Archive

Tag Archives: street art


Camera at the ready, eyeballs on the lookout – yet my first day in the city of Vienna yielded no palpably exciting images, despite an abundance of beauty and grandeur of aesthetic spectacle on every corner thanks to the legacy of the dominating Habsburg Empire.

There was plenty there for everyone, with unending streams of tourists lining up to snap the top tourist attractions, and photographers such as my sister (whose speciality is in photographing people) lapping up the melee of crowds surrounding said tourist spots.

As for me, I felt somewhat at sea photography-wise. My mood wasn’t brilliant, my stress levels were high, and I struggled to find that sweet spot when you just know a shot is working.

Until, that is, me and the family embarked upon an unexpected post-dinner walk down to the beautiful Danube (well, a tributary – a damn big tributary actually). The riverbank hit my sweet spot. Street art and graffiti as far as the eye could see lit by low, coloured lights and punctuated by stark streetlamps in places. This was a bit of me.

(c) Kate Withstandley Photography (4)

After a lengthy period in the proverbial pipeline, Dartford Arts Network’s Dartford Assembly project is finally seeing fruition, springing up over a mad 2 weeks and birthing from its project management cocoon a beautiful mass of visual art for public delectation.

Conceived nearly two years ago, the central aim of the project was initially to kill two very significant birds with one stone: to provide a vehicle through which local artists could publicly display their artworks in the town, and to deliver a project which greatly enhanced the aesthetics of Lowfield Street in Dartford (which has been boarded up with hoardings for over a decade) for the general public.

Dartford Arts Network (the local arts network which I co-founded and of which I am Chair) was still in its early inception stages at that point and learning how to produce such a major project as we went along was a huge hurdle to overcome. Thankfully, we received some financial support from the council to make the project happen, but the logistical planning was immense; the time spent on design, artist liaison, landowner and council consultation, material production and site planning was overwhelming. All this was produced with a small group of local artist volunteers, each of whom was trying to (variously); do their day job, have babies, raise babies, have a life and do their own artwork. To say we are incredibly proud of, and grateful to, everyone who contributed, is an understatement.

13 individual artists contributed, as well as art students at North West Kent College, children at The Bridge Primary Community School, and 10 members of the public who produced collage and monoprint works at the public workshops we held last summer at One Bell Corner.

We have had overwhelmingly positive responses from the public, who are generally delighted to see such a wide variety of local art on public display.

I hold a firm belief in the power of art; as regenerator, motivator, and as inspirer. To lift the spirit of a community and create a sense of belief and communal optimism takes more than just physical rebuilding or looking backwards to what once was. It takes beauty and reflection; it takes recognising how much (sometimes unseen) talent and potential is already present in the area and how those resources can be nurtured and used alongside retail and development to draw interest to our town.

This is the first major public art exhibition in Dartford and I am confident it is only the beginning.

Our next project – Plastic Fantastic – is already underway. After winning a grant from Ellandi, the owners of the Priory Centre, to produce a sculpture for the community addressing the issues of sustainability and plastic waste, we will be holding workshops in September to encourage members of the public to contribute to the construction and design. See our website for more details on the project and how to get involved.

Contact us at @dartfordarts / hello@darfordartsnetwork.com / www.dartfordartsnetwork.com

(c) Kate Withstandley Photography (6)(c) Kate Withstandley Photography (5)

(c) Matt Fox Photography (2)

(c) Matt Fox Photography

(c) Jeremy Moseley Photography (2)

(c) Jeremy Moseley Photography

(c) Kate Withstandley Photography (7)

(c) Matt Fox Photography (3)

(c) Matt Fox Photography

(c) Kate Withstandley Photography (2)(c) Kate Withstandley Photography (1)

(c) Jeremy Moseley Photography

(c) Jeremy Moseley Photography

(c) Matt Fox Photography (1)

(c) Matt Fox Photography

After Hamilton

After Hamilton

Brick Lane may seem like a photographer’s dream, but the challenge is in discovering interesting things to capture which haven’t already been photographed by every other tourist with a camera! Huge standout pieces are startlingly beautiful, but my imagination is captured on a smaller scale by chance compositions such as this combination of paint, advertising and graffiti tagging; dwarfed by high-profile street artworks it comes together seemingly unintentionally to create an almost pop-art contemporary work.

Madness

Madness

Laying on the grass on a sunny day at a festival, I took this photograph of my sister Holly as she danced standing above me. The angle entirely distorts the scale of her actual physique and although naturally tall, it portrays her height as positively monumental. The odd angle somehow expresses her figure and clothing in an almost landscaped manner; undulations of folds appearing somewhat mountainous. The fact that her face is partially obscured only adds to the emphasis of her stance and the vibrancy of the bright colour juxtaposition.

Seaside Geometry

Seaside Geometry

Anyone who has visited Dungeness will remember it by its flat and barren nature. This photograph, taken on the beach through a warm mist, exemplifies the sense of isolation inherent in the seaside town. The parallel stacking of the horizontal linear marks created by the variation in the density of the sand creates an entirely abstract element from which the stark verticals of the windsurfing kart protrude dramatically. The absence of colour in the image adds to the sense of desolation and enhances the geometric nature of the composition.

Global Hoodie

Global Hoodie

I am always fascinated primarily by circumstantial compositions which encapsulate a moment, or which seem to have been created or placed by an unseen hand. This photograph, taken at the Blinc Festival in Conwy, wales, captures a hooded figure silhouetted against one of the exhibited pieces around the town. Aside from the pleasing aesthetics (the alternate black against the deep purple and curves against lines portraying an almost space-age like imagery), the connotations struck me as interesting; the attitudes which fuel our modern day witchhunt against ‘hoodies’ imbue this image with a sinister undertone (silhouetted hoodie/unseen face), yet the reality was, of course, entirely different.

Balti House

Balti House

Taken in a side street just off Brick Lane, this image captures the humour inherent in much of the artwork around that area. As well as high-end, large scale pieces such as the giant stork, there are hundreds of small individual pieces which encapsulate the tone of the area; figures and characters dotted around, reappearing in various guises and situations and becoming almost envisionings of living creations. In this image there appears a blurring of the boundaries between the real and the imagined. I see the walking man and the graffiti as intrinsically entwined; both part of the fabric of the streetscape and both characters in my created image.

Mr Scream

Mr Scream

My favourite type of image is one such as this; created by chance, by a combination of weather, nature and human impact and resulting in a beautifully startling moment. As the winter snow started to melt, I spotted this image, the tarmac underneath revealed to create the image of a gaping mouth, the overall effect reminiscent of a Mr Men character. I am a big fan of Andy Goldsworthy and his landscape interventions which produce art in nature using materials found nearby. However, I like to take this one step further and not intervene at all, but to discover; to look carefully and find unusual and artistic compositions such as this which are naturally occurring.

White Witch

White Witch

The contrast between the threat of the sharp rose thorns and the purity of the white snow scattered on its tips instinctively brings to my mind the fairytale stories of my childhood; the ever simplistic contrast of good and evil is reflected not only in the materialism of sharp and soft but also in the monochrome tones of the image. Backed by a grey winter sky the traditional beauty of the rose has died; turning the power struggle on its head, the snow, with its seemingly gentle demeanour, has succeeded in destroying the flower’s primary function. The story which unravels challenges assumption and prejudice and forces us to re-assess traditional ideas of beauty.

jps – Biggie Smalls

I grew up in Dartford, in Kent, or Dirtford, as it is often called by locals or regular visitors. I grew up thinking the town had nothing to offer; no prospects, no ambition, no culture. Over the years I’ve realised this isn’t altogether the fault of the town, or even the people in it (apart from their voting habits). The primary fault lies with the local conservative council, voted in year after year despite their very public and obvious decimation of the town itself. Can any meaningful culture survive in a town which sells off its own constituents’ homes, pubs, independent shops and even listed buildings, to Tesco, for the erection of an industrial estate-sized monstrosity slap bang in the centre of the town? Until last Thursday my answer to this question would have been a resounding no. But I stand corrected. Corrected by the astoundingly diverse and talented works of local street artists being exhibited until this Saturday at the What If Gallery in Dartford as part of the Energized Art show.

DSC_0062The exhibition brings together both local and further afield artists, many of whom were at the private view on Thursday, overheard enthusiastically explaining their inspirations to potential buyers. It was, to me, a beautiful sight. There has been a serious dearth of anything even vaguely embodying a shred of artistic sensibility in the local area (publicly, anyway) and these works gave a glimpse of the possibilities for publicising local arts and culture. It is yet another example of how creativity will defiantly flourish despite an utter lack of support, funding or publicity. It continues to spring into being, channeled by talented creatives no matter what the often dire circumstances. In actual fact, it’s a somewhat beautiful irony that despite local councils’ attempts to stem the tide of up and coming street artists (I’ve noticed fabulous pieces suddenly painted over with council grey), they succeed only in fuelling the fire which ignites much of these works and unwittingly become their subject matter. Traditionally, street art has usually contained either implicit or explicit political messages, generally treated with clever dark humour and satire. In more modern times however, and partly as a result of the Banksy revolution (whether you approve or not, he made street art collectible) the genre is less inclined to stick to its previously defined boundaries. The competition is growing rapidly, as are standards, and audiences are no longer just trendy bohemians but bankers, politicians, gallery owners.  New styles are emerging and a clear widening of the boundaries which were once labelled simply ‘graffiti’.

DSC_0043

Trust icon – Piracy is a Crime

I’m familiar with one of the artists, Savant, whose work combines carefully designed artistic visuals with an underlying message and either uses or incorporating that revered traditional graffiti medium, the spray can. His works seem to be a comment not only on individual issues, but by their whole manner perhaps reflect his own stance on the genre. Deliberately not abandoning the roots of tradition, but  branching away from the formula and incorporating alternative artistic elements. Other contributors have begun to innovate in whole new ways, which would previously never have been accepted as part of that genre; Eska, a talented young pencil artist, creates detailed landscapes reminiscent of Escher (coincidental name?), his small understated pieces hanging quietly in the corner like a nervous child, but beautiful, and delicately contrasting the other works. More traditional artists were showing too, with a veritable wealth of stunning paintings and works lining the walls of the gallery. But it was Jps who produced two of my personal standout pieces from the show: Biggie Smalls and A Line of Charlie. Both are funny, simple, clever and innovative. They shine a new light on the street art spectrum, exploring and commenting on new media but in classic street art style using popular culture and humour to create an instant connection with the viewer. It did strike me as interesting that only a handful of the artists produced a piece which was not on a canvas in a rectangular frame. The move for the street artist from outside object to indoor canvas is very new, but it shows the still gaping divide between the freedom of street art and the restrictions of gallery art. In a way, they’re still either one, or they’re the other. What will be fascinating is to see how this continues to develop. The status and definitions of street art and graffiti have shifted over the past 15 years and are expanding into a whole new format. Where that will lead, I don’t know, but must say I’m looking forward to finding out.

jps - A Line of Charlie

jps – A Line of Charlie

Now that I’m aware of the wealth of street artists out there, I hope to see their works appearing more regularly nearby and have already submitted my request for a collaborative piece to bring some life and beauty back to the emptiness which currently swamps the town. Whether in the gallery or out on the street, the imagination, creativity and ability is there in abundance. More, please!

The Energized Art exhibition is on at the What If Gallery in Dartford until this Saturday 13th April. Well worth a look and a purchase too.

Robin Coleman - Lich Sun Stein

Robin Coleman – Lich Sun Stein

Recycled Memories - Bitches

Recycled Memories – Bitches

DSC_0020

CS Stanley – Rigs of War

Savant - Skull (red/yellow)

Savant – Skull (red/yellow)

Lemak - Robots have feelings too

Lemak – Robots have feelings too

Mos Shaw - Fire Damage

Mos Shaw – Fire Damage

Silent Bill - Hell for Heroes

Silent Bill – Hell for Heroes

Robin Coleman - Daily Dietrich

Robin Coleman – Daily Dietrich

DSC_0056

Hand 'In his own image'

Hand ‘In his own image’

Eska - Sector

Eska – Sector

Cize One - Utopia - "Yeah Right"

Cize One – Utopia – “Yeah Right”

Savant - Girl Face Collage

Savant – Girl Face Collage

Gee - Bad Alice (on solid oak)

Gee – Bad Alice (on solid oak)

DSC_0023

Cize One - Me, Myself and Darkside

Cize One – Me, Myself and Darkside

DSC_0087

Eska – On the edge

DSC_0073

Savant - Ghost Theory

Savant – Ghost Theory

DSC_0093