Irish street artist Asbestos likes peeking
out, just his inquisitive orbs taking you in from a safe space. “We all wear
masks every second of the day.” Naturally that’s not hard to do since much of
the world has been in quarantine a lot lately.
But all these world events have left
him feeling fragile to tell the truth.
“I am fragile,” he says. “And I can
feel how fragile we all are right now.”
This new mural in Dublin speaks to
health, communities, our very lives, he says. It also speaks about masks that
people wear to hide how they’re really feeling right now in a time of great social,
political, and financial upheaval that you know is irreversible but you cannot
predict where it goes.
“We deny how
fragile we are. I wear these masks to hide the irrelevant parts of my identity,
and this mural let’s my eyes speak, if not shout out how fragile I am. It’s
empowering to admit that I’m fragile.”
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 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.”
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.”
Irish illustrator Joe Caslin has just completed a two-mural campaign this spring in Dublin’s city center on the side of a castle in Co Galway in support of this May’s country-wide same-sex marriage referendum. At the end of decades of activism by many in the LGBT community, these giant murals may have helped to sway the outcome – they certainly resulted in a lot of attention on social media and even the front page of the International New York Times.
The image on the side of the seven story Mercantile building was inspired by Meeting on the Turret Stairs, the sorrowful passing of unrequited lovers depicted by Fredric William Burton’s in his1864 painting. Wind and rain quickly damaged the pasted paper version of his hand-drawn illustration, but not before it was recorded and parlayed across mobile devices and television screens.
Far away from the city and surrounded by cows grazing in bucolic pastures, Caslin’s second illustration, this time featuring two lovely young women in an embrace, was affixed with potato-starch based paste onto the façade of a grand structure, the Caherkinmonwee Castle in Co Galway. If you were looking for a more fitting frame for your portrait, you would be hard pressed to beat this one and Joe once again proves that location and context is king (or queen).
After visiting the prison Kilmainham Gaol the second most popular place for visitors in Dublin is probably Trinity College. That’s where the latest installment of ‘Our Nations Sons’ is laying as it waits to be plastered on the 400 year old institution of learning that has about 17,000 current students.
Street Artist and illustrator Joe Caslin, who has been creating and executing the huge installations of marginalized or unfairly demonized youth on the streets of Edinburgh, tells us that the series will conclude at the end of the year. The portraits are drawn by him but the installations take a small team, even if the piece looks small in Trinity’s Great Hall as it is laid out for final alterations before it goes up.
“What looks massive on the floor gets somewhat consumed by the enormity of the urban landscape; This hall was given to us for the duration of the installation. We slept there, mixed paste there and made all final adjustments to the drawings. That night it was ours and it became our studio – we felt like we owned the space,” says Caslin.
Miguel, who is the subject of this portrait, was also part of the crew who installed it on an overnight that lasted until 5:30 am. He admits it feels kind of strange to be pasting his own image on such a scale on a wall, but also says he likes the team.
“It was tough pasting through the night, there is no denying that. But I suppose it’s not everyday you stick a 42 foot monolith of yourself on a wall in Trinity College. The crew warmly accepted me as the clueless new lad. We worked in the cold and rain, but working with such a great team of hardened workers made the laboring that bit easier. Above all I am proud to be part of such an inspiring project,” Miguel says.
“The portraits have been interpreted as a commentary on the social isolation of young men, issues surrounding suicide, how society perceives young men as a menace and more,” says the artist who conceived ‘Our Nations Sons’. Undoubtedly the sheer scale is a helpful reminder that everybody has something valuable to offer to the conversation, and Caslin managed to be persuasive with the university to let it happen.
“I think the power of both the subject matter and the portrait made this a much easier decision for Trinity to make at the end of the day. Who knows! I’m just happy it exists within the centre of Dublin city and on such a prestigious site,” he says.
Our weekly focus on the moving image and art in the streets. And other oddities.
Now screening :
1. SOFLES — LIMITLESS
2. GAIA in Rome
3. OLEK Underwater Treasures
4. Heavy Metal Progeny on the Streets
5. The Lurkers Do Sarajevo
6. Portrait of the artist Franck Duval/FKDL
7. Chatroullette Version of Miley Cyrus “Wrecking Ball”
BSA Special Feature: SOFLES — LIMITLESS
After “Infinite” hit in June, we couldn’t imagine a better hard driving fume filled warehouse exploration but this newly released “Limitless”, shot and cut by Selina Miles, again sets a standard for graff / Street Art films. Featuring art by Sofles, Fintan Magee, Treas, Quench, the conceptual interludes and special camera effects trickery make you laugh with glee while these guys kill one wall after another.
GAIA in Rome
“Inspired by Giorgio De Chirico, this huge wallpainting by Gaia represents the relationship between identity and function in the building process of the city. A figure from Foro Italico sits in the foreground adjacent to a bunch of rotting bananas and “The Cloud” designed by Fuksas currently under construction in EUR. In the background is a portion of Palazzo Della Civiltà Italiana and MACRO combined extending towards the horizon and an erased monument handling a pickaxe facing a horse. “- Gaia.
OLEK Underwater Treasures
Diving to new depths, the crocheting Street Artist OLEK takes us underwater to see the cammo skin undulating and gyrating beneath the surface.
HEAVY METAL Progeny on the Streets
Good to see the power of rock as it hits NYC streets.
The Lurkers Do Sarajevo
Portrait of the artist Franck Duval/FKDL
Chatroullette Version of Miley Cyrus “Wrecking Ball”
Our weekly focus on the moving image and art in the streets. And other oddities.
Now screening: Joe Caslin on Achill-Henge in Ireland, Canemorto with Borondo in Bologna, Italy.
BSA Special Feature: Joe Caslin
on Achill-Henge in Ireland
BSA Film Friday this week brings you exclusive photos and film documentation of the new “collaboration” of an Irish Street Artist and a renegade real estate developer. For the next chapter of his socio-political Street Art project “Our Nation’s Sons”, artist Joe Caslin has an unmatched choice for a venue – an illegally constructed concrete sculpture called Achill-Henge.
Banksy had Toilet-Henge, in Nevada Jim Reinders created Carhenge, and this unauthorized 30 column, fifteen foot high tribute to Stonehenge has been under threat of demolition since it was erected one November weekend two years ago unilaterally by property developer ‘Anglo Avenger’ Joe McNamara, according to news reports.
A perfect spot for graffiti and Street Art, right?
Enter Joe Caslin, the recently graduated illustration artist who completed his public awareness campaign “Our Nations Sons” that we shared with you earlier this year on the streets of Edinburgh, Scotland. The contentious discussions that surround the existence of the massive sculpture as well as the fact that it is still standing makes it a superb location to wheatpaste the images of young men whom Caslin believes are callously demonized within Irish society. “It is a really controversial site which is loaded with opinion and as such was very important to the subject matter of my drawings,” says the artist.
Mr. Caslin and his small team, at least one of which is a participating subject of the campaign, have just completed a full installation on the walls of this poured concrete Achill-Henge high atop the wind-whipped hills overlooking the ocean.
The installation continued late into night and there were of course a number of technical issues to overcome but today BSA readers get to see exclusive photos of the project – along with a pretty stunning professionally shot video just released of the full installation.
And on an entirely different tip, the wild and wooly lowfi classical Canemorto continue to impress with their raw wit. Why aren’t more people talking about Canemorto? This new stop action video by El Pacino features a collab with Borondo in an abandoned building with a soaring roof. Also, idiot sounds.
As Arab Spring enters a new chapter this week with Egypt’s Islamist president making decrees granting him near-absolute powers, it looks like this piece by Fintan Switzer is perfectly timely. This is where the artist and the activist intersect, on a wall and in the street, and it has for centuries; a place to seek redress, to plead your case, speak your mind, demonstrate your power in the most public way. This piece from this summer will likely retain its relevance until it fades from the sun and the rain and snow.
This realistic and lyrical depiction on a metal door in Killarney, Ireland is called “Waltz with the Philistine”, an old testament story symbolizing fear and bravery and overcoming seemingly insurmountable odds. For Fitzer, it’s an age-old analogy that is repeating in the streets everywhere today. “David and Goliath is a story which I think runs parallel with the Arab Spring. Similar to David, the people of these heavily oppressed countries somehow manage to overthrow giant tyrants (with varying results) using mostly primitive weapons in comparison to the arsenal used against them,” says the artist.
On his recent trip to Bantry, West Cork, Ireland Street Artist Phlegm took advantage of a brief dry interlude, got his painting materials out, rolled up his sleeves and set his magical thinking free onto a couple of walls. Unbothered by the punishing rays of the sun, the palette of black and white emulated the greyness of the days.
Phlegm’s ingenious use of scale and precisely rough rendering of imagination can make you feel good about daydreaming. With the same determination as a kids building intricate sand castles and moats on the beach in the summer, you can watch Phlegm render this giant submarine-fish and imagine how a day can evaporate without notice.
Here’s a video of his work on both walls by Colm Rooney courtesy of One Color/Conor Mahon;
Street Artist and fine artist Shai Dahan just returned from a trip to what some call the Holy Land to place a large portrait of a Jordanian Bedouin on the wall on the Palestinian side. Despite the checkpoints and soldiers in towers and the general atmosphere of hostility and suspicion that seems ever present, a non-political piece was welcomed by people in this war torn region, and locals greeted Dahan and his friend with coffees and teas all day. Kids who were watching the progress with great interest also gave them the “thumbs up” sign of approval, so they knew they were cool.
Over the last decade this wall has drawn the attention of many international Street Artists like Brooklyn’s Faile, London’s Banksy,Ireland’s Conor Harrington, Italy’s Blu, and Paris’ JR, among others. Each has reported a sense of accomplishment after pulling this feat, and Dahan reports that many of those pieces still remain there. With his friend David Freid there to shoot a documentary and provide these photos, Dahan felt like it was a rare privilege and opportunity.
“The locals loved it and although the stress of entering an area full of conflict with zero security was great, it was a very special project and one of the highlights of my career. I got to enter a place filled with anger and frustration and paint there.”
Fine artist Fintan Switzer has been leaving his studio and going outside recently to experience the fresh air and to explore what it’s like to paint walls. From Michaelangelo to the erotic wall painting of Pompei to the great Latin American muralists of the the last century like social realist David Alfaro Siqueiros and the firebrand Diego Riveira, we have been addressing issues of class and social station with paintings on walls for a very long time. With this in mind, Switzer has been creating his social themed realist oil portraits that appear to break free from the walls of Killarney in the south of Ireland.
Mr. Switzer talked briefly to BSA and explained his interest in “Silver Inheritance,” his most recent foray into the outdoors.
“Indoors you are confined to the dimensions of your canvas and your studio. Painting outdoors offers you the freedom to use the surroundings and merge your piece with the setting.
The title ‘Silver Inheritance’ is a play on the expression ‘born with a silver spoon’, I don’t know if the expression is used much in the States but it means to be born into a wealthy family. The character in the painting is working class, a labourer condemned to a life of hard work and low wages, living on the margins of society. His inheritance is his family’s social class, lifestyle and a future of unrelenting marginal existence”
Irish Street Artist and fine artist Conor Harrington is currently visiting his motherland and he has decided to explore the Wild West on walls…he’s been painting a series of cowboys and cow herders to continue his exploration of manhood and the excesses of bulls and markets.
“I’m home in Ireland for 10 days painting a few walls and making another short film with Monsieur Andy Telling. Its a lil different this time, no soldiers or colonial garb. I decided to do a project a little more relevant to what’s going on in Ireland at the moment. For those that aren’t aware, Ireland is balls deep in a recession thanks to the Holy Trinity of Irish corruption – the politicians, bankers and developers.”
“We arrived in Ennis on Monday evening and started work straight away. Good to be over in the West, took a drive up the coast and even braved the Atlantic for about 3 minutes Painting these spots is always good. People are amazing, they appreciate what you do as opposed to in most big cities where they stand there and think ‘I could do better’.” Conor Harrington