Rave Art: Mr Brainwash & David Guetta know how to party

If Andy Warhol is the king of pop art, I’d like to declare Mr Brainwash the king of ‘rave art’. I know this will be an unpopular opinion, but I really like what Mr Brainwash is doing, and his new exhibition at the Old Sorting Office in London is unmissable.

I was lucky enough to get a ticket for the opening night of the show – a collaborative event by Mr Brainwash and musician David Guetta. I had no idea what to expect. Was it going to be an exhibition and a simple private view with a bit of music in the background as I wandered around with a free glass of wine? Or was it going to be a full-on rave in a warehouse?

I’m still not sure what it was but, whatever it was, it was incredible (and my ears took a whole day to recover).

The entire ground floor was filled with huge Mr Brainwash artworks, ranging from “life-size” Star Wars figures made out of tyres to huge spray cans that looked like Campbell’s soup.

May the art be with you

Tomato Spray

As I entered the exhibition when the doors opened at 8pm, the first striking piece was a massive set of Olympic rings, made out of paint cans and stuck on the wall. Standing by the rings were men dressed up as members of the Queen’s Guard, and further along were more people dressed as Stormtroopers. Everyone was clutching Burn energy drinks, and judging by the dancing I saw from one of the soldiers later on, I expect they had quite a few! (The event was supported by Burn.)

Olympic Rings



Club music was playing, and before long the DJ switched and Nicky Romero came on. People started to pay attention to the stage, but everyone was clearly waiting for Mr Brainwash’s co-star for the night, David Guetta, to take his place.

Nicky Romero

Nicky Romero

It was after 9pm when David Guetta came on – I lost track of time a bit actually, and it might have even been closer to 10pm – but he played right through until after midnight, when the event was supposed to end, playing just one more, and just one more – the crowd was relentless, and even I (not used to clubbing or staying out past 11pm) could have kept going.

David Guetta

David Guetta

Having been born at the beginning of the 1980s I was too young to appreciate ’80s pop and still slightly too young for the early ’90s rave scene. Instead I got stuck with the late ’90s and early 2000s – not the best period of music history. If I could choose to be 18 at a different time, I would almost definitely go for 1992 – the heart of the rave scene. On Wednesday night I felt I had come the closest to attending a real rave that I probably ever would. Even though the event was all aboveboard and commercially sponsored, I couldn’t help getting a rush of excitement and imaging I was doing something really underground. Not everyone got in – I heard there were around 1,700 people waiting to get in around 9pm and they were operating a one-in-one-out door policy – and I felt like I had been chosen to take part in something really special.

David Guetta, The Queen, Prince Philip & Mr Brainwash!

The whole event was filmed for David Guetta’s latest music video which I’ll be keeping an eye out for. I’m not sure when it will be released, but I do hope I might catch a glimpse of myself and my friends (we were at the front all night). Mr Brainwash was, of course, also filming and taking a lot of photographs. I actually saw him on the street before the event and took my picture with him.

Me & Mr Brainwash

Me & Mr Brainwash

I get irritated when people so easily dismiss Mr Brainwash’s work and say it’s rubbish. Often, the reasoning is based on the fact that he doesn’t produce a lot of the work himself (he has an army of people who do all the actual design and making – he’s just the ideas man), but I could name a lot of other artists who have teams working with them in the exact same way he does – Andy Warhol certainly did. The other thing people always say is that his work shows no originality, and that his ideas are clichéd, but that doesn’t bother me. His work is a bit clichéd I guess, but I like his messages – “life is beautiful”, “follow your dreams” and “you’re never too young to dream big”.

You're never too young to dream big...

For me, right now, this art is relevant. Mr Brainwash is telling us not to take our lives so seriously and to have a bit of fun while pursuing our dreams – what’s wrong with that? As for his images of famous people, such as the massive Kate Moss picture on the side of the Old Sorting Office , what’s not to like:

Mr Brainwash on the corner of New Oxford Street and Museum Street, London

Or a bit of David Bowie:

David Bowie

Or Obama dressed as Superman:

Superman Obama

Mr Brainwash’s work may not be the most original or groundbreaking art of all time, but it certainly gets your attention, if only due to the enormous scale of many of the pieces.

Mr Brainwash - David Guetta

This Artlyst review is worth a read, calling Mr Brainwash’s work “so bad it’s good” and “kitsch multiplied by twenty”. Whatever you think of Mr Brainwash and his art, I think you’d be a fool to miss this much-hyped exhibition, open from 5th – 31st August at the Old Sorting Office,  21-31 New Oxford Street, London WC1 (you can’t miss it – the whole outside of the building is covered in his work!)

Life is Beautiful

And, when you’re feeling cynical and judgemental about what Mr Brainwash is doing, just try to keep one phrase in mind: life is beautiful…

Elephant heart

The best things in life are free…

London is absolutely buzzing with culture at the moment because the Olympics are in town and all eyes are focussed this way. I don’t really care for sport, but I’m happy to see so many cultural events going on at the moment. In fact, there’s so much going on that I’ve been getting a bit of FOMO (fear of missing out) again, but I’m trying to remember to breathe, keep calm, and carry on. 😉

(Image source)

As usual, I’m totally skint. You would think that this might bring a downer on things – no money = nothing to do – but that’s never the case in London. Last weekend, I managed to have an absolutely fantastic time without spending hardly any money at all. In fact, all the good stuff I did was absolutely free.

I started my Saturday at Waterloo Station, waiting to meet my mum who was coming up for the day. A hug from my mum is always free, and priceless. We headed down to the river, and eventually along to Arigato in London – a festival of Japanese culture. You can read more about that on my blog Haikugirl’s Japan.

Arigato in London

Arigato in London opening ceremony

The whole event was free, and included taiko drumming from the fabulous Joji Hirota and his taiko ensemble.

Joji Hirota's Taiko Ensemble

Along by the river there is always a lot going on, and plenty of entertainment for free…

Gold Lady

Levitating man



As we were walking along, we ran into some people wearing costumes. They gave us flyers for a Korean music concert which was part of the All Eyes on Korea event at the Southbank Centre. They said that we could exchange the flyer for a free ticket, even though the tickets originally cost £10. I guess they couldn’t sell enough tickets, which is a shame for them, but great news for us!

We had originally planned to do something else, but quickly decided to change our plans and attended GongMyong present ‘Walkabout’ in the Purcell Room at the Royal Festival Hall instead.

GongMyoung present "Walkabout"

I don’t know much at all about Korean culture or music, but I thoroughly enjoyed the concert and it made me interested in getting to know Korean culture better. It was the kind of music that makes you want to dance, and it didn’t matter that I couldn’t understand the bits of Korean spoken between the songs because the music was in a universal language that everyone could understand. The musicians were very talented and creative, and used a variety of percussion instruments as well as random objects to make a carnivalesque sound. It was Korea meets Brazil, with a little bit of didgeridoo thrown in for good measure!

GongMyoung present "Walkabout"

GongMyoung present "Walkabout"

On Sunday, despite the very changeable weather, I found myself standing in line at BoxPark in Shoreditch waiting to get some free art. I had registered with the Graffiti Life event during the week, but didn’t really expect to be there early enough to be one of the first 100 people lucky enough to get a free box painted by a graffiti artist.

Graffiti Life: BoxArt @ BoxPark

Well, it turns out I was third in the line! I made some new friends in the line while waiting in the rain, concluding that we must all be a bit mad to spend our Sunday in such a way.

Graffiti Life: BoxArt @ BoxPark

But it was totally worth it to get this fabulous box painted by Adam Brazier, one of the founders of Graffiti Life.

My box, by Adam Brazier of Graffiti Life

When I got home on Sunday night there was just one more free thing to act as the cherry on my already very delicious cake… I got a free ticket to the opening night of Mr Brainwash‘s show in London!

The opening night was a collaboration between Mr Brainwash and the musician David Guetta. I had no idea what to expect, but was very, very excited! The opening party was last night… but more about that in another post! 😉

London really is a fantastic place to live, and you can have an incredible amount of fun without spending any money at all! To paraphrase the Mastercard advert: London rent? More than £700 a month. London experiences? Priceless!

The locks of love, part #3

You might remember that I wrote earlier this year about the growing trend for attaching locks to bridges to declare one’s love (see here and here) – well today I came across some more love locks. The love locks I found today were attached to a fence near Shoreditch High Street Station. There’s a lot of street art in that area, so I’m not sure if these are all actual declarations of love, or if some are just art, but they’re pretty cool…

Love locks in Shoreditch

Love locks in Shoreditch

Love locks in Shoreditch

Love locks in Shoreditch

Love locks in Shoreditch

Love locks in Shoreditch

The Rise of the Non-Conformists

When I was a teenager I didn’t fit in. In fact, as soon as I realised that I wasn’t like most of the other kids, I actively tried to do everything I could do be different from “the norm”. I thought other people were sheep, and rebelled against wearing labels or doing anything that was seen as mainstream. I dyed my hair every colour you can imagine, and got quite a lot of piercings. For anyone who’s interested, I looked like this.

My friends and I used to talk about how one day the “freaks” like us would rise up against the rest of the people. I had dreams about people coming up out of the sea like an army of pirates, ready to stand together and do battle against the people who tried to put us down.

I know now that I was just being a teenager, for the most part, but there is still an element of the non-conformist in me.

Today I spent most of the day in Shoreditch, and I had two things on my agenda: to attend the Whitecross Street Party, and to see the Olympic Torch Relay.

As I’ve mentioned on this blog before, I really don’t care much for the Olympics. However, I felt that, as I was going to be in the area, I really ought to try to make the effort to be interested and watch the torch go by. It was, after all, probably the only chance I would ever get. I arrived at Great Eastern Street about half an hour before the torch was due, and there were already people lining the streets. I tried to feel their excitement, but couldn’t quite get in the mood. People banged on Coca-Cola sponsored drum things that were being handed out, drank free Coca-Cola and waved flags.

Olympic Torch Relay, Shoreditch

Prior to arriving, I had been at the Whitecross Street Party, dubbed “The Rise of the Non-Conformists”.

Whitecross Street Party

I had wandered up and down the street, happily snapping photographs of street art and artists at work, and generally soaking up the atmosphere. I chatted with the artist DON about his recent work and watched him stencilling a new piece out on the street.


DON at work

Then I popped in a gallery and a lovely girl dabbed glitter on my face and took my photo to put on Facebook, and I felt like I belonged.

Standing waiting for the torch, I listened to some people talking next to me. They were full of almost obsessive excitement for the Olympics, and I felt like turning around and just asking them “why?”, but I didn’t. They wouldn’t have understood me any more than I understood them.

When the torch came by, it was all over in a flash and something of an anti-climax. I barely saw the guy who was carrying it, and didn’t have a clue who he was anyway.

There goes the Olympic torch - shame you can't see the guy carrying it!

There goes the Olympic torch – shame you can’t see the guy carrying it!

So I headed back to Whitecross Street, back to my people. When I got back there, the streets were buzzing with life, colour, good smells and great sounds. Eating a delicious chocolate brownie, I happily mingled with the non-conformists, and watched an artist called INKFETISH painting this somewhat anti-Olympics piece…



And another artist called FETCH painting this:

Whitecross Street Party

FETCH: Inspire a generation…

Enjoy the Olympics if that’s your thing, but these are my people, and this is where I’ll be.

“Belong to where you are” – Kemistry Gallery

Olympic Cleansing

Olympic rings

The Toaster Crew – this piece didn’t last long

The Olympics are coming, and boy do we know it. Here in London it seems to be all anyone can talk about. Forgive me if I sound a bit bah-humbug, but I’m afraid it doesn’t interest me at all. Yes, I know most of you will probably ask “How can you not be interested?” and tell me things like “It will only happen once in your lifetime!” and “It’s going to be spectacular.” I’m not about to argue with you. You’re probably right that it will be spectacular and I’m sure I will never forget that London 2012 happened in my lifetime. I’m just saying, I’m not really interested and I’m not planning to watch any of the games. It’s simply not for me.

I don’t really care what other people get up to though. Go crazy. Enjoy it. Fill your house with odd one-eyed mascots and union flags if you so desire. I won’t be joining you, but that shouldn’t stop you having fun. (Although I have noticed a strange tendency in many folk to try to urge me to join in – much like a colleague urges you to drink in the pub when you know you’ve had enough, but he still wants to get more wasted and can’t bear to do it alone.)

When it comes to the Olympics, while I am mildly fed up with hearing about it all, and wish the newspapers would talk about other things a little bit more (rather than the two-page spread the Evening Standard had tonight showing Twitter photos of Olympic athletes’ bedrooms), there’s only one thing that is really bothering me…

I love London. It’s a brilliant, diverse place to live. Each area, north, south, east and west, and each of the 32 boroughs, has its own personality and character. Whatever the Olympics brings with it, I have been crossing my fingers that it will only help to add more diversity and interesting culture to London. However, in a last-minute panic to “clean up” London, Hackney Council appear to be destroying the soul of my beloved Shoreditch.

On Sunday I was having one of my wanders around the Old Street/Shoreditch area, looking for new street art, when I rounded a corner and saw something that made me sick to the stomach. Hackney Council vans parked up next to gleaming white walls. I don’t know the extent of the damage yet, but I can tell you for one thing that the piece below is gone, and that was enough to make me really angry.

Mo'Pegz, Shoreditch

Mighty Mo & Gold Peg – It’s because of Mighty Mo that I started to get interested in street art

How dare they go around “cleaning up” the streets in this way, destroying art that has for so long made the area what it is? Who are they to decide what art should stay and what should go?

Not far from where this piece has been removed, I noticed a new mural by “Olympic approved” CODE FC on the somewhat questionable Shoreditch Ad Wall.

'Walk For Truce', Shoreditch Ad Wall

'Walk For Truce', Shoreditch Ad Wall

'Walk For Truce', Shoreditch Ad Wall

This wall on Great Eastern Street, I have recently learned, is “available for both Art and Commercial projects” for a fee “starting at $750 a week”. The wall has, in the past, been used by 20th Century Fox, Universal Pictures and The Disney Company, as well as Beck’s Beer and the launch of Soul Calibur V. I unwittingly took photos of the Soul Calibur ones myself, wondering if it was in fact art or advertising, and now I know. (Actually, the pictures in that case were really cool, whether they were advertising or not – I guess there’s a whole other blog post I could write on that topic!)

So graffiti artist CODE FC (who holds a degree in Public Art and Design from Chelsea College of Art) and graphic artist Jack Haslehurst (also from Chelsea College of Art) have participated in this ‘peace mural’ project, to celebrate Lord Michael Bates’ ‘Walk for Truce’ and broadcast Baroness Tanni Grey Thompson’s ‘Plight of Britain’s Disabled’ for the London 2012 Paralympics. CODE FC, who had an exhibition entitled “20:12” at the Curious Duke Gallery in London in June, has been creating Olympic-themed street art for a couple of years. What I don’t understand is why his work is deemed acceptable (and, in fact, legal according to this article), and other artwork on the streets is being destroyed.

Code FC


For me, CODE FC’s work is pretty bland, although I guess the “cameras for heads” thing is making some comment about the media’s role in the Olympics. The mural is for a good cause, so I’m not saying it shouldn’t be there – I’d rather see this piece of art than some billboard featuring those bloody mascots or that awful 2012 logo – but why should CODE FC’s work be promoted in this way while the streets are being “cleansed” of other art which doesn’t quite fit the image the Hackney Council are trying to portray to the rest of the world?

Other street artists have also been making Olympic-themed art, but I suspect none of these pieces will last long if the Hackney Council “anti-graffiti” mob find them…

Graffiti - Ronzo does Olympics, Dalston

Olympic pigeon – Ronzo (www.ronzo.co.uk)

Shoreditch street art - Olympic graffiti

Illuminati Olympic- Mr Moustache

I wonder what would happen if Banksy decided to paint something for the Olympics? I suspect, like his Jubilee piece, a sheet of Perspex would be smacked over it immediately and people would flock to see it. But what makes Banksy or CODE FC any different from Mighty Mo and Gold Peg, whose piece above was recently painted over? Surely the concept of “freedom of speech” should apply to the artists who work on the streets of London. I want to hear what they have to say – don’t you?

Teddy Baden

Mandeville by Teddy Baden (www.teddybaden.co.uk)

From graffiti to gallery… Part 2

I recently wrote a post about how I wasn’t convinced that street artists ought to exhibit their work in galleries. I’m still not entirely convinced, but I saw an exhibition today which helped me to see that it can work for certain artists. The exhibition I went to see was The Mr Brainwash Summer Show – a pop-up exhibition at the Opera Gallery on New Bond Street, London.

Mr Brainwash Summer Show at the Opera Gallery, London

Mr Brainwash, real name Thierry Guetta, is the kind of artist that people either love or hate. There are a lot of negative thoughts out there about him and his work, but personally I’m becoming quite a fan. The first Mr Brainwash pieces I saw “in the flesh” were his recent pieces on the corner of New Oxford Street and Museum Street in London (here & here). These murals are huge, and at the time I couldn’t have imagined seeing them in a gallery, but somehow it works. I think Mr Brainwash’s work is very accessible, and quite commercial. Much like Banksy’s work, Mr Brainwash’s work is suitable for posters, postcards and other items one might buy in a gift shop. I don’t think that’s a bad thing, although I know some people would see it as a negative. But I think it’s this commercial aspect that makes Mr Brainwash’s paintings (and sculptures) work so well in the gallery space. Some artists work well in the wild – I think Mr Brainwash works better here in the gallery…

Mr Brainwash Summer Show at the Opera Gallery, London

Mr Brainwash Summer Show at the Opera Gallery, London

Mr Brainwash Summer Show at the Opera Gallery, London

Mr Brainwash Summer Show at the Opera Gallery, London

Mr Brainwash Summer Show at the Opera Gallery, London

Mr Brainwash Summer Show at the Opera Gallery, London

Mr Brainwash Summer Show at the Opera Gallery, London

Mr Brainwash Summer Show at the Opera Gallery, London

Mr Brainwash Summer Show at the Opera Gallery, London

Mr Brainwash Summer Show at the Opera Gallery, London

Mr Brainwash Summer Show at the Opera Gallery, London

Here’s some more about the artist, from the Opera Gallery:

Thierry’s love of art and film led him to follow the lives of some of the most prolific street artists of our time as he made it his mission to shadow, record and question those who dominated the streets. This led to an unexpected collaboration; the elusive Banksy utilised Thierry’s street art footage and eventually turned the camera on the only man who had ever filmed him.

Their collaboration resulted in a remarkable documentary coined as part personal journey and part exposé of the art world with its mind-altering mix of hot air and hype.

Now an artist in his own right – his very alias ‘Brainwash’ suggesting a tongue-in-cheek jibe at the street-art world he has seemingly so easily and successfully infiltrated and mastered, Thierry has adopted a pop-art style which is now coveted world over.

Approached by Madonna to create the cover for her greatest hits album, Celebration, Thierry then went on to be commissioned by the Red Hot Chilli Peppers to direct the campaign for their latest album. Future collaborations are tipped to be none other than Justin Bieber! And with Kate Moss, The Beatles and Queen Elizabeth amongst his loyal subjects, it seems that the UK has offered Mr Brainwash some of his greatest muses to date.

Personally, I would like to own art like this. What do you think?

From graffiti to gallery…

There seems to be a growing trend for graffiti artists to make their way into galleries. I’ve seen a few exhibitions of street artists’ work in galleries recently, and still remain unsure as to whether or not I like it. In the case of the two artists I’m going to mention below, both are artists whose work I respect. Both work to large-scale and, for me, part of the joy in seeing their work is thinking “how on earth did they get away with that?”. Street art isn’t always about the most intricate detail or mastered technique – sometimes it’s about the time and place.

I’ll start with Stik. ‘Walk’ by Stik was an exhibition at the Imitate Modern in London which was held from 19th April – 10th May.

Walk by Stik at the Imitate Modern

Stik usually paints on walls and doors around London, and is famous for his simple stick man character and brightly coloured backgrounds.

Street Art & Graffiti in Shoreditch - Stik

His work which was on display in the gallery was similar, but for me it lacked something.

Walk by Stik at the Imitate Modern

The character was the same, and the playfulness was certainly there, but the atmosphere of the gallery and the fact that these pieces were now considered pieces of art to be bought and sold, altered my impression of the work.

Walk by Stik at the Imitate Modern

Moving on to another artist, let’s look at ROA. ROA’s exhibition ‘Hypnagogia’ was on at the StolenSpace Gallery in London from 20th April – 6th May.

ROA - 'Hypnagogia' at the Stolenspace Gallery

ROA usually paints huge-scale animals on the sides of buildings. In fact, the same day I went to the exhibition I happened to see him at work:

New ROA piece in progress, Chance Street

The exhibition consisted of pieces which the viewer was encouraged to touch and move. I liked this, but I found his work much less interesting than I had hoped.

ROA - 'Hypnagogia' at the Stolenspace Gallery

The scale was, naturally, much smaller, but I found the quality lacking in these imaginative yet macabre pieces.

ROA - 'Hypnagogia' at the Stolenspace Gallery

So, I’m still not sure what I think of graffiti artists presenting their work in gallery spaces. In a way, I think I prefer to see their work on the streets. I like the excitement of ‘discovering’ a new piece when I’m walking around Shoreditch, and that excitement is somewhat taken away when the work is in a gallery constrained by four walls. Another thing I like about the work on the streets is that it has this element of roughness about it. Often these pieces are illegal, and the artist has to rush a bit to get it finished before being caught. The pieces displayed in galleries are 100% legal, and that takes a bit of the fun away, doesn’t it? Also, the rough surfaces that graffiti artists often paint on bring something to the pieces – whether it’s a wall, a door, or something else, it becomes part of the art. In the case of Stik’s work, the smooth canvases almost ruin the piece for me. ROA has obviously tried to keep some of the roughness, but I’m not convinced it works.

What do you think? Would you rather see this:


Or this:

Walk by Stik at the Imitate Modern


Ben Slow, ROA, Malarky...

Or this:

ROA - 'Hypnagogia' at the Stolenspace Gallery

Have your say below, and don’t forget to leave a comment in the comments section!

An interview with graffiti artist Paul “DON” Smith

Do you remember back in March when I had a chance encounter with one of my favourite graffiti artists Paul “DON” Smith? Well, he kindly agreed to do a quick interview with me by email, and it gives me great pleasure to share it with you today. Naturally, I’ve included a lot of images of his work, too. Enjoy!

Street art by DON

So, should I call you DON or Paul?
LOL. Don is great, but pauldonsmith.com could be better, so you know how to get hold of me.

Street Art & Graffiti in Shoreditch - Don

How long have you been producing street art?
I have been an active graffiti artist for 25 years, but my recent street art, where I create images that I think an audience/people may like, has been a shorter time; say 5 years or so.

Legend of the Fall, Tom & Twiggy, by DON

Have you always worked with stencils, or do you ever use different techniques?
I have mostly been a freehand spraycan artist, but I am now a mixed medium artist, I have starved myself long enough, I am free.

DON in Shoreditch

Why do you choose to make street art, rather than painting on canvases and exhibiting in galleries?
LOL. I do both, but mostly its on the streets, for now I paint originals and paint original limited editions, through selected galleries or my website.

DON in Shoreditch

Have you ever got in trouble for painting somewhere you shouldn’t have? If so, what happened?
I used to get into a bit of trouble, but that has long gone; my teenage years, many years back. The police know of all my illegal work, as they offered me a clean slate if I could tell them of other works. It saved time them knocking at the door again, me time and them time, it’s called “taken into consideration” (TIC).

DON in Shoreditch

Do you have a “day job”?
Yes I am a self-employed graphic designer.

Street art by DON

Do you have any objections to your work being referred to as “graffiti”? Is there a difference between “graffiti” and “street art” as far as you’re concerned?
Not really, I am just more selective now on the locations. It’s all the same, it’s just if the audience can communicate with it or not, if it has a message or is it just ‘ME’ ‘ME’. The market has opened up with the wonderful success of Banksy and Blek.

Quee saved the God by DON and Our Diamond Queen by DON

You seem to paint a lot of portraits (which is why I love your work!). Is there a reason for this?
I think it’s a nice thing to see. One will identify with it quickly and may find it endearing. I tend to stick with portraits that influence myself and I am reaching out to see if others feel the same. Artists, musicians, actors, writers, thinkers, designers, distinguished characters, also portraits of individuals who the audience/people do not know and it’s interesting to place them on the world stage.

Street Art & Graffiti in Shoreditch - Don

I’ve noticed a slight religious theme to your work recently. What’s that all about then?
Powerful images are amazing to paint. I do little twists too with this, like “Queen save the God” [below], I had not seen it reversed before and thought it was nice as the Queen/monarchy is head of the church. Keep the faith, it’s a great thing, like humans, we are powerful.

DON: Queen Saved the God

Which other artists do you admire?
Monet, Turner, Constable, Duster UA, Rodin, Hodgkin and many others.

Image courtesy of DON

Is there anything else you’d like to tell my readers about your work, or about street art in general?
More to come so watch this space!

This image is courtesy of DON

A big thank you to DON for taking the time to talk with me! For more information about DON’s work, please visit his website: pauldonsmith.com.

I hope to do more interviews like this and in person in the future, so watch this space and do get in touch if you’re an artist who would like to have a chat.

OLEK and all that Malarky

In March I went to an exhibition at Tony’s Gallery in Shoreditch and got two for the price of one. The artist I went to see was OLEK, but I didn’t realise the gallery also had an artist in residence: Malarky.

I’ll start with OLEK’s exhibition, “I do not expect to be a mother but I do expect to die alone”. This was the first UK solo exhibition by Polish-born, New York-based artist OLEK.


The exhibition or, rather, installation, was basically a knitted room. Everything as far as the eye could see was knitted, crocheted or wrapped in wool. Even the floor. It was unfortunate that it was raining heavily on the day I visited the gallery, but it was nice to take off my wet boots and walk about on the wooly carpet for a while.


I’m not art expert, but I enjoyed the exhibition. It was fun, playful, and certainly unique. I particularly liked the people.



If you’re after some arty blurb, here’s a quote about OLEK’s work from the Tony’s Gallery website:

Both playful and rich in metaphor, the brightly coloured work on display features multiple designs including Olek’s trademark camouflage motif. The omnipresence of explicit messages crocheted into the objects, are statements revealing her position as a female artist in an art world that is inclined to have sexist opinions. These text-based pieces replicate actual missives sent to the artist by SMS text messaging, immortalising intimate details of her past relationships. The viewer thus becomes witness to Olek’s personal history as she continues her exploration of modern day concerns, touching upon the themes of privacy, technology and communication.

The show’s title is a direct quote from “I do not expect”, an appliquéd blanket produced by Tracey Emin in 2002.

"I do not expect" by Tracy Emin

I have to say, I prefer OLEK’s work to Emin’s, although I can see that they do both fall into the same camp of “I wouldn’t really want that on my wall”.


As I mentioned earlier, I was also able to see some of Malarky’s work at Tony’s Gallery. Actually, it’s never that hard to see Malarky’s work as he’s a street artist and his pieces are all over Shoreditch. What I liked at Tony’s was the way that his work became incorporated with OLEK’s.

OLEK & Malarky

OLEK & Malarky

Malarky’s work was also on display downstairs in the gallery:




It was weird to see Malary’s work so small, as it’s usually so big:



There’s been a lot of fuss in the press this week over the new Damien Hirst exhibition at the Tate Modern. The media have been labelling his work “con-art” and saying that it s a case of “the emperor’s new clothes”. Art is so subjective – one man’s art is another man’s rubbish – so who’s to say what belongs in galleries? Is Hirst’s work any better or worse than Emin’s, or indeed OLEK’s? Does the fact the Malarky usually paints on walls make his work any less valuable than Hirst’s? What do you think?

Related Links

Tony’s Gallery: website

OLEK: website

Malarky: website

The Big Egg Hunt

If you’re a follower of my daily photo blog, Picturing England, you will know that I have been a bit egg-obsessed for the last month. The Faberge Big Egg Hunt took over London from 21st February to 31st March, dividing the city into 12 zones and “hiding” 210 eggs for the public to go and find. When you found an egg, you were supposed to send a text message with the unique code in order to enter the competition. The prize? A £100,000 golden Faberge egg.

£100,000 prize egg!

The eggs in the Big Egg Hunt are being sold and auctioned off, and the money is going to two charities: Elephant Family and Action for Children.

When I started, I had no intention of trying to find them all, but I quickly became addicted. Searching was eggsellent fun, and completing a zone was a real thrill. But there were other benefits too.

One thing I loved about the Big Egg Hunt was the sense of community it conjured up. These days, and especially in London, people don’t talk to each other. But the eggs changed this. Over the course of the hunt, I spoke to all kinds of people, young and old, families, couples and solo egg hunters. We compared notes, gave each other hints, and generally just egged each other on (sorry, egg-related jokes are one of the side effects of too much hunting). I heard stories of friendships forming over eggs, of people deciding to join forces and hunt together. I saw children talking to children they didn’t know and peering through windows together to try to spot eggs hidden in shops. Everyone I spoke to was caught up in the thrill of the hunt.

Another benefit was the “eggsercise”. Of course I did take Tubes to reach some destinations, but then I walked, and I walked, and I walked! I have no idea how far I walked, but my legs tell me it was far. It was great to be above ground and see how London fits together. I realised on a few occasions that Tube stations were much closer together than I had thought. While I was out and about, I also saw children on scooters and running up to eggs. It was so nice to see people enjoying the fresh air and being outside.

One other major benefit of the big egg hunt for me was going to parts of London I would never normally go to, and seeing things I didn’t know were there. I found art and sculptures on the streets and in parks, I went in eggstremely fancy shops like Liberty and Fortnum and Mason, and I saw the modern buildings of the City towering next to the ancient buildings that remain. London really is an amazing city, and I hadn’t realised how lucky I was to be living here.

The big egg hunt was time-consuming but worth every minute. I had so much fun, found out a lot about my city, spoke to some lovely people, and feel like I really achieved something. I know scrambling around London looking for eggs is probably not everyone’s idea of fun, but it’s certainly mine!

Amazingly, I managed to find 209 eggs! The only one I couldn’t find was the elusive #57, which no one has been able to find yet because it hasn’t been delivered by the artists (the Chapman Brothers).

Here are the 209 eggs I found, which I consider to be a complete set:

All eggs will be on display together in the Covent Garden Piazza from Tuesday 3rd April until Monday 9th April. They really are eggstraordinary, so do check them out if you can!