The Joys of a Street Walker

I love being a street walker.

Not the kind that roams by night, but the kind that explores by day.

I recently learned that the proper city of London is contained by small columns that mark its border.  Whenever you see these star-topped columns, you are either leaving or entering the borders of the original city.


Across the border I walked to the East side of London which is stylishly grittier than the West side.  The new hot spot is Shoreditch and its lesser neighbor, Hoxton.  I like making comparisons between London villages and New York neighborhoods.  If Mayfair is to the Upper East Side then Shoreditch is to the East Village.  The bearded and pierced hipster crowd populates this area filled with vintage stores, coffee shops, and avant garde art.

I signed up for an art walk along the streets of Shoreditch.  I had been educated on street art during a previous London walk through Brick Lane and its environs.  Most of the scribbles I used to dismiss as graffiti now catch my eye as I try to identify the artist.  I can’t claim true appreciation of this art form, but at least I now recognize it.  Here are some highlights of my stroll.




First is a a mural by Banksy, the most famous and recognizable UK based street artist who has earned international acclaim and maintained an aura of mystery.  This rendering if protected under plexiglass to avoid vandalism.


This is a typically colorful and primitive graphic by Thierry Noir, a French artist who has been compared to Keith Haring.  His signature is simplistic figures drawn in bright colors.


This is the work of Invader, a French artist who usually creates characters from and inspired by the 1978 arcade game, Space Invaders (hence his name).  Yet, he also seems inspired by Star Wars as this mosaic denotes Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader in duel with their light sabers.


Ben Eine is another very recognizable artist who is known for his alphabet lettering.  Often his distinctive letters are painted on shutters or shop doors in a random pattern.  Here he has spelled out a message (or warning).


Another London-based artist, STIK is known for his stick-figure renderings.  This one is clever as it shows a figure “stealing” one of STIK’s paintings.  Street art is difficult to protect and is often defaced and tagged by other artists or is stolen because of its value.  Apparently, this is also his home.


This last graphic was created by Vhils (real name: Alexander Farto), a Portuguese artist.  I thought it was the most impressive as this portrait is literally chiseled into a brick wall.


I still find it hard to classify stick figures, Star Wars characters, alphabet letters, and simplistic drawings as fine art.  But as they say, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

It is in Shoreditch that Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin created the YBAs (Young British Artists) known for their brash refusal to conform to the traditional definitions of Art.

Shoreditch is, in essence, the perfect canvas for the controversial and non-traditional street artists.

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