Earlier today I ventured over to Old St to participate in one of Street Art London’s regular walking tours.
Available in either 2 or 4 hour versions, these walks spiral out from Old St station, taking in the street art and graffiti to be found in the surrounding area, with the four hour tour extending as far as Brick Lane over in the East End.
We spent the first half hour of today’s walk just taking in Old St’s immediate surroundings, which are full of examples by artists from across the world. We started with Ben Wilson’s work – Ben paints intricate little scenes onto pieces of chewing gum which are then stuck onto the pavement (honestly, see this BBC piece for confirmation!). We also saw one of Xlyo’s panamanian gold frogs executed on a piece of slate (and which he enjoys placing next to street signs) and work by the Sheffield-based ‘Toasters Crew’ who specialise in, you guessed it, images of toasters.
During the tour we also several examples of the bold lettering of Ben Eine, whose work adorns many a London storefront’s protective shutters, well-known London artist Stik’s latest piece ‘Art thief’, the surreal Tim Burton-esque work of Phlegm, lots of examples of the intricately detailed ‘paste-ups’ by Swoon, who hails from New York, and the wildly psychedelic work of Brazilian Milo Tchais.
We must have taken in several hundred pieces in all on our tour, but I must say that my favourites include the aforementioned Stik, who conveys so much with so little, Pablo Delgado (who usually paints tiny scenes at the bottom of walls – so you have to be quite eagle-eyed to spot them) and of course Roa, who is becoming a very familiar sight across London. Roa paints animals in a stark black and white pallete – recent examples include foxes, rats, crows and most recently, a huge hedgehog, which for the last few weeks has graced a wall just across from the Shoreditch High St Overground station.
If you’re interested in London’s street art and graffiti, a visit to the Street Art London website is a good starting point – browse through a few posts and you’ll soon be much more well informed about this interesting aspect of London life. They tend to put up new posts whenever anything new and interesting is spotted, and also offer a free iPhone app which highlights many of the pieces featured on the walking tours as well as further afield (no Android version yet – boo!). Their walks, which take place on Tuesdays, Saturdays and Sundays, cost £12 per person. I think they offer great value for money, and are a great alternative to the regular historical walking tours available in less edgy parts of the city.
Just in closing, I have an amusing little anecdote to pass on. We finished our tour today in a small car park just off Shoreditch High St. Given that everyone knows everyone on London’s street art scene, a certain Australian artist (whose name I’m unable to recollect) has obviously been tipped off that the organised tours often end here. A newly painted slogan greets visitors with the message “Street Art Tours Are Gay“. Make of that what you will!
[box]If you want to slightly spoil the experience of going on one of the Street Art London tours, have a look at my photo gallery here. Otherwise, pitch up on one of the tours with your £12 – just like seeing a 12′ wide Monet on a 6″ wide postcard, all of this stuff is much better experienced ‘in the flesh’… [/box]