in T'interwebs

The Cans Festival – street “stencil art” festival in SE1

Stumped for what to do with the kids on a bank holiday weekend I was saved by the not-your-grandfather’s-exhibition offering from The Cans Festival – “a street party of stencil art”. It was a case of SE1 channels Nelly Duff.

The event was in a tunnel/underpass under Waterloo Station approach, Leake St. Many years ago I used to park the car there when I worked at Ernst & Young and it was a pretty fruity-smelling, dingy and blade-runneresque bit of London. “Ripe for Redevelopment”, as an estate agent might say. Ironically, much of the work adorning the walls is very much anti-development and anti-gentrification. Still, it’s difficult to be permanently ironic or anti-establishment when “one” has an audience, a following, and collectors of books and prints: Banksy, Eine… Or maybe it’s ironic that the audience lapping up the bitter irony is the audience being attacked? Or maybe it’s not?

Who knows – all I recall is the humour and artistry. Made me wonder why this was any different to the (cleaner) contemporary art seen in established galleries. Social commentary, irony, punning, juxtapositioning to challenge us to see anew… All that plus the smell of solvents.

The kids loved it – Manon really liked touching the (dried) paint and feeling the different textures, Aneirin enjoyed rolling in the dust and brownfield reminders, while Alice was taking it very seriously and pondering the meaning (“why is there a tree growing out of that car Daddy?”) .

The event was well-organised, marshalled clearly and had a friendly feel. I hope it’ll be a regular thing.

You know the target market is middle class, however, when the big signs at the entrance emphasise that there’s nothing for sale 😉

My Flickr photoset is has the rest of the images I took during our visit.

Finally, thinking of puns, I missed the Banksy ‘Tagger’ (a Tiger composed of graffiti ‘tags’, geddit?). Luckily, we have Flickr and the excellent efforts of artofthestate:

Banksy's

I mentioned Nelly Duff (excellent gallery on Columbia Road, E2, that’s a wonderful source of prints by graffiti, stencil, poster and graphical artists. The people who run it are knowledgeable, connected and just lovely – they helped me secure an Eine poster for Valentine’s Day for Vicky – and then helped me keep the secret as Vicky kept on and on about buying it…). Anyway, one of our neighbours has recently launched a publishing company and his latest book is on “Street Art Chile”. The launch party is most appropriately happening at the Duff and very much looking forward to that.

All that remains now is to hone the argument to the kids about how painting on walls at home is naughty, how painting on walls outside is ‘vandalism’ EXCEPT if it’s in a planned, sanctioned space with the support of the art market… in which case it’s Art.

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