Asbestos Behind a Mask in Cork, Ireland

The symbolism of the “L” repeated many times, the expression in the eyes peering nervously  through them, the appearance of this piece in Cork – it’s all a coded secret for the typical passerby here in Ireland. This is not unusual for Street Art or graffiti because much of it can be so woven into the personal history of the artist that it may require and extensive conversation with them to understand it- or a look at their diary.

Asbestos. Left Hand. Cork, Ireland. July 2019. (photo © Asbestos)

Asbestos is from Dublin but he make this new mural as part of a graffiti jam organized by Crack. He says it is a critique of his own hand skills when he is surrounded by Masters of the aerosol can. In fact he feels like he is all left hands – thus the “L” symbol creating a mask for him to hide behind.

“I like to explore an innocent and naive version of my own character called ‘Left Hand’ that sees the world in a different way to me,” he tells us. “Here he’s giving me learner ‘L’ signs because I’m a street artist painting with a bunch of graff artists. His honesty exposes my own frailties and insecurities and my fear that I’d mess the mural up in front of artists I respect.”

Asbestos. Left Hand. Cork, Ireland. July 2019. (photo © Asbestos)

When we get to know an artist better it is not a surprise to find how much of their personal history and psychology enters into their practice. The Dublin-based Asbestos is quite literal in explorations of self on the street; splitting himself into a ‘live’ version and a ‘dead’ version.

He said he’s been working on “a series of mask portraits that explore my identity. Each mask portrays two versions of myself, one alive and one dead. The dead version is a fictional character that represents me, if I’d been killed in a car bomb,” he reveals. The ‘bomb’ he refers to was a real one, he sayd. “It went off in Dublin 46 days before I was born, 5 minutes after my mother walked past it,” he says.

“I’ve always been fascinated about the fact that I may never have existed.”

Asbestos. Left Hand. Cork, Ireland. July 2019. (photo © Asbestos)