As a teenager growing up in the 80s, the term Street Art was more commonly known as Graffiti Art and in the prevailing decades since, I’ve witnessed its change and metamorphosis into what it has become today which is lights years away from the days when I ‘vandalised’ a bit of British Rail property!
Street Art, or Urban Art, as it’s also referred to these days is not only a legitimate accepted art form but also fuels a multi-million-pound industry. The street art world’s top stars are commonly courted by big-name fashion and lifestyle brands wanting to adopt a bit of ‘street credibility’.
A painting by the American Artist and former Graffiti writer KAWS fetched a whopping $14.8 million at Sotheby’s last year.
Here in Manchester, we are privileged to have had a number of street artists (whom I consider would sit quite comfortably in the ‘top stars’ bracket) paint some incredible murals for us to enjoy. Below, I have picked out my top 5 basing my choices both on aesthetic merit and the message or story it’s conveying.
722 – 481 BC – Faith47
I first came across the art of Faith47 in 2015 when I saw an incredible mural she painted in Johannesburg entitled “Una Salus Victis Nullam Sperare Salutem” so when I heard she was coming over to paint in Manchester you could say I was a tad excited!
South African born, Faith47’s mural depicts two men sharing a kiss with the intention of expressing human intimacy as well as asserting support for LGBT rights.
I absolutely love the aesthetic qualities and execution in this painting – the composition, the sublime duotone palette and the incredible brushstroke technique which I believe is meant to mimic the look and feel of a graphite pencil drawing demonstrates Faith’s true unadulterated mastery in her craft.
Sisyphus – Axel Void
Axel Void is widely recognised and regarded as one of the most important street artists in the world. He explores the idea of Existentialism – a philosophical theory with the belief that we are born without purpose into a world that makes no sense — but each person has the ability to create his or her own sense of meaning and peace.
The articulation of this idea is conveyed by two components, the first – an image of a girl having a smile forced by someone else’s hands along with the second which we see Axel’s trademark typographic element superimposed on top of the image.
Sisyphus was a king who according to Greek mythology was punished by Zeus, the God of the sky and thunder, to roll a boulder up a hill and watch it roll back down, repeating this action for eternity. Albert Camus in 1942 wrote “The Myth of Sisyphus” where he related this punishment to the human condition in the absurd search for meaning.
Maclaim – Case
Teaming up with Manchester-based charity Back on Track, East German artist, Case Maclaim, captures a moment of someone who is going through the state of recovery and rehabilitation. Painted in 2016 for the Cities of Hope street art convention, his theme for this wall was ‘Disability’ which is a direct reference to the people whom the charity supports that have been through problems with homelessness, mental health, substance & alcohol abuse or offending.
I feel a personal connection with this mural more so than others in the city because there are people in my life who either have or are suffering from some form of mental health issue.
I’ve seen and felt first-hand the crippling inner torment and the enormous exhaustion of fighting a million and one mental battles every single day of their lives. What Case’s piece does really well is to serve as a reminder for us to stop for a second and think about someone we know who may need our support.
‘War impact on children lives’ – Hyuro
Argentinian artist Tamara Djurovic, A.K.A. Hyuro, focused on the impact of war on children in conflict zones. The intention of this wall, in the artist’s own words, was to “give voice to all the lost innocence, all children who are fighting for their own survival, unable, in front of their own eyes, to live a childhood as they deserve.”
This piece has all the hallmarks that make Hyuro’s murals across the globe so distinguishable and so impactful. Applying her trademark fusion of politics, surrealist sensibility, and the application of a carefully considered earthy palette that makes me never tire of looking at this wall.
Serenity – SNIK
In 1918, following years of bitter struggle, women finally gained the right to vote. To mark the centenary in 2018, London based UK artist Snik painted this tribute piece right in the heart of the Northern Quarter which was where the Suffragettes gathered in a stance for equality.
Entitled ‘Serenity’ Snik depicts a woman, painted in greyscale who appears to be floating in a state of stillness and tranquillity and wears the expression of someone who is calm and peaceful which is in direct contrast to the red dress she is wearing. Red is the colour of fire and blood and is associated with energy, war, danger, strength, power, determination as well as passion, desire, and love.
My interpretation is the artist has used the juxtaposition between the woman and her dress as a metaphor to visually describe the Suffragettes strength resolve and dignity, a testimony to what they have endured and still endure, to make the world a better place, for all of us.