Dazzle Ship – Edinburgh Art Festival 2016

I suppose one of the appeals of ‘urban art’ is that it can crop up anywhere, really. By far the most unique example I’ve come across (in more ways than one) has to be Ciara Philips’ “dazzle ship” as part of this year’s Edinburgh Art Festival.

As astonishing as the design is, the story behind the ship is just as amazing.

DSC_0725

The MV Fingal, now docked at the Prince of Wales dock in the historic port of Leith, sticks out with its striking design and bold lines and colours. Amazing then, that this type of design was used in the first and second world wars as a form of camouflage.

The design from Glasgow-based Turner Prize nominee Philips was inspired by the team of women who worked under British marine artist Norman Wilkinson, inventor of the “dazzle” technique.

It’s a little known fact that most of these designs were devised by women, and included in this piece is a message in Morse code embedded within the pattern in retro reflective paint reading “Every Woman a Signal Tower”.

DSC_0735

DSC_0750

Characterised by brilliant, glaring geometric patterns these designs were widely used in both world wars.

Instead of aiming to make the ship invisible to the enemy, it set out to confuse their attempts to sink it by making it difficult to accurately gauge the distance, direction and speed of travel.

A brilliantly outlandish stroke of genius. I wonder what happened during the meeting where that idea was brought up…

IMG_5417

IMG_5415

Ciara’s ship design won’t be blending in down Leith way.

Instead it stands bright against the bland port surroundings, and is a welcome addition to the area, having briefly departed to Queensferry for the Battle of Jutland commemorations this weekend.

A really spectacular sight to see in person.

IMG_5441

IMG_5421

IMG_5435

IMG_5438

IMG_5439

IMG_5451

Check it out now, and read more about the project on the 14-18 NOW website which includes a number of other designs across the UK.

Steven
UKB

Rival Consoles – Hidden Door 2016

We’re right in the thick of Edinburgh’s purely volunteer run arts and music festival just now. Rival Consoles‘ arrival in town on Saturday marked the first in a week long series of personal musical highlights set out by the Hidden Door organisers.

I had my eye on this one since being given a tip to check out his latest EP “Howl”. Further online investigation raised an interesting comparison with the likes of Nils Frahm and Jon Hopkins. A date was set. Tickets duly acquired.

DSC_0724

Ryan Lee West, better known as Rival Consoles, is now three EPs deep into his synth led atmospheric electronica. With Odyssey, Sonne and now Howl to draw upon in his impressive armoury, his one hour live set was a rugged work of classy genre spanning electronica.

Like his reputation and released work, this one hour performance was built upon music suited not only to your headphones but also for the big space of the Long Room. His background as a guitarist, rather than dance music producer, perhaps giving the balance needed to deliver music with a foot in both camps.

DSC_0711 (2)

Taking to the stage with little fanfare, he made quick progress in setting the tone for a slightly more ambient first half with Odyssey.

Straight to business, West dodged to and from the pieces of kit laid before him guiding his set to a noticeable half-time split. Accompanied by tripped out dot-art visuals, and a crowd ready to dance, captivated whoops and yells of delight accompanied drops and breakdowns.

A more dancefloor orientated second half, yet no less listenable, was brought to a thrilling climax with “Looming”. This Burial-esque atmospheric stomper bringing the whole room forward, some arms aloft, delighting in the refreshing atmospheric and synthy finish.

Quick discussion with the stage manager followed, soon after another brash, bouncing track filled the room before he disappeared for good. Leaving the stage with a nod, thumbs up, and a swig of a pint.

DSC_0708 (2)

As unassumingly as he took to the stage, he left it. Hidden Door day two done by 11pm – and a room full of people in the mood to dance.

They say you should always leave the crowd wanting more. I don’t think there was any doubt that was the case.

DSC_0719

Steven
UKB

D*Face, Misfits and Misprints at StolenSpace

I’m a little late with my review of D*Face‘s last exhibition, Misfits and Misprints, at his home turf of StolenSpace. It’s now made way for the London Police, sadly. But all is not lost.

You can relive the glory of his offerings now via this blog post!

DSC_0439

This exhibition was a bit of a rarity in more ways than one.

It proudly displayed a series of one off paper pieces from D*Face’s archive. Included were misprints, proofs and editions that hadn’t been seen in public before.

Screen printing is really important to him. In fact, he makes the bold claim on his artist statement that it changed his life.

From early Warhol prints to the screen printed decks of Surrey skateboards. Envelopes stuffed full of Shepard Fairey OBEY stickers, to the successful completion of his first home printed run of stickers.

Screen printing hasn’t just been in his blood. It kinda is his blood.

DSC_0437

DSC_0440

DSC_0444

“I have always been fascinated by the process, which in its simplest form is a very basic method of mass print production, practically the lowest rung on the ladder of printing (just after potato printing).”

“Achievable to anyone willing to invest in the small amount of money and time needed to learn the dark art.”

“At the same time it’s revered as the top of the printing food chain and carries with it a trade and skill that is forever being honed by master printers.”

 

“It can be deeply frustrating to people trying to achieve print perfection, but liberating to those who embrace the beauty of misprints and repetition.”

I loved the pieces in this exhibition.

The Coca-Cola bottle and typography, rebranded with the word “Riot”, and his Lichtenstein-esque cartoon characters are perfect examples of his ever-present theme of subversion.

DSC_0445

DSC_0438 (2)

With every piece there’s always something else that bubbles just beneath the surface. Suggestions of something a little more sinister, in the underbelly, is his forte.

No better examples than his characters of the multi layered prints, with print upon print upon print creating, at first look an incomprehensible mish-mash. However, on closer inspection each layer becomes clearer.

It takes a bit more work to appreciate, but there’s reward lying in wait for your efforts.

DSC_0449 (2)

DSC_0450 (2)

DSC_0452

There were also multi-layer pieces put together physically – as in different layers of paper displayed in front and behind each other, as opposed to layers of paint – giving additional depth and a different take on the screenprint.

Overall another great exhibition in these four walls. It’s a gallery that sets the bar high with a constant level of quality, It always tempts me down to the Whitechapel Road end of Brick Lane.

If it’s on at StolenSpace, chances are it’s worth making the time.

With that in mind – make it along to see the London Police exhibition now happening, because if it’s half as good as this, it’ll be unmissable.

Steven
UKB

 

UKB Guest Mix #37 – Steven Blyth [UKB037]

I’ve been really getting into the underground Romanian minimal sound, which I discovered during a visit to the country’s capital roughly a year or so.

Bucharest’s underground scene is no doubt the envy of many Western European cities, and despite some recent tragic events, is doing its best to become safer whilst remaining as solid and uncompromising as ever.

With producers like Rhadoo, Raresh, Herodot and Ada Kaleh high on my list, I’ve been collecting tracks inspired by the distinctive minimal sound, not necessarily exclusively from Romanian artists, but others whose sound fits.

So on Sunday morning I selected a few and put them together for what can presumably be titled a “resident” guest mix. That won’t win prizes for the slickest title ever, but it does kick the UKB Guest Mix podcast back into action.

I hope you enjoy it!

—————-
Tracklist

1. Tres – Jessica Diaz
2. Little Antennas – Lilith (NL), P. Jones
3. Moro – Nepemora, Mariano A.S.
4. Haze (Jessica Diaz remix) – Chad Andrew, Jessica Diaz
5. Everybody Needs a Hobby – Martin Dacar
6. Smoking – Martin Dacar
7. Buhos (Chad Andrews remix) – Jessica Diaz, Chad Andrews
8. Drinking – Martin Dacar
9. Senderos RMS – Jessica Diaz

Thierry Noir, Howard Griffin Gallery

Back in London for this year’s UK Blog Awards – and still recovering from the excitement of that event – I struck what is best described as arts-blogger jackpot when I found out that D*Face and Thierry Noir had exhibits open that weekend.

D*Face’s show at his Stolenspace Gallery was really very interesting indeed, but my first stop was at Howard Griffin Gallery for Thierry’s latest show.

Speaking with Richard, owner of Howard Griffin, I hadn’t appreciated that the gallery and it’s LA counterpart has an effective monopoly over Noir’s work. His art exhibiting on both sides of the Atlantic only at Griffin owned galleries these days. Quite a coup indeed.

Having visited during the retrospective held here back in 2014, the spartan layout of the gallery was now banished in favour of a full on glorious mindfuck of an immersive Thierry-opia. Of all the recent “street art” exhibitions I’ve seen, this one really made an impression on me.

DSC_0633[1]

DSC_0636[1]

Every, and I mean every, bit of the exhibition space has been painted.

The walls, the floor, the speakers, the turntable, the roof…everything. As you move from one part of the exhibition to the next it has an affect on you. And not in that airy-fairy arts critic kind of way.

DSC_0644[1]

I genuinely found I relaxed as I moved from the really packed and loud red “zone” to the blue “zone”. I felt a bit relieved to be out of the angry red part of the exhibition. No reflection on the paintings however, I loved them all.

But, the colours really do change your mood as you wander around. I’m not sure if this was the point, but it goes to show how the space and the art combined well.

DSC_0650[1]

DSC_0658[1]

Among some of the most interesting pieces were the giant iconic heads that were once the staple of a trip along the west side of the Berlin wall, and the collaborative pieces from John Dolan and Thierry.

DSC_0654[1]

Especially relevant in this space as the two artists were among the very first to exhibit in the gallery in 2014, along with Phlegm. I like the collision of the more intricate monochrome illustration of John’s and the minimal, in your face bold and bright work of Thierry.

Also worth mentioning are the giant sized sculptures created in collaboration with Chris Tsonias too. Effectively they allow you to walk around his, usually two dimensional, characters. For an art nerd and general embarrassing fanboy like me, that’s a lot of fun.

It all kicks off in full later this month, with an opening party featuring Seth Troxler (a massive fan of Thierry’s) and these mega bottles of liquor to be opened on the occasion. I hope it’s well attended as if they intend on making their way through all of these, there’ll be some cataclysmic hangovers lying in wait.

DSC_0655[1]

In short, if like me you are a fan of Thierry’s work, this exhibition is unmissable. It’s a bit like stepping into one of his paintings. His connection to the Cold War era appeals to my Berlinophile sensibility, so this one was always going to be a winner for me.

For those uninitiated, there would be fewer better introductions to his work, and the art of the “street art” exhibition.

Go check it out, now!

DSC_0661[1]Steven
UKB

Best Arts & Culture Blog 2016

Well, as far as weekends go, they don’t get too much better than that.

Urban Kultur was back in London representing Edinburgh’s street art, music and alternative culture scene for the third time in the UK Blog Awards.

Each year the event is a great meeting of creative minds, bloggers and brands. This year was no different, set in the extra special surroundings of the Park Plaza Hotel. A mere stone’s throw from Westminster and Big Ben, and easily the best venue yet.

Was it to be a case of “always the bridesmaid” again in 2016?

DSC_0521

The stage is set…

With a category stuffed full of great blogs, including Hookedblog, Shelley Makes, and SLM Pickings, I wasn’t holding out much hope.

In fact, my benchmark for a successful evening was being able to nip out relatively unimpeded at the end of the ceremony for a complimentary glass of champagne.

You can take the boy out of Scotland, but you can’t take Scotland out the boy…

UKB win 2

However, to my absolute delight I was picked as this year’s top Arts & Culture blogger. I still can’t really believe it. I’ve pinched myself so many times I’m beginning to look like peach that’s been battered in a lunch box full of sharp edged snacks.

Did they make a mistake? The trophy has “Urban Kultur” on it but maybe it’ll change to another blog’s name soon. I should maybe give it back, you know, just in case.

IMG_20160429_225904

Still in shock, this isn’t really mine is it? 

But no, it’s actually mine…

It’s been an award I’ve been chasing for the past three years since the inaugural awards in 2014. To be recognised for the blog I started in 2011 as an evening hobby to channel my passion for street art, and frustrations at working in a disappointing day job, feels brilliant.

All those countless hours lost, tinkering, writing, editing and photographing seem like they were really worthwhile now.

DSC_0564

Celebrating on stage with fellow winners.

I have many people to thank, so forgive me for this inevitably over the top Oscars style acceptance speech end to the blog post.

To all the DJs and artists who have given me photos, recorded mixes or been kind enough to spend their time answering my endless questions – I thank and salute you. You’re all brilliant.

Thanks also to you, my readers. Thanks for reading my blogs, looking at my photos, listening to mixes, getting in touch via social media and email, passing links to friends and importantly, for voting for me once again.

Without those votes I wouldn’t have made it to the final of the UK Blog Awards for the past three years. Everyone has been so incredibly supportive and kind and I can’t say thank you enough.

But before there’s any Gwyneth Paltrow Hollywood tears, here’s a photo of my award.

THANK YOU!

PS – I’m not crying, it’s just been raining on my face…

IMG_20160430_175629

Steven
UKB