My recent Kulturcast episode with Dave the Chimp got me thinking.
Dave’s very much into the idea that art should be created for a reason. To highlight an issue, offer support to a cause, or just to use your voice. But not for self-publicising.
The political side of street art is one that’s very interesting, few other art forms have the potential to reach so many, especially now in the age of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
So whose art has been some of the most powerful? I pulled together my top 5 chin-scratching, politically inspired artists and their murals from near and far, recent and long ago.
Escif, Sweden 2015
Escif’s work is almost entirely politically motivated in one way or another. His murals have made clear his position on a number of issues. In this one he sets out support for Greece’s recently elected left-wing Syriza party, and the nation.
This mural hooks onto the ancient Greek tradition of breaking plates against marble floors of to ward off evil spirits with the clatter of broken crockery. Was this gigantic plate enough to ward off western Europe’s politicians? Only time will tell…
Blu, Berlin 2008
Blu is like the street art Yoda of political muralism. His razor sharp observations emblazoned on the biggest spaces in Europe and across the world. Of his many, many inspired paintings, my favourite is definitely the East/West mural (sadly no longer) on Berlin’s Cuvrystrasse.
As a self confessed Berlinophile, I loved this mural for 2 reasons. The first, being it’s relation to of one of the most fascinating times in European history. And secondly, the sly East and West hand symbols, with each character representing the waryness of Berliners to their counterparts over the wall.
Banksy, London 2016
There’s a lot of Banksy-bashing going on these days.
Many accuse his work of being a bit tired, symbolising everything that’s ‘gone wrong’ in street art. Basically that his art is now so sought after, people will fight among themselves to be the first to crowbar it off a wall, like it’s some Willy Wonka-esque golden ticket to a hassle free existence.
The ongoing refugee crisis, which seems to have dropped in newsworthiness from the mainstream media recently, is highlighted here via QR code (incidentally, about the only time these have ever been useful).
The link takes you to a video of the French authorities inhumanely bulldozing camps and using tear gas in Calais refugee camps.
Those who dislike Banksy’s work surely can’t have much to say against this important awareness raising piece.
Stik, London 2010
Stik’s one of my favourite artists. His style is simple, clean and colourful which really appeals to me. What’s impressive is that his work generally consists of 6 lines and 2 dots – but their real beauty lies in the powerful, and often sad, messages they put across.
Many of his paintings deal with the issue of gentrification in London, especially in areas such as Hackney.
This piece highlights the sadness and ultimate pointlessness of the destruction of the creative hub, the Foundry, on Old Street. The open art space used by a young Banksy, Faile and Invader was bought over by property developers before being left empty. Seriously…
Special mention to this piece as well, I couldn’t mention Stik and only choose one after all! This one demonstrating togetherness, at a time when some politicians in the UK seem determined to undermine and undo the multicultural melting pot our country has become.
Dave the Chimp, London 2016
Finally, the man who planted the seed for this blog in my head! Dave the Chimp’s not one for wasting an opportunity to get his opinion heard.
As part of the #notacrime project, his work helped to raise awareness of the mistreatment of people who follow the Bahai faith in Iran – many are banned from teaching and studying purely because of their religion.
Dave’s ‘human beans’ support the Bahais and aim to raise awareness, via the ‘#notacrime hashtag, of this unbelievable persecution of Iranians by their own government.
So, there you have it, my current favourite politically inspired artists and their murals.
Who are your current favourites? Do you think street art is the place for political commentary? Share your views with me over on Facebook, Twitter or comment below.