With just under a week to go before Baroque the Streets, preparations are well under way. Over a sunny lunch break I was treated to a tour around the Dulwich hotspots where work is in progress on the walls.
We swung by the Paxton to be greeted with an almost complete giant mural on one side of its brick façade. Leaning precariously out of a genie was REKA putting the final touches to his design which is inspired by Europa and the Bull by Guido Reni.
Taking over much of that side of the Paxton pub this work is striking, but surprisingly unobtrusive. REKA explained that he used a limited palette and took account of the existing colour scheme of the pub in his design. The huge head and torso of a woman he has painted is made up of a muted collection of black, grey, blue and mustard yellow, with bright streaks of red, turquoise and blue which give it shape and energy. He also explained the difficulties of painting the wall involved negotiating a large drainpipe and his solution was to paint the figure close up and far over to the left but have her hair flowing out to the right, curling around and beyond the drain pipe.
Driving through a busy East Dulwich we then caught a glimpse of Conor Harrington making the final touches to another huge mural. His giant duelling figures in period costume loom majestically up out of nowhere off the corner of the Goose Green roundabout. Hidden just around the bend they are at odds with the residential surroundings; huge figures towering over pedestrians heading for the local shops.
The rate at which these works have appeared, transforming Dulwich in the process, is perhaps not surprising considering the illegal nature of much of Street Art, although permission has been granted for all the Dulwich murals. What is astonishing is the quality of what these artists can achieve at break neck speed.
That night I met some more of them at 265 Lordship Lane which has become an informal base camp for the project. Over a couple of beers the guys chatted about their involvement and the work that is being produced. I even got to see some work in action as REKA was painting the side of their van in the yard and ROA was there creating an incredible skeletal image on an exposed brick wall above the kitchen at the back of the house. From an image he was using it looked like it was cat skeleton.
Christiaan Nagle explained to me as they painted, that many of these artists have been at it since they were as young as 13 and they have got used to working fast and accurately. He described how, through years of practise, they’ve developed ‘can control’ which is essential, as shading is achieved through the varying pressure an artist places on the cap and he said ‘ that’s what makes a piece pop, you can’t get that same effect with a paint brush’. I am beginning to see how delicate and precise an art form spray painting is and with so little room for mistakes it’s incredible that many of these guys, who paint prolifically all over the world, don’t work from sketches or mark out their work before they start.
Christiaan also showed me his own work in the house, a room on the upper floor. He’s working on an installation using polyurethane foam, which he has sprayed in an erratic pattern all over the walls, flecked with bright pastel shades of paint and illuminated by strip lights on the floor. If I lived in the Street Art House I’d bag this as my bedroom, it’s tactile, bizarre and strangely comforting.
Christiaan is most famous for the mushrooms he makes in the same material and fixes onto buildings. Although not exclusively a Street Artist he says there is a buzz about it that you can’t get elsewhere, the illegality of it is integral to its appeal for many artists, it’s all about taking the risk to paint anywhere you want. ‘For murals’ he says, ‘size is everything because you need to leave an impact. But for my work it’s about the location and about the surprise somebody gets waking up and seeing that the property has sprouted a mushroom overnight’.
The house is a hive of activity and a time lapse camera is capturing the whole process. The transformation in just a few days since I last saw it is amazing, with new rooms being completed every day. Thierry Noir is working on the dining room with a wall covered in his signature flat silhouettes of heads in profile with huge red lips, whilst outside Citizen Kane is creating a set of concrete reliefs, cast using hand sculpted rubber moulds, that will be suspended on the back of the property. He explained to me that he’s using this project to experiment, working with new materials and colours. The creatures he makes have huge eyes and many legs, inspired by sci-fi and his past experiences of ecstasy-fuelled visions.
The atmosphere in the house is relaxed but productive, with so many artists involved, the word’s spreading fast; it’s a melting pot of styles, ideas, experiments and materials. REKA summed up his experience of the project succinctly saying ‘it’s a chance to connect with such a great group of people and an amazing opportunity to be inspired by the DPG paintings’.
Excited? Find out where the artists will be painting using this map of all the wall locations.
Or why not sign up to one of the Baroque the Streets events?
The walls will be painted in the first half of May and the Street Art Festival will run from 10-19 May
The ArtHouse will be opened with a launch party on 17th May at 8pm and there will also be a cinema room playing films about Street Art at the back of the house. 265 Lordship Lane will then be open for the whole weekend until 19th May.
Find out more about this eclectic bunch of artists from the experts on the Street Art London blog or check out Global Street Art an enormous online photo archive of Street Art from all over the world!