Smug’s latest Glasgow mural goes viral

Completed last week, Sam Bates aka Smug revealed his latest addition to the Glasgow mural scene on the high street. I took a  trip through to have a look on an especially wet day in Glasgow.

The Australian born artist, like many working in contemporary street and urban art circles started his creative endeavours as a tagger back in a small town near Wollongong.

However, it’s his photo realistic murals that have turned him into a bit of a local hero in Glasgow. His latest mural has been shared a staggering amount over all social media channels lately, and here I am throwing in my two cents.

For the Commonwealth Games in 2014 he made even more of a mark in the city with additional pieces to tie in with the sporting spectacle.

The Glasgow City Council also created a handy mural tour – something I’ll be making a trip back through to check out shortly.

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Steven
UKB

A forgotten Parisian urban utopia

This week I discovered the suppressed architectural alter-ego of Paris. Pretty unusual opener to a blog post.

Forget the Roman, Medieval, Renaissance, and Classical look of the city as we know it. This modernist view is something entirely unexpected but compeletely engrossing.

Local French photographer Laurent Kronental has captured a briefer moment somewhere between the 50s and 80s where a burst of modernist architecture predicted a futuristic utopia. I reckon very few of us living elsewhere would associate this look with the French capital.

As the capital continued to grow with an influx of immigrants and urbanisation, a housing crisis followed and a solution was needed. The answer was to build these imposing modernist buildings, that sadly, within a couple of decades would reflect a forgotten Paris. Younger families moved out, enticed by affluent inner city Paris, older residents stayed put.

This series, titled ‘Souvenir d’un Futur’, looks at the residents of these neglected buildings and what he describes as ‘the poetry of ageing environments’.

Can’t keep my eyes off these.

Really fascinating stuff. It’s almost like a bizarre alternate-universe Paris. I love them, a perfect example of “urban culture” and how a proposed utopia 30 years ago can shift quite drastically from what was envisioned.

What do you think? As always, get in touch in the usual places on social, or in the comments below!

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Steven
UKB

Images © Laurent Kronental

52 weeks of Fanboy

Fanboy, the evolution of the Edinburgh streetwear brand Pieute, has established itself as a bit of a creative hub in the capital.

Taking influences from graffiti, street art, skating and all things local, as well as a good deal of tongue-in-cheek patter (see the take on the controversial Creative Scotland funded arts project the Glasgow Effect) it’s a perfect example of how things could and really should be in the capital. I’m thinking specifically in terms of clothing, art and events.

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Fanboy Effect by Mr Penfold

Having struck up a strong partnership with Cambridge based artist Mr Penfold, their signature tees emblazoned with “Pieute” and Penfold’s characters, brought a piece of the London pie and made it Edinburgh’s.

My tees were promptly worn until threadbare, proud to be able to say that they were born here. I’m a bit like that though.

Last year with the evolution of the brand into Fanboy, and thankfully the new premises on Candlemaker Row, they have really been working hard to step things up.

A renewed partnership with Mr Penfold saw the guys kick off their ambitious “52 weeks of Fanboy” project, where he has been invited to create a new logo every week of the year for the brand.

On the back of Penfold’s predictably impeccable stint during January, Casey Peckio took the reins for “FanboyFebruary” – his challenge to create a new logo each day of the month. His minimal, clean and colourful designs are an absolute delight, even more spectacular given the tight working deadlines.

These are two of the best continued projects going on over on Instagram right now – follow them at www.instagram.com/fanboyco to keep on top of them both.

If I needed to define the sort of stuff I’m into, I’d probably be just as well showing his work. So clean! Too good. An absolute find for Fanboy as well, some of these logos need printing up straight away.

All images courtesy of Fanboy / Casey Peckio

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And if all this wasn’t enough to keep your mind and wallet occupied, join the boys at their Shop in March for the Mr Penfold and Aero exhibition opening. I can’t wait or this one.

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Steven
UKB

Top 5 politically inspired street artists

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.

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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.

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"A Berlin Wall"

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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.

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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.

Let’s chat!

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.

Steven
UKB

Choose blogging (and also UKB, please!)

Well, it’s hardly believable, but it’s been a full 12 months since the last UK Blog Awards public vote.

And, to coincide, it’s my annual plead for voting favours! As with each UK Blog Awards so far, the public vote determines the top 10 blogs to make it to the final, so every vote really does count. This is where you have all so generously lent a hand in the past!

You can cast your vote below, or by clicking on Edinburgh’s famous miscreant, Mark ‘Rentboy’ Renton, here outlining some of the good bad and ugly of blogging…

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UKB again is entered into the Arts & Culture category and has some great competition, including one of my favourite blogs, and last year’s runner up, Hookedblog. So if you are willing to spare your votes (more on that in a bit) for UKB, it would be HUGELY appreciated.

This year, there’s an additional twist. Every day until the deadline on the 25th of January you can cast a vote, so if you really want to give your backing to the blog you can vote every day, if you were so inclined! No pressure mind you, just if you’d like to.

Just one of your votes would be a massive boost, so if you’ve ever liked a blog, or a post on Facebook, or retweeted on Twitter, or double tapped on Instagram, it would be amazing if you could cast your vote for the blog.

That’s enough for now, in the meantime, thanks for reading the blog and supporting it throughout the year, it really means a lot!

Steven
UKB

Kulturcast episode 1: Interview with Fraser Gray

It’s been a long time in coming, but finally I’ve gotten round to recording my first ‘real’ interview podcast, and accompanying video, this week with Fraser Gray – Dundee-born visual artist and arts educator.

As a blog that aims to help promote Edinburgh’s growing public art scene, it felt appropriate to begin with Fraser as one of an increasing number of artists transforming select walls and shutters around the city and its suburbs.

At his new studio at Edinburgh Palette we touched on his roots in graffiti, which led to a Fine Arts education at Dundee’s Duncan of Jordanstone College. These days his work can be found painted onto prominent city centre spots in Leith and Abbeyhill.

We also spoke at length about the creeping marketing influence on murals by larger multinational companies, and the resulting subversion of current advertising laws that are beginning to make some quarters increasingly suspicious of ‘street art’.

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I guess you could say we covered a lot of ground, some specific to Fraser’s work, others less so, but it was all very interesting – a good time and beer was had!

Anyway, I hope you enjoy this first episode. Any feedback and suggestions for future podcasts, as ever, gratefully received.

Thanks once again to Fraser and his studio-mate Kyle for allowing me to be generally annoying with my camera and equipment for a good few hours!

Steven
UKB