“I am somebody”

Even the posts have little street art - these metal sculptures are all over the East End.
Even the posts have little street art – these metal sculptures are all over the East End.
Spitalfields Market in the East End
Spitalfields Market in the East End

Last week I spent a few hours in London’s East End with MD, NW, TN, a tour guide from Alternative London and 15 new friends, looking at street art. The pieces come in all shapes and sizes and a variety of vibrant colors. The changeability of the form – someone could paint over your work any day – gives it immediacy and energy.

This is an example of the variety of street art you see - some of it small like the screen printed butterfly on the left (easy to make in a studio and paste up quickly).
This is an example of the variety of street art you see – some of it small like the screen printed butterfly on the left (easy to make in a studio and paste up quickly).
The muralist who created this was invited to do so by the owners.
The muralist who created this was invited to do so by the owners.

Some are illegal, constituting criminal destruction while others are commissioned or invited murals sanctioned by the owners. Some of the artists are famous; others are just getting their start. The work is inherently subversive, born of a need to create and put one’s creation where someone tells you it’s not allowed. Even the legal pieces grow out of that spirit. We saw one artist at work, building his fishing-lure mural, a clear analogy for the things that catch us in society. We also visited the Nomadic Community Gardens where artists can make their art in the shadow of the Overground trains, at least until the development company is ready to put up high-rise apartments on that ground.

Speaking of high-rise apartments, the East End in general is full of contrasts. It’s the third poorest of the London boroughs, but we passed beautiful brick homes off Brick Lane that go for £6-14 million. In the early 90s, you couldn’t give those houses away, but now here we are, the consequences of fashionability. Since before the Industrial Revolution, the East End has been home to many immigrant communities: first the French Huguenots, then the Irish weavers, next Jews fleeing Eastern Europe and most recently Bangladeshis. As companies continue to come in and develop more expensive housing, it does make you wonder where a lot of the people who already live here are going to go or how they would afford to live. And secondarily, will more expensive buildings allow the street art that defines this area in a lot of ways to continue?

Just over the border to the City of London and its financial district - right next to the East End.
Just over the border to the City of London and its financial district – right next to the East End.
The Brick Lane Jamme Masjid is a mosque today, but it has also been a Protestant Chapel for Huguenots, a Methodist church, and a synagogue, a testament to the diversity in this area.
The Brick Lane Jamme Masjid is a mosque today, but it has also been a Protestant Chapel for Huguenots, a Methodist church, and a synagogue, a testament to the diversity in this area.

Title quote: mural in the East End

This little lizard is in the Nomadic Community Gardens
This little lizard is in the Nomadic Community Gardens
This piece made from reclaimed wood is in the Nomadic Community Gardens as well.
This piece made from reclaimed wood is in the Nomadic Community Gardens as well.
I don' know what this means, but the depth and detail is incredible.
I don’ know what this means, but the depth and detail is incredible.
This piece is by Stik - he usually does stick figures but made the piece fit its environment in this Muslim Bangladeshi neighborhood
This piece is by Stik – he usually does stick figures but made the piece fit its environment in this Muslim Bangladeshi neighborhood
This massive word art was done with a used fire extinguisher - the artist fills it with paint and can shoot it onto the wall without leaving the ground.
This massive word art was done with a used fire extinguisher – the artist fills it with paint and can shoot it onto the wall without leaving the ground.
A ROA pig on Bacon Lane.
A ROA pig on Bacon Lane.
This intriguing mural also takes up the side of a building.
This intriguing mural also takes up the side of a building.
This legal mural covers the entire side of a building
This legal mural covers the entire side of a building
This artist from Spain is working on his mural on Hanbury St.
This artist from Spain is working on his mural on Hanbury St.
This exquisite piece was stenciled on a doorway in several layers. It was illegal at the time, but the owners liked it enough to keep the art when they got a new door.
This exquisite piece was stenciled on a doorway in several layers. It was illegal at the time, but the owners liked it enough to keep the art when they got a new door.
Two artists did this mural - Elian Chali and Alexis Diaz.
Two artists did this mural – Elian Chali and Alexis Diaz.
George Burns tribute -- he was an East End legend whose family ran a shop on Bacon Lane.
Charlie Burns tribute — he was an East End legend whose family ran a shop on Bacon Lane.
The mural on the doors is legal; the street art on the wall is not.
The mural on the doors is legal; the street art on the wall is not.
A small piece in a doorway
A small piece in a doorway
The crane is a ROA. The man on the left has taken off his Queens Guard uniform - you can see the jacket hanging beside him.
The crane is a ROA. The man on the left has taken off his Queens Guard uniform – you can see the jacket hanging beside him.
Another small piece nearby.
Another small piece nearby. “Chapel” replaces “Chanel.”

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