Bristol Street Art Exhibition Attracts Global Attention – Review

Just because the first half of the Olympics games season is over, it doesn’t mean the Olympic spirit is gone. The London 2012 festival which has been running with a swell of successful and innovative events since the 21 June cracks on.

This weekend saw the Olympic legacy brilliantly on display with a wide selection of exhibitions and events throughout the picturesque streets of Bristol in the South West. The weekend is featuring nothing less than Europe’s largest street art festival, highlighting the best talent in street art from all corners of the globe expanding the art further than ever before. Friday evening brought together two creative forces, Adrian Utley from Portishead, and Joanie Lemercier from local visual label AntiVJ merging for a one off collaboration called, “Mails, Maps and Motion”, a project that sought to address the relationship and history that has shaped both Bristol and and the British Isles. Alongside these two spell-bounding artistic ventures came a new piece by Brazilian artist Maria Thereza Alves, aptly titled “Seeds of Change: A Floating Ballast Seed Garden”. This is a welcomed retreat from the bustling and colorful streets of Bristol with a chance to see history and development from an all together new perspective, one of unintentional trade and transference which has since benefited the region hundreds of years later.

Unexpected events have changed the world in Bristol and are quickly defining it’s future. Maria Thereza Alves from Brazil has worked with the University of Bristol Botanic Gardens to explore how seeds and plants can produce a visual map of trade that has come to Bristol from around the world. Seeds which had arrived on trading ships were often flushed out upon the boats arrival and have been laying dormant under layers of silt, sand, and time. Alves was commissioned to retain and replant them on a unused grain barge which was specially redesigned to create a floating garden, layered in bright and colorful history. While the concept behind the project is astonishing, the visual affect is underwhelming. Having come to Bristol knowing there would be maddening and delightful buildings draped in some of the best graffiti from around the world, the garden is left in a shadow. As more coastal regions from around the UK and the world gain the knowledge and the knowhow to maintain these growing trade museums, the display capabilities will expand with new artists and designers approaching the replanting process in a myriad of ways.

Back on land there is an ‘Evil’ urban invasion. Not exactly evil , but the city has been transformed, as street artists from around the world have taken up residence for the weekend. They have descended to create Europe’s largest street art collection, and it is magnificent. Inkie, a local street artist from Bristol, who is  world renowned  and also the creative director of the Sega curated the event, never settling for anything less than the best. There are older favorites, such as ROA, famous for his intricate friendly animals that adorn many of the walls around Shoreditch and Brick Lane and a few that are new to the scene and personally recommended by Inkie himself. One new comer is an artist who goes by the name Pixel Pancho. He is originally from Turin and studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Valencia. He developed his style by incorporating a range of of techniques that include sticker art and tiling. Robots are a central theme which started with a basic character and developed into pieces today that are futuristic and whimsical. It is a bit steam punk and a bit Avatar and really works.

Women hardly get the attention that they deserve even though they produce exceptional pieces within the street art community. Kashink, a French born artist, doesn’t seem to be too bothered by the side glances and what appears to be, based on her expression, incessant questioning by journalists, who appear childishly eager to find out from her how hard it must be to work in a male dominated artistic practice. Her look in response seemed to indicate, that this is a male dominated world and you can either spend all your time trying to fight that and remain eternally perplexed at the inequality, or crack on and develop beautiful and creative work, which she does. She mentioned that her pieces, which are based quite a lot on her travels and experiences from around the world, are also very interestingly based on her love for comics. She loves colours, straying far from dull greys and blacks, and delving into neon pinks, and eye-blinding oranges. She is definitely one to watch, and is having a great deal of international success having had gallery shows recently in France, Switzerland, the UK, and Italy. The last thing to mention if you have a chance to run into her adding a dash of flavour and a fair amount of colour to your street is this; the moustache isn’t real.

The breadth and importance of the these two parts of the greater London Festival, are brimming with this Olympic spirit, which has slowly, but deeply affected London and the rest of Britain in a positive way. Very much in the way that the first part of the Olympic games had a closing ceremony, so did Friday evening which highlighted collaboration and inspiration spawning from a desire to portray Bristol and Britain’s history of trade, technology, and industrialization. Adrian Utley who is a member of the hugely successful band Portishead, and Joanie Lemercier, combined their talents to highlight British talents which have led modern Britain to become the technological and creative hub that it is today. Lemercier and his creative agency AntiVJ specialize in the visual. They have used 3D projection to bring buildings and architecture to life, in previous projects, yet their collaboration with Utley was unique because it was live and performed as part of a larger collection of guitarists, DJs, and drummers. Will Gregory from Goldfrapp, gave a helping hand to the project and the night was exemplary.

The sound and images, of a Britain that relied on natural materials such as coal and iron, immersed everyone that was there to experience the piece into a disorientating state. The powerful projections and moving sounds, were paralyzing. Solid walls of the famous Brunel Watershed, melted and rematerialized in a matter of seconds. This showed a Britain that was totally unknown and completely animated through image and sound. It was a soft power, power that Britain has now accepted and embraced more recently as it’s global colonial legacy recedes.

The Olympic spirit is thriving this weekend, and one theme runs through all of the events that are taking place. Collaboration, brings understanding. A Brazilian artist created a floating garden in the UK which shows hundreds of years of horticultural trade never seen before. Street artists from France, the US, Poland, and many other countries came together in Bristol, in Britain, to create history at street level through moving expression. They collaborated and worked together to create their own pieces, and a greater project expressed in See No Evil. A French visual master, combined with a musical legend to communicate a history of Bristol, of Britain, and of human beings.

Words by: Portia Pettersen Copyright Artlyst 2012 Images by: Portia Pettersen Copyright Artlyst 2012


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