Tour
Annie Birchenough: It really is just like a, I don’t know, a bit of a wonderland for street art, just everywhere, you’re surrounded by colour.
Matilda McEvedy: Today the team of Hang it are in East London looking at some of the incredible wall murals that appear in the city as part of the 2020 London Mural Festival.
Hang it is an online platform providing young people with the tools to understand what a career in the cultural sector might look like, but we are also using the space to talk about art and creative spaces which is what we all love doing. Obviously because of the recent lockdown and now the tier 2 restrictions means we can’t all go to a gallery together. So, in the spirit of seeing some COVID friendly art, we’ve taken to the streets.
There is so much street art in and around Shoreditch so it would be impossible to talk about it all, so we are just going to focus on the works that happened because of the London Mural Festival. This September London hosted its very first mural festival. It included a hundred international and local artists painting houses, city centres and cultural hubs all over the city. To save our poor feet we have chosen a few in East London to look at. You'll hear us huddled in front of some of the murals, chatting about them.
AB: I’m excited! *laughs*
MM: So we are on Wentworth Street now, and we are looking for a work by Woskerski. There is no sign of it yet.
I feel a bit like David Attenborough. *laughs*
AB: *laughs* *in David Attenborough’s voice* and we are in East London looking for an octopus.
MM: *gasps* I see it, I see it.
Sophie Ridsdale-Smith: So we are looking at a, wait is it one octopus or its two isn’t it? Or it’s got a really long long long long tentacle. But it’s got an orange [ice lolly], I reckon it’s a Selero. But it’s ripped it in half.
I think the octopus is really cute, it’s smiling.
Julie Bléas: The octopus is much smaller than the ice lolly itself. It’s about three times its size, but er it’s quite appealing. It kind of makes me want to have an ice lolly, though it’s like absolutely freezing December.
AB: Painterly, it could have been done with paint brushes, like the blending and the way in which it has been painted is so vibrant but it doesn’t feel like graffiti, so to speak.
MM: Yeah, it's very cartoon-ey.
SRS: And even the background has got like, goes light to dark, ombré effect. *laughs*
AB: And all the gloopy drips that are the same as the gloopy tentacles of the octopus.
MM: So this street artist, Woskerski, he’s actually signed it, in the top left. A lot of his street art combines illustration, surrealism and humour.
SRS: I think it’s quite funny.
Everyone: yeah *laughs*
AB: And so joyful, look at his little face.
So Tilda, were the artists all given a brief for the festival?
MM: It was more giving all these artists the walls and the opportunity to do work in their own style because they are all so different and most of them are London based so it was like giving them free space in their own city. So yeah I think that is the main difference with counter-cultural street art and graffiti and then something like this which is planned. And quite a few cities, I didn’t realise how many cities around the world do street art festivals or mural festivals but loads do, Bristol has one as well. And then the winners, well theirs is more of a competition I think and then the winners get their murals to stay up on the walls.
AB: It's really nice to hear about it going on in the UK, because certainly in Melbourne it's a massive thing. People go to Melbourne to go and see a lot of the murals.
Where are we going now, Tilda?
MM: We are going to stay on Wentworth Road, we are going to go and see a work by Marija Tiurina and it's a sort of COVID themed work.
SRS: Are we on the right road? 78? *gasps*
AB: So, we are approaching Hajaris corner on Gunthorpe Street.
MM: Yeah, so this one is called ‘Things I Did This Year’ and I guess it's a documentation of 2020.
AB: So we are looking at a kind of yellow-ey, ochre-ey colour wall, with lots of the same animated character doing lots and lots of different things. So for example there is one of her roasting marshmallows over a fire, there’s another one of her on a fire of, oh yeah, unused tickets.
MM: And caring for houseplants.
AB: Looking sadly at a photo frame of people in it.
MM: Kill time is one as well, is written, so now I understand there is a picture of her with a knife and three clocks.
SRS: I like the one at the top that’s got a book but it's a picture of a man that says ‘hi’ and then it has her face that says ‘error’ on it. It’s like social anxiety *laughs* not seeing anyone.
AB: There is a couple where she is evidently quite absorbed into social media on a laptop or on her phone.
The one that I can’t stop looking at is her in the corner of the room sat with her arms around her legs, I don’t know why.
JB: Yeah, that feeling of isolation I guess. Well, I guess it's just because for so many people and for her it has been a year of so much more introspection. I quite like the one where she is in a jar, where she is clearly pickling stuff and I feel like pickling along with sourdough and banana bread is what we have been doing.
AB: But then directly under her in the jar, there is this list right, that says ‘things I did this year’, and the first thing on that list says ‘read books, pickles things’.
JB: It’s quite easy to relate to that because that’s what we have all been doing this year.
I quite like the fact that there is ‘inspired’ and then right under it ‘loose motivation. I feel like lockdown has been this, you know, one day you feel like you can start a new hobby and then the next you don’t know what to do with yourself.
AB: But also how it says ‘buy new plants’ and then ‘witness global events’ and that as well is so reflective of this Covid moment of such menial things in your life being exactly the same as the colossal global events.
And then on the far left-hand side, there is a skull which is like the dying plant so there is like illusions to death as well.
JB: Exactly yeah, it’s being lockdown whilst witnessing the Black Lives Matter protest as well which she has represented on the lower-left corner.
AB: The more you look actually the more they come out like you see what is going on.
MM: And there is such a mix of positive and negative; ‘forget how to socialise’ but then underneath it ‘play cards’ and then ‘have an identity crisis’, ‘overdose on screen time’. Sort of mundane, but also the little exhausting things.
AB: And then at the bottom of the list there are extra things that have obviously been added later maybe. ‘Miss my nearest and dearest’, ‘sink into dark waters of own mind’, ‘contemplate existence’ and ‘look at the clouds’.
SRS: It feels like we should add ours to continue it.
MM: Do you think this points to how street art is an art form that is more so for the public than others?
JB: Not only is it more for the public than perhaps, dunno, other museums but it's the fact that you don't have to necessarily look for it, but you just stumble upon it on your way to work, on your way home, way to the shops. You don’t have to actively be looking for it.
SRS: As an artist, it is quite a cathartic reflection on her year. In a way, it is quite personal, we can relate to a lot of these moments. It is all her in the [picture], or someone, like it is all the same. It's a personal depiction I think.
AB: But also, for me, it feels very much like an insight into someone’s diary, or documentation of their daily life which you wouldn’t necessarily stumble upon a page of someone’s sketchbook.
MM: Yeah and having that sort of exposed in the public realm, it is quite intimate. We are having bikes pass us and cars and people unloading vans around us and just being able to stand here and look at all of the joys and lows of a year in someone’s life is quite powerful actually.
AB: I wonder if these people have lots of other murals around London that haven’t been part of a formal commission.
MM: Definitely Woskerski with the octopus, I think his stuff is all over East London. Though obviously if you paint on a wall with no commission, there is a good chance it will be painted over. They all have Instagram, more so than websites, it seems to be the main way they get their work out and about.
SRS: Yeah, it is a good way to preserve the art isn’t it, keeping it online.
AB: But that in itself is an interesting point Soph because all of these are really quite ephemeral and it’s weird to think that that work we were looking at that documents this moment so specifically, will probably not be there in 50 years time.
SRS: I feel like we are getting all the London sounds today.
AB: Yeah all the background noises.
So we have reached a site that used to have a mural as part of this festival back in September and we are now in December, which is only three months later and already there is a huge new mural by a few different people, although there are lots of different signages on them. I think they are by lots of different people.
MM: but you can see, sort of, underneath the new colour, you can see all the different colours that might have been from the old mural. I think his work had stencils and then was very multicoloured and patterned. Just the fact that two months later yeah.
SRS: I want to peel back, you know when you strip an old house and find all the old wallpaper.
JB: Yeah I wonder how many layers of paint there are.
MM: Okay and now the others are dotted on our way back to Shoreditch where we end at Old Street.
It really is just like a, I don’t know, a bit of a wonderland for street art, just everywhere, you’re surrounded by colour.
MM: Oh we are approaching! Here we are going down Redchurch Street.
SRS: Ohh I see it already!
AB: It’s big! It’s huge! It’s graphic!
SRS: It is pretty funky!
AB: Peaking out around a building.
SRS: Shapes! It’s very bold.
AB: Ohh there are two, they are facing each other. Three! I like how they reflect in the glass of the building as well.
SRS: That’s so cool! It’s across three walls.
JB: Yeah it’s so fun.
AB: It’s huge!
MM: So this is another mural done as part of the mural festival by an artist called Camille Walala and you can see she has signed it in the top right of the largest wall. So she lives and works in London and she originally studied textile design at uni which I think you can really tell from her work.
JB: It feels a lot more permanent because it’s on this massive building. It feels a bit, I don’t know, I can’t really imagine it being covered up by someone else.
MM: Yeah so it is all gated off. She has also done work on the wall in front of this building and that has already been tagged, whereas the full mural on the building wall has been untouched.
AB: But it also like an extension of the architecture, so on the left-hand side, for example, the windows, the quite plain windows have been boxed around and it gives a three-dimensional feel. It kind of feels like balconies there.
SRS: And the grids, the purple and black grid, the lines of the windows are similar.
MM: It’s almost like she has painted a cityscape.
AB: Or a building onto a building. And I really loved how as we were approaching, because it is two flat walls and then one perpendicular wall, so as you are walking down you see the wall that sticks out and then gradually the wall exposes itself, it’s almost an experience of discovery.
MM: I think this mural really shows the power of street art to reanimate the street and bring visitors like urban transformation.
AB: Definitely, it’s just bringing it to life. It feels very playful.
SRS: It kind of reminds me of a kid’s soft play *laughs*
AB: But in an adult environment.
MM: So here we are approaching our last mural by an artist called Mad C.
SRS: Mad C!
MM: Coming up to it, we are at the corner of Chance Street.
SRS: It’s so colourful!
SRS: The C for colour!
AB: Amazing! This is the most colourful one we have seen today.
MM: Can someone describe what we are seeing here?
JB: We are in front of a building that has been covered with very large planes of colour, quite vibrant colours. I don’t know if they are all the colours of the rainbow? I would say so.
AB: Maybe! *laughs*
SRS: There are some paint splats as well aren't there.
AB: They are kind of in blocks but then overlapping in all the different places.
JB: Yeah layers yeah.
AB: It is kind of hard to see where one layer begins and one ends.
JB: But the fact that there is a strain of blue and a strain of yellow and when they overlap they are green. So it is like they create more colours.
SRS: And purple there with the blue and the red.
AB: It almost feels like a really zoomed-in bit of a canvas that has been blown up massive onto a wall and has windows breaking it up.
SRS: I feel like the red splats outside of that window is like a bird that has hurtled into it and splattered.
AB: But you are right, it does feel like layering.
MM: So Mad C, or Claudia Ward, is known for her layering. She is originally from Germany but she makes work all over the world and is known in particular for her expressive lines, so some of this is done really quickly, like the streaks of colour that really show that are the yellow and the red.
SRS: I reckon that this one looks like a spray can because of the blurry edges, yeah definitely.
MM: And this was done years ago actually but obviously tagged and painted over by other artists so The Mural Festival asked her to recreate it over the top.
SRS: Actually you can see yeah.
AB: Yeah you can see remnants.
MM: And if you look at it from the other side of the road, you can see the different tags and you can see them all layered up which stops at her work.
AB: There is something really nice about the fact that it has tried to be overcome and then it has fought back. It has quite organically endured.
MM: And nearly all of the street art we have seen has been signed.
SRS: Yeah and there is her Instagram handle @mad_c1. I guess it is just like someone would sign a canvas.
AB: What has your favourite artwork of the day been?
JB: Ooh, I think it is the second one that we saw, the Marija Tiurina, the little girl, the pickling woman.
SRS: I did like the octopus, it was funny.
AB: Yeah I have really liked the last two that we have done because of that sense of truly transforming an area and really affecting people's lived experience of that area by the scale of it.
MM: And the colour too, it makes such a difference. It really uplifts you when you are walking past.
SRS: It is such a contrast to the completely grey building next door.
JB: Yeah and it is freezing as well so it brings a lot of warmth.
AB: What would you say to people who say that street art is just vandalism.
MM: There is a difference between these commissioned pieces and the definition of street art or graffiti which is typically done without official permission and we have seen a variety of both today and these murals do mean that people can make the spaces that they live in and sort of give their community life and colour and character. So it is really encouraging that the city is recognising the impact and value of street art, especially in the East End. It is doing something to give space to these artists. Hopefully, the festival will carry on.
So we have seen some really great art today and it has been really fun. If you want to come and see some of the murals we will connect a map and leave information about The Mural Festival below and of course, all the Instagram handles for the artists we have mentioned.
JB: So we will be back soon for another episode of Hang it, and until then don’t forget to check out our Instagram @hangitcollective for updates and more exciting content.
SRS: Thanks! Bye!
AB: Let’s go get coffee *laughs*