The Alternative London Walking Tour was a highlight from our trip to London. It is a tour that features the diverse culture and history of London’s East End all revolving around street art. A shout out to Abby Bean who recommended this tour to us and covered it on her blog – A (soy) Bean.
What is special about the art in East London is that there are incredibly intricate pieces, may of which are created with permission by the building owner, done by artists from all over the world. One such example is this piece by Belgium artist ROA:
ROA is well known and his works can be found all over the world in large scale. London is home to a few outstanding examples of his work. The Crane by ROA above was painted by hand in about eight hours according to Keir, our tour leader. That’s a fast brush.
Many people associate street art with quickly scrawled tags and property damage. I think the pieces above and below break from these assumptions. There are a number of artists around the world such as ROA who look to elevate the art form and enhance the setting where it is found. Just look at this ‘Elephant Octopus’ mural recently completed by Alexis Diaz.
This meticulously crafted piece is catching eyes in an alley just off of Brick Lane. I thought it was one of the more impressive pieces I have seen on our trip – in a museum or otherwise. These larger scale pieces you see above were created with permission from the owners of these buildings. Not all street artists have this luxury. They may look for other ways to quickly, and illicitly, display their work. A personal favorite of mine were the works of Invader, or, Space Invader.
Invader uses ceramic tiles to enliven walls all over the world. Many of his pieces are inspired from the pixelated aliens from the game. The example above seems to have fallen victim to a chisel removal attempt. Others of his work are of larger scale and certainly go outside the box.
Yes, your eyes do not deceive you. This actually exists on the side of an office building in East London for Star Wars (and Space Invader) fans everywhere to enjoy. Pieces from Space Invader are fairly common once you know where to look for them! Other artists also have signature techniques. DALeast is an artist who also falls in this category.
DALeast’s technique is instantly recognizable and translates perfectly to this format. I think that the surrounding setting is also a huge part for these pieces. Would they have the same effect in a gallery on a unblemished white wall? They certainly stand out in the city on their huge wall-canvases – much like this piece by Martin Ron.
This mural by Ron is beautiful and also has a message. The animal in the lower left hand corner being pointed at by the huge hand is a badger. Did you know that there is a Badger cull going on in England right now? I didn’t until this mural started that debate in our group. Help do your part to stop this atrocity by signing the petition HERE. The goal of Ron’s piece is to get a message across, but other artists are pushing the physical medium farther. Vihls has a technique that does just that.
The depth created in this work by Vihls is stunning. His technique involves first plastering the whole wall and then physically removing parts of the wall (often using a jackhammer) to create an image with great depth. This portrait looked very realistic in person. Seeing his work up close in real life is quite different than looking at the picture above.
The Alternative London Walking Tour is pay what you wish. Whatever you choose to pay, you will get good value for your money. Just make sure you sign up in advance on the website. There is a rich world of art in London outside of the museums that you may walk right by if you don’t know where to look or what you are looking at. I found it quite liberating to see wonderful works in the open air instead of behind a rope line in a museum or gallery. In a museum you need some luck to be featured prominently. To be noticed on the street? Only talent and some passers-by. Our guide, Kier, is an artist himself and shared his knowledge of the local art scene and the provided insight into pieces throughout the tour. He really brought the art to life for us and opened our eyes to street art even beyond London. (Even the NYTimes is noticing that street art is news-worthy. Shortly after our tour they posted this article about New York street art!) We heartily recommend Alternative London if you are ever in London for a few days.
Prior to this tour we were already noticing pieces from other cities on our trip. I will post some others that caught my eye soon. In the meantime, you can read some more about London! Please check out some of the great vegan options in London in our series of one, two and three posts!