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Covid 19 Shoreditch Street Art

You didn’t think a killer virus was going to stop street artists did you?  Shoreditch witnessed an outpouring of street art addressing the Covid 19 pandemic and its surrounding issues from a number of angles.   It’s amazing what a street artist could achieve with that one hour outdoor exercise license non-shielding people had during lockdown.

One of the most prolific artists was Nathan Bowen whose suitably masked characters appeared all over from West to East.

“Stay Positive/The NHS Warrior” – Nathan Bowen

“Thanks NHS” – Nathan Bowen, Harry Blackmore; Oxford St

Nathan Bowen, Harry Blackmore, Ernest Obi – Shaftesbury Avenue

Almost as active as Nathan were Deanio X and Seen K26, often in the company of Tasnim Mahdy

Stay Strong – Deanio X, Seen K26, Tasnim Mahdy

“Stay Strong” – Deanio X, Seen K26, Tasnim Mahdy; Picadilly Circus

Deanio X, Soho

Our weekly clap for carers, which was a beautiful collective thank you, has stopped but it is clear that many street artists remain grateful on our behalf to the NHS, to the carers and other key workers.

“A quiet prayer holds over London…” We Love Our NHS – Robert Montgomery

Thank You NHS – Jimmy C

Is it just me sees concentric stained glass hearts in shades of NHS blue in this homage by DRT?

DRT (with Nathan Bowen & Co. in background)

Graffiti Life

On the flipside from the love for the NHS comes blame flinging and conspiracy theory. The UK’s elected political masters and their un-elected advisers repeatedly preached one thing but practiced another to the point that anyone else would have felt embarrassed by. Street artists can be quite merciless when political hypocrisy becomes apparent and they proved yet again how swiftly street art can respond to current affairs.

In some countries the political response was based on denial or even deceit, Subdude latches on to those moments quite brilliantly.

Corona Credit Score = 0, Subdude

On the revelation that the NHS workers Boris thanked for his care in St Thomas’ Hospital were immigrants who now under the conservative government’s mooted minimum wage threshold would not qualify to come and lend their skills to the UK’s underfunded understaffed health service:

So How DO You Like Us Now Boris, Subdude

If you need to know what “Dominic Does Durham” is pastiching, ask your Dad

Dominic Does Durham, Subdude

The early days of the UK response to the Covid crisis were characterised by simple clear messages and this apparent clarity was reflected in the referencing of the messages in the art. K-Guy found the graphic design and linguistic shorthand of those official three stanza instructions we saw on the podiums at the daily Coronavirus press conference in England lent itself to highlighting political neglect as an amplifier of the spread and impact of the disease through hospitals and care homes.

It’s A Testing Time, K-Guy

“Infected frontline policies”, K-Guy

“Intensive Don’t Care”, K-Guy

The surprising move to abandon testing and tracing and the awful situation regarding inadequate PPE provision featured in several pieces. Frankie Riot references the famous press conference where World Health Organisation head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus offered the simple “Test, test, test” which many developed countries decided to ignore with pretty devastating consequences.

Protect NHS Workers – Frank Riot

China again:

Covid Eau de Virus – ‘Orrible

Stay Safe, Remain Free – Artist Not Known

As Shoreditch Street Art Tours has emerged from lockdown doing very small private street art tours for the same price as the public tours, just so you know, the single piece of pandemic art everyone appears to be aware of is, not surprisingly, Banksy‘s nurse superhero painting on canvas “Game Changer”, donated to Southampton General Hospital.

“Game Changer” – Banksy, Photo: Banksy website

Banksy has done three pandemic related artworks: the aforementioned “Game Changer”; his earlier skit on the idea of the elusive rat stencilist working from home and most recently his brilliant makeover of a London tube with rascal rats parachuting with PPE face masks, rats tagging with sanitiser gel and rats sneezing all over the carriage in a lurid echo of the animation played frequently on the UK TV of the dispersal of vapourised snot from a sneeze in a train carriage.

Snot rat, Banksy

You don’t mask you don’t get – Banksy

You don’t mask you don’t get – Banksy

Among all the inspired pandemic related art and the positivity towards those who placed themselves in way of potential harm for our care, one artist was creating pro NHS art years before it became fashionable. Ben Wakeling recovered from his own mental health issues to channel his efforts into art as a therapy for people with mental health issues and his therapeutic work and his Outsider Gallery have proved so effective that his art therapy can now be prescribed by GPs.

To end this lockdown lookback on a positive note, could any message be more appropriate than Mark Titchner’s “Please believe these days will pass” plea.  Let’s hope the optimism is well founded.

“Please believe these days will pass” – Mark Titchner

Artist Links (additional):

Harry Blackmore

Ernst Obi

Robert Montgomery

Jimmy C

Graffiti Life

Frank Riot

Orrible

All photos: Dave Stuart except courtesy Banksy where noted

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Jace Homage to Stik’s Brick Lane Couple

Jace is a street artist who puts up charming and idiosyncratic sculptural faces on walls, usually not troubling wall owners with requests for permission.  At the turn of the decade, three weeks ago, Jace revealed he had put up 253 faces in an impressive 47 cities in a staggering 21 countries.   I can relate to this kind of OCD stats collection.

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253 Faces – photo by Jace

A new crop of Jace faces surfaced last weekend including a renewal of Jace’s ongoing homage to Stik’s iconic Brick Lane Couple.

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Brick Lane Couple by Stik; Jace couple (at eye level),January 2020

This homage piece has by Graffoto’s reckoning been through 5 different manifestations since it first appeared in 2017. The first face on this spot was actually just a lonesome bachelor in February 2017, but he did have a wonderful fresh complexion.

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Bachelor Small Face, Feb 2017

It was joined by its partner in around May 2017

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Homage to Stik, May 2017

By October 2017 the resilient female had endured a few chips but and chosen a new partner.

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Jace October 2017

This partner was tragically and mysteriously taken, our heroine moved on to another new partner in April 2018, this couple were noticeably closer than her previous relationships and now she preferred brown eyes to blue.

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Jace April 2018

After a long affair and following the pattern, the gentleman somewhat unchivalrously disappeared leaving the poor lady all alone.  Her next partner in July 2019 wasn’t exactly what you would call a looker but beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

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Jace, July 2019

Then, unexpectedly, the couple disappeared, maybe they eloped together.   Last weekend a new couple were drawn to this most romantic corner, in fact one would attribute an almost post coital glow to this cheeky pair.

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Looking pretty damn pleased with themselves, January 2020

So why do these disappear?   As it doesn’t seem to be the council nor is it likely to be the wall owners removing them, the most likely explanation is going to be souvenir hunters.  Sticky fingered street art spotters who think the art would be much better in their private collection rather than enjoyed by its intended public audience.  It’s not all bad news with Jace’s faces, a wonderful story appeared on Jace’s Instagram last weekend about the fate of some small faces in Belfast, Northern Ireland… best told by Jace himself:

Part 1: “In December 2016 I discreetly installed one of my very first ever faces to this wonderful courtyard at Duke of York / Dark Horse Belfast – a creative and humorous space celebrating the people and culture of my city and country. Each year I returned to Cathedral Quarter more and more fantastic murals and installations (by artist @ciarangallagherart amongst others) would appear, and I too would leave another surprise gift in the form of a cheeky face. Some of the faces paid homage to the city, like my H&W giants: Samson & Goliath !”

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Jace Belfast Part 1, Photo by Jace

“At the very beginning of this year (2020) I made a quick visit back to the courtyard before leaving Belfast, and it appeared to me that all of the faces that had been installed over the years had been removed 😦😞☹️ I felt a tinge of sadness (though this is the nature of urban art) because I love this specific place so much, and was about to leave the courtyard when at a final glance down towards the gates something awesome caught my eye…”

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Belfast Part 2, Photo by Jace

Part 2: “all those faces installed from 2016 and dotted about the place have been relocated and displayed collectively. Truly awesome! Seeing this just as I was about to leave Belfast I felt immensely proud and overwhelmingly happy, because I enjoy being in this place a lot. And so, of course I had to put one more new face to the bottom of the column…”

 

When it comes to his small faces, Jace doesn’t do half measures, all told we found 8 small faces from the most recent Jace Shoreditch adventure and for the record, here are the other six beauties.

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Jace, Uberfubs, Dr Cream – all in fashion Jan 2020

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Theresa May, Jan 2020

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Jace Face in London, January 2020

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Purple Daze, Jan 2020

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Jace, January 2020

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Jace, January 2020

The Shoreditch Street Art Tours blog first wrote about Jace’s homage to Stik’s couple in October 2017

Then small faces in great places were featured again December 2017.

Let’s hope the Stik homage faces last even longer this time.

All photos Dave Stuart except Jace where credited.