Any excuse to blow the London vapours from the lungs will do so my travels recently took me West to explore Cardiff street art and graffiti thanks to a cheap rail ticket promotion. Cardiff is the capital of Wales and, as a specimen of street art informs me, the 6th most “at risk” city in the world from rising water levels.
I have previous with Cardiff, having been born there, schooled there and fled from there. It was a shithole until I left, now look at it! In the mid 00s when I joined Flickr with its global community of artists, writers and photographers I realised early on that Cardiff has some seriously good spraycan artists, so an art visit was well overdue. This is not a guide to Cardiff’s street art and graffiti scene, I am certain there is more and there are different artists and other locations. Think of it as me sharing a snapshot of some of the stuff I happened to find and enjoy on one particular day.
I headed into the area south of the train station, dark streets where we used to drink and play pool in the old Bristol Hotel, drawn in that direction not by an awareness of any art locations, just simple curiosity at a new exit from the train station which I don’t think existed when I was a kid.
South of the station there was barely a single building I recognised but one thing they never change are the railway bridges so it was nice to find to rough and raw pieces on those familiar surfaces.
Rmer1, as in “Armour”, stood out in my online remote appreciation of Cardiff’s street art scene, my 150% certainty was that if I did find any Rmer artwork it would be one of his photorealistic portrait pieces. I was dead pleased when one of the first tags I found was Rmer1.
That tag was found on Womanby Street, a drag that screams “diehard 18 year old drinkers from the valleys” and most of the art seemed bar related. There was some good stuff and when you have talent like Dr Zadok combining with Karm and Rmer the result such as this portrait of 2015 Welsh Music Prize 2015 winner Gwenno Saunders is inevitably impressive.
After a delicious humus and felafal sourdough in the indoor market a hired bike took me west the short distance to Sevenoaks Park in Grangetown where I found this enormous RIP tribute to deceased graffiti writer NERVE. The fragmented blockbuster letter outlines served as a frame within which writers paid their respects in a coordinated colour scheme.
I couldn’t believe my luck in coming across this crisp, clean, colour coordinated graff seemingly painted quite recently given its pristine freshness. It was quite a surprise when a bit of research revealed it dates back to June 2021, there is absolutely zero chance, almost, of anything lasting that long unscathed up here in London.
One writer who’s style caught my eye in that Nerve tribute and a couple of other spots was Elvs.
TIP: When exploring art in a new town, never take the same road twice. A different route back to the centre led to the chance find of a long extent of graffed up hoardings on the embankment of the River Taff leading to an entrance to the Rugby stadium. Rugby fans have to have something to piss against I suppose.
Apart from strange spiky posts covered in furious tags, the pieces on the boards were virtually unblemished with little to no dogging or lining out. Close inspection of one piece did show evidence of some local beef, lining out had been repaired and the same taking out style deployed against the same writer was observed in several spots across the city.
A longer ride took me through Cardiff’s impressive civic centre towards the Roath area where spectacular murals and cobbled alleyway pieces can be found.
Familiar artists abound though the art piece that excited me most was a My Dog Sighs painting in support of Ukraine in which the photorealistic eyeball reflection expresses the explosive horror or a Russian missile attack. My Dog Sigh’s painting went viral on social media in the early weeks of the current conflict.
With spring light holding up well a random loop up the side of Roath Park then back west hemmed in by the Western Avenue revealed individual isolated art works are to be found by the vigilant eye.
This mural by SPK dating from 2015, survives on a wall which has all the hallmarks of a building extension jerry built on top of an existing garden wall, Boris was a pariah among the righteous even before becoming PM (but you knew that). It’s the legs of the badger down the badger sett painted where once would have been a garden gate is a use of wall topography that amuses and impresses.
It’s the legs of the badger down the badger sett painted where once would have been a garden gate is a use of wall topography that amuses and impresses.
They say one of the first signs of gentrification is street art moving in; I remember this cut-through to the train station opening some 35 or so years ago, seems Cardiff’s street art lags the gentrification :-))
This trip to Cardiff was part art, part graffiti and part nostalgia. Despite no prior research into locations a random exploration of Cardiff yielded a satisfying quantity of art and for that randomness was actually all the more interesting. We shall return.
All photos Dave Stuart