It’s really hard to believe it’s been exactly one year since David Bowie’s death. As a genuinely inspiring and creative force (new work still appearing of his long after his death hidden gems in Blackstar) it’s no surprise that his work and death inspired dozens of tributes in the graffiti and street art community.
So to celebrate the life and work of Bowie, I’ve pulled together my top 5 David Bowie/Ziggy Stardust/Major Tom/Aladdin Sane etc tributes, painted before and after his passing.
Akse – Manchester 2016
Akse (pronounced Axe) painted this temporary tribute to David Bowie shortly after his death a year ago. At the time when this was posted online the reaction was crazy – it was effectively a viral hit. Everyone loved it, and although a lot of that would be down to the news that had left people in complete shock, it’s undoubtedly a great piece.
Speaking to the Manchester Times the artist based in the city said:
“Without realising it, I grew up with his music. When I was discovering music at 14, there were some big hits from him around, and some of his movies.
“When he passed away, people contacted me to paint a tribute, but I was not initially going to do it – because I don’t consider myself a big fan. Generally, I love cinema, it’s actors and directors that influence me and that’s how I pick my subjects.
“But after giving it more thought, I decided Manchester needed a tribute to Bowie.”
Eduardo Kobra – Jersey City 2016
Kobra’s large scale work in South America has caught everyone’s eye lately. His enormous, colourful murals combine a vibrant palette and geometric patterns to send what might be considered a standard, albeit impressive, portrait into the stratosphere.
In short, the Brazilian is hot property on the muralism and contemprary urban art scene.
Painted as a tribute following his death in January 2016, Eduardo Kobra was commissioned by the city’s Mural Arts Program to take on the 180ft tall canvas – his biggest at that time.
On the mural Kobra said: “It’s great to see that Jersey City has embraced street art through its mural program and I’m very happy to be a part of it.”
Osch – London 2012
If you catch any of Osch’s work in London you’re likely to not forget it in a hurry. His portraits are characterised by a ribbon-like effect building up the contours of the faces and bodies he paints. While the word ‘unique’ is too often banded around particularly among the online street art community (myself included) I feel this is a case worthy of the term.
This tribute to Bowie painted while the artist was still alive, a year before “Where are we now?” surfaced, showed that in the street art community his inspiration was strong even before his death.
In this painting Osch combines his usual ribbon effect with titles of Bowie’s best work in a really special piece of art paying a fitting tribute to Bowie in life and death.
Invader – London 2013
As a self-confessed Invader fanboy – I’m a sucker for minimalism, bold colours and nostalgia) I couldn’t not include a piece from everyone’s favourite Frenchman!
These couple of pieces glued up on the walls of London back in 2013 take inspiration from Pac Man and Ziggy Stardust.
In the words on the man himself…
“He could lick ’em by smiling,
He could leave ’em to hang”
…and leave ’em to hang he did!
Jimmy C – London 2014
Now, arguably, the most famous of all the Bowie murals. Jimmy C’s pointilism portraiture became the focus of the entire UK.
His portrait, aptly painted in Bowie’s on Brixton, became the congregating point for Bowie fans the world over. Fans laid flowers, lit candles and sang his songs in front of the mural for days after his death. The emotional cocktail of grief, sadness but also joy was of genuine reassurance to many fans who felt unusually shaken by Bowie’s passing.
It was a sharp reminder that nobody is untouchable (as 2016 went on to prove!) and that we should appreciate talents while they are with us.
No doubt today Jimmy’s mural will again be the focal point for those wishing to remember the starman!
Image credits: Still Unusual, Gavin Evans, Aleida Flores Yaniz, Travel with Intent, JC Pulse, Jersey Digs, Invader, Osch (aka Otto Schade) Jimmy C & Chris Ratcliffe