The East End of London is home to more than 100 galleries; however wander through the neighbourhood of Shoreditch and you’ll soon see that you don’t have to step indoors to be in the presence of amazing and inspiring works of art.
Over the past few years the street art scene in Shoreditch has exploded, with exciting artists making their mark everywhere from alleyways to abandoned warehouse walls. Possessing the ability to impress, shock and, at times, raise a smile, the variety of works and artists to bee seen ensures that there is something for everyone to enjoy.
London and street art is a creative relationship which goes a long way back, channelling the city’s anarchic subcultures over the past few decades, with everything from anti-Thatcher slogans to satirical reactions to the financial crisis, all documented in colourful spray paint and chalk and featuring a heavy dose of signature British humour. And, while many areas of the capital have gone onto specialise in different industries, the creative scene in the East End has not forgotten its street roots.
Exploring Shoreditch London
Away from the hustle and bustle of business people and coffee house chains, Shoreditch has been slowly building a reputation for nurturing and encouraging burgeoning artists and independent creative minds. Commonly referred to as an international capital of street art, you can’t help but notice some of the striking artworks as you slowly make your way south across Bishopsgate and enter into the borough.
What and who to watch out for
However, to ensure you don’t miss out on some of the real gems, here is a little guide highlighting the must-see murals and hidden treasures you need to see while searching out street art in Shoreditch.
Given the ever-changing nature of street ‘grafiti’, murals come and go, meaning turning off the beaten track could mean you come across a stunning secret artwork while the paint is still drying. After all, leading street artists such as Banksy rely on being lightning-fast and using pre-made stencils to allow the design to go up quickly and easily while the artist plots a speedy getaway!
Shoreditch’s newest wave of street artist share a punk-based ideal for freedom of expression in public spaces and has included pop-art-inspired works of D*Face, terrifying ‘drip’ paintings of the artist Pure Evil and typographical murals designed by the prolific Ben Eine, who is best known for his enormous ‘circus font’ letters sprayed onto shops and walls around London.
Artists from around the world have flocked to E1 to express their creativity on the streets, with clandestine work continuing to appear overnight. However, due to Shoreditch’s growing reputation as a creative hub of modern art, you can even witness artists plying their trade by daylight too. This is because there are now licensed areas of street art, legitimising the practise and demonstrating its value to the community of Shoreditch.
Some of most famous ‘faces’ include Australian Peter Drew and Frenchman Clet Abraham, who was famed for his witty road signs. With the street as their canvas, look out for logo stickers or tags on lamp posts as new artists announce their ‘residence’ in the area.
Other artworks to look out for include enormous black and white animal murals by Belgian artist ROA and the hauntingly powerful expressionist paintings of Borondo, who heralds from Spain.
Far from being a male-dominated scene, Shoreditch’s creative atmosphere has helped to showcase talented female names such as Bambi and Zina, moving away from the traditional ‘macho’ reputation of street art.
Shoreditch is fiercely proud of its street art heritage and continues to encourage creative people to give graffiti a go and see where it may lead. During July the borough held a two-day festival dedicated to the art of spray painting.
The free event featured a long line-up of artists such as Trafic, Dr Zadok, ODISY, Lost Souls Crew, Inkfetish and Dan Chase, each showing just what they can do armed with a can of spray paint and a section of bare wall. It even included workshops so that admirers and young people could try their hand at street art, while learning how to create their own mini masterpiece and mastering the tricks of the trade from seasoned pros.
To see everyone’s hard work for yourself head down the Nomadic Community Gardens on Fleet Street Hill where everything from vans to buildings have been transformed with sweeping arcs of colours, vibrant lettering and strikingly bold images to create a kaleidoscope of outdoor art.
So, whether you fancy yourself as a budding street artist or you’re keen to hunt out the next Banksy, Shoreditch is certainly a fantastic place to visit. The street art scene has exploded across Europe, transforming ageing buildings and boring bare walls into colourful masterpieces, delighting and amusing those who are lucky enough to stumble across them.