London-based Street Artist Bortusk Leer emptied out his flat one day early this year and put all his belongings in storage. He packed some articles of clothing and a legion of colorful, friendly monsters and embarked on a journey to India for six months with his girlfriend. On the route from town to town, guest house to guest house, he observed an amazing country, it’s people, and it’s cows. Not quite sure how to approach the topic of street art, he found people to be receptive, and he even received invitations to paint inside homes and courtyards. The cows were positively enthusiastic!
Following is a personal account from Bortusk and photos from his trip.
A 6-month back packing trip around India presented me with the opportunity to take my work to yet another continent and hopefully spread some more smiles. A nation whose favorite comedian, I discovered, is Mr. Bean would hopefully find my child-like art amusing!? In India, I quickly realized, nothing ever goes quite to plan. After wallpaper paste proved impossible to find while in Goa, my first batch of paste-ups were made with a flour and water paste. These were eaten off the walls by hungry, wandering cows, who seemed to think the colorful artwork’s doughy coating was some kind of Willy Wonka-esque edible wallpaper. Lesson learned. From then on I pasted only up high above the sacred ones’ reach.
Jodhpur brought me an opportunity to stock up on more suitable ‘sticking stuff’. Here I bought an industrial size pot of PVA and Indian paintbrushes made from bundles of straw bound together with string. These were perfect for pasting and much better!
The “Blue City” is a bustling maze of streets and alleyways rammed with shops and street vendors overlooked by the grand fort and was my favorite of all the Rajasthan cities we visited. Unlike the rest of Rajasthan, which we generally found hard work due to the constant sales pitches and tourist blags, Jodhpur felt much more relaxed and we were, in the main, left alone to enjoy its sights unperturbed.
The winding back streets lent themselves perfectly to a spot of pasting while quite a few people milled around when I started. During putting up the first piece I was asked by two locals what I was doing. I told them that it was a piece of art that would hopefully put a smile on they’re faces, which for these two it actually did. Later a guy on a motorbike stopped and asked me what we were doing so I explained again, but he promptly and firmly told me that this wouldn’t make Indians smile… Miserable bastard!
He then decided to try and take control of the situation by telling me that I should put one on his friends’ rickshaw, I wasn’t so sure about this but he kept telling us it’d be fine, as he knew the guy who owned it. So I took his advice and pasted a couple onto the rickshaw and another bigger piece onto a wall. Then he started being a bit weird and tried to take a photo of my girlfriend, who was out with me. We ended up telling him to leave us alone for five minutes but he wouldn’t listen so we eventually decided the only thing to do was to walk off.
A requested adornment of a rickshaw by Bortusk Leer in Jodpur.
We wandered around for a bit before heading back to see the work and see if he’d cleared off. When we got back to the rickshaws, the guy had torn all the pieces down and ripped them up into little bits…Very strange! – And obviously not a fan of art comedy.
My pasting plans were sadly scupper while in Varanasi by a bout of the infamous ‘Dehli Belly’ and the scorching 42-degree (107 farenheit) heat with no breeze! The old city of Varanasi is incredible; a labyrinth of narrow streets running alongside the banks of the Ganges River. Regarded as holy by Hindus, Buddhists, and Jains, it is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. It certainly has a special kind of energy and it was fascinating to watch all the age-old religious ceremonies going on along the riverbanks and 24-hour burning of funeral pyres.
The streets reminded me in places of Barcelona. There was plenty of evidence that I wasn’t the first artist to visit as I saw a few works by Invader and others scattered around but between 10 am and 6 pm it was unbearably hot and a struggle to drag myself out from under the fan.
Varanasi pillar of Bortusk Leer.
Luckily the guesthouse owners, Shiva and Ganga agreed to let me paint a piece on one of the pillars in the grounds of the guesthouse, which I could work on in the shade during the heat of the day, and more importantly within a short stumble to the toilet! This kept me entertained for a few days as well as giving me the opportunity to try out some new ideas.
The happy hosts then sent us off on ‘the fastest direct train to Delhi, The Shiva Ganga Express’. Journey time; a mere 12 hours. Vashisht and Manali were the last stop on our journey and offered absolutely mind-blowing scenery with my first real mountain view! Stunning, lush, green orchards in blossom were surrounded by snow-capped mountains on all sides. The village we stayed in was mainly traditional style buildings constructed from ornately carved wood and huge slate tiled roofs.
Vashisht, Manali, monsters and mountains.
Although they were beautiful to look at they were not much scope for pasting. Here I opted to instead leave monsters painted on corrugated cardboard, strategically placed in gaps in dry stone walls, in grassy fields and anywhere along the hobbit-like pathways where I thought someone might spot them.
If you’re ever in the area, I absolutely recommend Chris and Josie’s House; Again a friendly guesthouse owner! They allowed me to get busy on his walls so I managed to leave at least one piece of slightly more permanent work. Assuming he didn’t paint over it the minute my back was turned…you never can tell!
Chris and Josie's guesthouse in Vashish. Bortusk Leer
The Living Walls Conference in Atlanta ended weeks ago and the organizers still think of all the artists who helped in their first ever event; the art, the conversations, the animated debates, the camaraderie.
The pieces and murals left behind mostly are still untouched and naturally some have been tagged, destroyed, gone over. The life cycle for art on the streets, it would appear, is getting shorter – like 3-week TV pilots, 18-hour news cycles, and the average texting teen attention span, the pace of change is a quickening. Few artists can say that their pieces stay untouched, or “ride”, for very long periods of time.
One artist at Living Walls, Hugh Leeman, saw his portrait of an American civil rights icon actually precipitate the removal of an alcohol ad, due to local community sentiments – although no-one has said who brought it down. Street Artist Faber, takes a less literal, more intuitive approach to creating pieces specific to their location and his inner dialogue.
Following are observations from Jayne McGinn along with photos from Jenna Duffy, who both covered the conference extensively:
Hugh Leeman is easily one of the most inspiring people I met during Living Walls, if not my lifetime. His drive, passion and sincerity shone throughout his short stay in Atlanta.
After losing his wall on the side of Sound Table in the Old Fourth Ward due to a conflict with an Old English ad, Hugh ventured to the establishment at 1 a.m to convinced the owners to let him use the wall. He was allowed to create his piece with the stipulation that he would cut his mural in half and not cover the malt liquor add. Using only the Martin Luther King Jr side of the mural, Hugh pasted up his mural quickly, and before Leeman had left Atlanta the next day- the malt liquor add was down.
Leeman’s mural of MLK is adjacent to the MLK historic district, including his birth house and church. The brief time that the OE advertisement and the MLK wheat paste shared the wall together, it caused controversy within the community, igniting anger and confusion. Leeman and Living Walls posted a sign saying they did not support the advertisement.
Leeman’s mural changed the way OFW looks and represents the people and the neighborhood in an honest and uplifting way.
Faber’s interest in graffiti inspired him to study fine arts in school and further influences his work today. His artwork is personal, and appears on the street for the people who don’t have access to an art gallery, thus he creates a “public gallery” with his work. He sees his artwork as alive because of it interacts with the public.
Raised by squirrels in a musty old barn located deep in the woods of upstate NY, Dan Taylor’s work is heavily influenced by the anatomical forms of the animal kingdom. In his drawings, sculptures, and mixed media works, Taylor treats organs and musculoskeletal structures as unique environments, which may be fused with other natural forms, as well as occasional unexpected consumerist elements (for example, mylar balloons, luxury handbags, gold leafing or toy soldiers). Some day, the artist’s own remains will be stuffed and put on display to scare children. The artist maintains a website, Mammal Soap.
On Saturday, October 16th, from 7pm to 11pm, Pandemic will host the “Notes from the Inside” opening reception, sponsored by Pabst Blue Ribbon. “Notes from the Inside” will then run through November 6th.
Established in Williamsburg, Brooklyn in 2009, Pandemic is an artist-run space dedicated to showing work from up-and-coming, unknown, and well-established talent alike. Embracing (but not confined to) urban street art, Pandemic is attracted to artists who think outside the confines of conventional normalcy — artists whose fresh concepts and unique visions inspire a broad audience. Pandemic is open Tuesday-Friday from 11am to 6pm and Saturday-Sunday from 12pm to 7pm; the gallery is accessible via the L and J subways and the Q59 bus.
For additional information about Pandemic Gallery, Dan Taylor, or this event, or to obtain additional exhibition preview images, please do not hesitate to contact me by e-mail at (973) 220-5032.
Thanks in advance,
Media and Development Director
The small but very expensive (if you are not a resident) and oil rich Coastal town of Stavenger in Norway must be feeling a bit blue right now. Nuart 2010 artists cleaned up, packed up their tools and left after two weeks of painting monumental murals for the town’s folk to enjoy during the long, dark winter months ahead. This years’ Street Artists included Dotmasters, Dolk, EVOL, Sten & Lex, Vhils, and ROA, among others. As in the past 5 years under this curator, the ’10 group is a stellar selection of talent that is helping define what direction Street Art is heading.
The offerings this year were super sized and in many cases bold in color. All of the participants this year were painters, masters at their craft and supremely independent. Martyn Reed, curator and visionary engine behind this elaborate but accessible street art festival doesn’t limit himself to one large festival – instead he marries it with a prestigious electronic-based music festival he created as a result of his years as a DJ. This years’ NuMusic festival featured performances by luminaries like Krautrock grandaddies Neu! and American hip-hop cornerstone Grandmaster Flash.
The affable bad boy Reed took a moment this week to look at his route to success so far and tell BSA about what the Nuart festival is and why it is important to him.
Brooklyn Street Art:Putting on a festival of this magnitude must be a big task. How do you do it?
Martyn Reed: Actually, this year, though the largest in scale, was a much easier production than we’ve been used to. We’ve learned so much from previous events that this year things ran incredibly smoothly. The biggest challenge was the weather in the second week. A good 90% of the walls required cherry pickers, these are obviously booked well in advance, set up, artists arrives and yeah.. we’re on. The walls that required scaffold are rigged by professionals and we made sure that all of this years artists were painters. So once set up, people were pretty autonomous. It helped that we spread out the production period to cover two weeks and also that we had Marte, a Nuart regular, on an internship for a month during the planning phase.
Brooklyn Street Art:What has been the town folks’ main reaction when they see all the big creatures on the walls of their city?
Martyn Reed: It’s incredible, there’s nothing but love for Nuart in this city, and it’s spread across a really broad demographic, from toddlers to grandparents, and from bakers to the city mayor.
It’s interesting because in a city this size anything new, any new developments in culture for example, are judged on their intrinsic merits and not due to media hype or “trends”. The city has a population of 120,000 and though a few will be aware of Banksy, Dolk etc..that will it. The art isn’t really tied to a “culture”, to Juxtapoz or hipsters or the gallery set or limited edition sneakers and vinyl toys and all the other commercial detritus that’s blossomed around the scene. It’s simply art on the street, big bold beautiful artworks that noticeably improve the surroundings. It’s astonishing to me that more city councils around the world haven’t yet embraced and recognized the value of Street Art.
Brooklyn Street Art: You have combined music with the plastic arts. Is there a cross-over between the two? Does one influence the other when curating the festival?
Martyn Reed: Interesting question, but the short answer is no, not anymore. Interesting in that Nuart was established to explore the questions you raise.
The Numusic festival, like many other European electronic music festivals, was born from an involvement in early rave and club culture. Arts graduates social life’s began to merge with their studies and aspects of academic pursuits began to influence club culture, especially with Vj’s, the early web, digital arts and new media. This proved an especially fertile and creative arena for subversives and artistic outsiders who naturally gravitate to these still lawless new frontiers. Nuart was initially set up as a sister festival to Numusic back in 2001 to provide a platform for “cutting edge” digital arts and new media, which of course had parallels with Numusic which at the time was billed as “Scandinavia’s leading festival of Electronic music”. New Media quickly became the baby of Arts Councils and funding bodies around the globe with new departments established to support and fund the medium. Art and New Technology grants were everywhere and as a Techno Dj and promoter with a degree in fine art, I was ideally placed to take advantage of the situation. I wrote the applications and we hired in various freelance curators between 2001 and 2005 and opened up the galleries during the club nights mixing up the art and the music.
I’d had an interest in Street Art through Banksy having Dj’d at Cargo in London where he had his first UK show, 2001 I think. It hadn’t occurred to me until 2005 when I took over curating Nuart, that Street Art was occupying the same ground as these early digital pioneers had previously, with a similar message, greater coverage, mass appeal and for the price of a craft knife and Internet connection. Suddenly new media looked like the bloated expensive state sanctioned art-form it was, obsessed with the technology of production when the real technological revolution was in its ability to distribute. I’d already worked with C6/Dotmasters on a new media show which led to Graffiti Research Lab etc so in 2005 I made an application to the arts council with a view to pushing things into a more street art orientated direction. And of course it was rejected outright..We thought ‘fuck it’, took out a private bank loan and did it anyway.. that was the start of Nuart in it’s current form. I guess the only similarities with movements in music is how the form is distributed, though it’s interesting to note a few artists, Faile in particular, messing with “remix” culture.
Brooklyn Street Art: You have to deal with painters and musicians. How do you see their differences as artists and do you approach them differently?
Martyn Reed: We treat people as people, no heirs and graces and pretty plain talking. We’re an easy going bunch and I think most artists and musicians feel comfortable around the crew, obviously we have to adapt to certain peoples quirks of character, but for the most, peoples social antenna’s are tuned to the same channel. Our main goal is to ensure that the production and service we provide ensures that the artists have nothing to worry about other than their own performance or piece.
Brooklyn Street Art: Did you grow up in a family where the arts and music were a big part of growing up? If not when did you realize that music and art were your calling?
Martyn Reed: Ha Ha, no no, quite the opposite, lower working class council estate upbringing, trailer trash in your parlance, didn’t know universities existed until I was maybe 17 or so, left home and school at 16 and just tried to get on..
During all these centuries of the celebration of high art, of its life-affirming philosophies, the glorification, elevation and idolization, it’s monuments to human artistic achievement and even more monumental museums celebrating its history, you’d think, somewhere down the line..an attempt would have been made to bring this to my council estate. To our lives. Because I know for a fact, art is not only capable of “improving” lives, but of saving them also. Literally.
But for all the grandstanding, the “high” arts don’t run that deep, which is why I’m a massive supporter and promoter of street art.
As for realizing, not sure, to be honest, from a very early age I always felt like I was on the outside looking in, and the “in” seemed to be missing a few things. I guess Nuart is my attempt to provide the community and the artists (and my 4 year old kid), with the thing that I missed.
Street Art Launch… Join us for the UK launchof our new exhibition – Street Art, Contemporary Prints from the V&Afeaturing works by Banksy, Ben Eine and D*Face on Thursday 7 October, 7:00pm – 10:00pm. Be the first to see this exhibition alongside new works from amazing regional artists. DJing, live animation projection, licensed bar and a live art battle will also be taking place. To reserve your place send an E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org just turn up on the night at 7pm!
Contemporary Prints from the V&A
The Herbert Art Gallery & Museum is the first venue to host a brand new touring exhibition from the Victoria and Albert Museum, London – Street Art: Contemporary Prints from the V&A. Street art is a diverse, constantly evolving art form, one that moves across the derelict buildings, bus shelters and hoardings of cities around the world. Its roots lie in history, echoing cave paintings and stencilled slogans and images in political campaigning.
The exhibition showcases the work of some of the biggest artists in the street art community such as Banksy, Shepard Fairey, Sickboy, Pure Evil and D*Face.
The Herbert has also commissioned six emerging artists on the UK street scene to decorate its white walls. Fresh Paint will contain brand new work from Pahnl, SPQR, Lucy McLauchlan, Ben Slow, AsOne and Newso.
To explore another aspect of the street art scene, the Herbert will be showcasing new aerosol art from Birmingham based graffiti artist Mohammed Ali. Ali calls his art, AerosolArabic, a unique fusion of urban graffiti art with traditional Arabic Islamic calligraphy.
Touring exhibition from the V&A.
See the film and question the director. Part of the Street Art season
Whole Train’s edgy editing, pulsating soundtrack and exploration of the secret universe of the graffiti scene make it a film experience not to be missed. The four protagonists observe the hierarchies, values, rules and codes of this rarely documented scene. But as another crew appears on the scene, the four feel challenged and a creative battle ensues. The director will be available after the performance in person or via Skype to answer questions about how he made the film and its content!
Spaces are limited, booking is advised. Please call 024 7683 2386 to book your place.
A l’heure où l’individualisme prime sur le collectif, où le culte du moi peut nous faire perdre la tête, il était tout naturel de s’intéresser à l’autoportrait. Doit-on le qualifier d’exhibitionnisme, de jubilation narcissique ou traduit-il tout simplement un clin d’œil amusé de l’artiste sur son propre miroir… qui lui renvoie forcément l’image d’un autre.
L’autoportrait nous interpelle, nous fascine, son côté « people » séduit notre côté voyeur car la mise en scène choisie par l’artiste – le lieu, le moment, l’attitude – sont autant de petits secrets qu’il nous livre sur sa personnalité. Ainsi les oreilles de Jef Aérosol, le gros havane de Spliff Gâchette, les fusils de Konny Steding, les humeurs de Gregos, les grimaces de Mimi The Clown, Mr Lolo et ses roses, les appareils photo de Jana et Js ou encore les empreintes de Pixal Parazit sèment une multitude de petits indices sur la personnalité des artistes.
L’autoportrait en quelques mots. Le genre a vu le jour sous la Renaissance et on attribue le premier autoportrait à Titien. Ces autoportraits coïncidaient alors le plus souvent avec le nouveau statut social du peintre. L’artiste est représenté dans son atelier, ou entrain de peindre. Mais c’est au XVIIe que l’exercice acquière ses lettres de noblesse avec Rembrandt, Velasquez… Par la suite tous les grands peintres ont laissé au moins un autoportrait puis l’influence de la psychanalyse au XXè siècle a particulièrement aidé au renouveau du genre (Van Gogh, Picasso, Bacon…). Se représenter est bien une tendance naturelle de l’être humain et la génération Street Art n’échappe pas au genre. Qu’il soit une représentation réelle de sa propre image, ou simplement une suggestion l’artiste aime jouer avec son image.
L’exposition réunira une trentaine d’autoportraits, et présentera également quelques portraits d’artistes, maîtres ou figures incontournables de leur époque : Gustav Klimt, Salvator Dali, Picasso, Epsylon Point…
An amazing array of artists working with light are transforming a portion of Greenpoint Brooklyn October 2nd for New York’s first actual participation in “Nuit Blanche” a celebration of Street Art from another perspective. NYC has long been a center of electronic arts experimentation and the field is now flooding with amazing new talent.
BSA is participating and encourages you to participate – you will definitely see stuff you haven’t seen before in a welcoming public environment. The entire event will also be simulcast live and will include cities around the world, including our sister city Toronto.
Volunteers are welcomed and needed, especially electricians, tech savvy folks, and people who support electronic art in NYC. To volunteer please email Jacquie at email@example.com
Dumbo Fest This Weekend
A number of Street Artists are participating in one of Brooklyn’s biggest art events this weekend, and all you have to do is wander the streets. Click the image to download a Map!
No Longer Empty
As part of the Dumbo Arts Festival a few Brooklyn Street Artists have already prepared some new street work for “Watch This Space”, including Chris Stain, Imminent Disaster, Jordan Seilor, and the piece below by Helen Dennis.