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.


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”.



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…



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.







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.


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!


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.




“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.


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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.

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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.



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.



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.


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.



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.


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.


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!


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?


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…

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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.


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.


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.


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



Dani Labrosse’s stuff – composite illustrations

Last week an email dropped into my mailbox from a new, young artist living in Edinburgh.

Dani Labrosse had been trying to find the name of the artist who painted the shutter near where he stays in Leith (it was Jamie Johnson’s on the shutters of the Game Exchange, by the way).

At the same time he let me know about a project he’s in the middle of too. And, it’s a damn good job he did, it’s very much in line with my current tastes!

The project titled “Bubblegum and Ritalin” invites photography submissions from just about anyone, that are then effectively drawn over by Dani, creating a composite illustration.

Beach Bum on Fire

mechanical punks

Dani said, “I’m inspired by a lot of neon-y 80s and 90s candy packaging and toys, the texture and the colors of my characters reminded me of that, they looked ‘bubblegum’-ish, I guess.”

“Ritalin is used to treat ADHD, and the characters in the pictures sort of look like they were made up by a hyperactive child, so Bubblegum and Ritalin sounded cool.”

TV Party


What Did You Expect

It may well be a technique and effect that’s been road-tested before, but his results are really cool, and different to the sorts of things I’ve been checking out lately.

Everyone likes drawing on things, but I was interested to find out why Dani’s made it into his form of artistic expression.

“I started drawing on photos when I was like thirteen, we’d have photos of cavemen or whatever in our history books at school, I’d trace the outline of the pictures and make the people into aliens wearing Slayer, N.W.A. or Black Flag shirts, screaming obscenities and whatnot.”

“I think pretty much every kid does that. Later on I just found myself bored with the barrage of selfies on my Instagram dashboard, so I started drawing on photos to make them a little more interesting, a couple people liked it and started sending me stuff.”


“I’d trace the outline of the pictures and make the people into aliens wearing Slayer, N.W.A. or Black Flag shirts, screaming obscenities and whatnot.”

The strong contrast of the analogue imagery (in relative terms) to his vibrant and gaudy colour scheme is very effective, and almost seems to age the photographs. The natural shadow from the photograph combined with the bold illustrations is really nice and starts to bend your mind a little too.

Right now his technique is to draw everything by hand on paper and then composite and colour it digitally, but eventually he’s looking to make this a fully non-digital process.

Have a browse through Dani’s work, I thoroughly recommend his Shrigley-esque “GloomBeasts” – which will certainly give you a chuckle.

god hates you

god is dead

there's no light

Find out more about Dani Labrosse, a young French Hungarian visual artist currently in Edinburgh, and keep an idea for an upcoming video project, the couple of seconds I’ve seen so far look to be promising…


Mr Penfold & Aero Exhibition – Fanboy

I’ve spoken before about how I really enjoy what Fanboy brings to Edinburgh – and last month’s show at their store, the first in the new location, did no harm to their reputation in town.


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Initially starting as a clothing brand (Pieute) but now with fingers in other “pies”, they are admirably determined to avoid the tired ideas that other brands are intent on trotting out.

Instead there’s a heavy focus on setting a direction that’s uniquely theirs, and Edinburgh’s. It really is refreshing to have a successful Edinburgh based brand making a valuable contribution to the local scene, and making a name for themselves elsewhere.

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I am delighted to see them get deeper into organising events, most recently hosting this collaborative affair between Mr Penfold and Aero at their store in the heart of Auld Reekie’s Old Town.

The only slight tinge of regret was the epic hangover that meant I was bed bound for the opening night, which I’m certain was an occasion not to be missed…


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Penfold’s work was among some of the first that grabbed me and brought “street art” to my attention a number of years ago.

His evolution as an artist keeps me interested, particularly with these more abstract compositions, a continuation of that trajectory from “Tabs, Butts and Dog Ends“, the last of his shows I caught in person. The clean bold lines with vibrant colour choices hit the right spots.

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Teaming up with Aero for the show added an extra twist with her Simpson inspired creations among some of my favourite pieces from the show.

Her monochrome t-shirt design (one of a limited run) is worth your well earned cash if you fancy some merch. Her thick lines and bold colour choices play well alongside Penfold’s work.

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The standout pieces from Aero and Penfold, in my opinion, are these two epic larger scale works to the rear of the shop, make sure you get a decent look at them. Wouldn’t mind having these hanging in my flat…

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If you like what you see, make your way to the store on Candlemaker Row sooner rather than later. Once these originals and prints sell out, it’s likely the exhibition will come down. Don’t sleep on it!

Some of the prints are still available, offering the chance to own your own art at decent prices. Likewise there’s a few of the limited run shirts by Penfold and Aero up for grabs.

And, of course, there’s the Fanboy originals to have a look at too. Of the more recent memorable shirt designs, these belters (Heroin & Haggis and Tesco Value Techno) give a taste of what to expect…

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