Caffeine connections

September turned out to be a packed month and given we are mid-October already, you may all rest-assured that I have plenty to post about over the coming weeks. It’s been a run of reminiscing as I have bounced around between regular catch ups and lots of old friends that I have not seen for absolutely ages.

The month started with a work alumni event. I posted earlier in the year about the changes at work and this has meant that many people who worked in the same office as I do have left. In an effort to maintain connections, one of the leavers set up an Alumni Group on LinkedIn and so on the first of the month, on a rather warm and pleasant evening, sixteen of us gathered on board the Tattershall Castle for a tipple or two. Some of us are still working out our notice, some were on the verge of beginning new jobs while others were revelling in the time and space they’d had to do nothing but enjoy their Summer. It was great to see everyone and at the same time, observe life moving on…and at quite a rapid clip!

The following week I caught up with an old boss of mine from almost eight years ago. We could not believe it had been so long and we spent a couple of hours reminiscing about our ‘battles’ in the travel industry and what we’d each achieved ‘back then’ as well as the people we’d worked alongside and continue to stay in touch with. This was also a fantastic reminder of the kind of work I did at this company, the kind that I love to do, and it was such a timely and valuable prompt for me to stay ‘true to my course‘ in navigating the uncertain times ahead.

The next week, I managed to get a gig for breakfast at the fabulous Shoreditch House. This particular friend of mine started out as an agency contact which then segued into a few social, theatre-type outings every few months and we’ve since decided that this hanging out together from time to time is a pretty good idea. She’s great company – one of those well-connected yet down-to-earth types with loads of stories and chat – and works right on Shoreditch High Street. So on a clear Thursday morning, I skedaddled in from the hustle and bustle of the main street and up to the 6th floor to enjoy some poached eggs and avocado on toast with a view over East London on one side and people having a leisurely morning dip in the House’s rooftop pool on the other. (I mean seriously, don’t these people have jobs to go to?)

Towards the end of the month, an Australian friend I hadn’t seen for over six years was in London so I booked us into Ceviche, one of my favourite restaurants. It’s in Soho and while it is on the hubbub of Frith Street, it is so unassuming it’s easy to miss as you weave along the narrow footpath. We spent four and a half hours nattering over cocktails and delicious Peruvian tapas plates before launching into a decadent chocolate dessert…each. (No way were we sharing that!)  It was great to see her well and happy with her life back in Oz.

And then I ended the month by flying to Lisbon (the one in Portugal) to spend a week with Lil Chicky – the ultimate catch up! We were there for six days so I have plenty of fodder for a few posts which will seriously whet your appetite and make your feet itch!

In between all of this, there was a little reflection on trust, a return to yoga and the I-almost-missed-the-whole-of-2016 discovery of the wonderful Prudential Series at The China Exchange. I also consumed an inordinate amount of coffee across my regular catch ups and many other connections keen to chat about my what’s next.

coffee-l

And what’s next on Gidday from the UK I hear you ask?

Well peeps, keep your eyes peeled for a few glimpses of what Chicky Tours Unlimited got up to in Lisbon. It’s coming soon…

If street art ruled the world

Yesterday I went on a street art walking tour through London’s East End.

Inspired by the discovery of Hosier Lane in Melbourne during my visit with loved ones Down Under, I’ve been keen to explore more on this side of the world since my return in January.

At 10am on a lovely sunny Saturday in London, about twenty-five of us met our guide, Dave, at the Goat Statue at Spitalfields market. This is the goat, not Dave…

The Goat Statue

As we meandered towards the church, Dave gave us a bit of an introduction to street art/graffiti and the emergence of London’s street art culture. He also explained that given the temporary nature of street art, the myriad of stickers on lamp posts and other street furniture can serve as a handy guide as to who’s been contributing to the urban art scene in the area at any particular time – a bit like passport control for those in the ‘street art’ know.

The example below shows the iconic winged figure of well-known artist D*face in sticker form in Brushfield Street and then his installation in the Old Truman Brewery Complex.

DfaceWe turned right at the church then took a left into Fashion Street and that’s when things really started to happen…here’s Dave introducing us to three different styles and artists – more on some of these later.

Dave in Fashion Street

I did find the bike image stenciled onto the road particularly amusing in this picture – the urban art scene rails against the things that the establishment tells us we must do (like staying in the bike lane?).

This is probably a good point to address the questions of ‘what is street art’ and ‘how is it different from graffiti’.

According to Dave, the definitions are many and varied but for him, graffiti (below left) is created for the appreciation of the urban art community who can, for example, really appreciate the intricacies of a tag. Street art (below right) is created with a wider audience in mind – Dave told us to “think of images you might consider being on a t-shirt or as a piece of art in your home”.

temporary

Both might consist of painting, stickers, paste ups or other types of ‘installations’  and both can be done with or without permission. But after seeing a few works in progress, I was left with the over-riding premise of street art/graffiti being both temporary and accessible in nature despite permissions granted – check out the works in progress below.

WIP

We wandered along Fashion Street, learning about different techniques as we went. Below are some examples of paste-ups – where the artist has completed the image elsewhere prior to pasting it on the walls. The top left image was created using screen printing for the main image with the coloured smoke added in situ.

Paste Ups

You can also see the temporary nature of urban art at work here with the later addition of the ‘cat chariot’ to the bottom of the original piece, a practice we saw a lot throughout the tour. Another common practice is for artists to spread their work in an area to make their mark – we saw two more of the ‘cat chariot’ further along Fashion Street and more scattered along our walking route.

An artist currently distributing himself throughout the area is Gregos. He’s a French sculptor who creates painted molds of his own face. He has installed two batches of these in London so far.

Gregos

We saw these three on our route, ‘stayers’ from his last batch of fifty earlier this year. (Dave assures us that having met Gregos, this really is his face.)

Speaking of sticking things on the wall, there were loads of other things to find if you kept your eyes peeledStuck on

The piggy you can see in the photo top left is part of a series by Love Piepenbrinck. We found them in all sorts of places and while we thought they were cute, it would appear that the urban artists themselves are quite enamoured of this idea. We found a number of works had been created around the little sculpture, leaving the ensconced piggy right where it was – maybe Piepenbrinck’s piggies will mark an era of (semi-) permanence?

The other pictures are just different examples that appealed to me: Eeyore perching gloomily amongst a frenetic background, the mirrored cloud that changed depending on my angle of reflection (pardon the pun –  couldn’t help it!) and the urban tweetie attached to a council sign.

This next image was quite stunning and really struck me with all of its purple and turquoise hues. Dave confirmed here that the artist had been granted permission (by the owner of the wall, not the council) to paint here.

Purple woman

However, what was even more amazing is that this was all painted with spray cans. Can you imagine trying to create this kind of delicate imagery with a set of spray cans? (I probably couldn’t even manage it with a paint brush). It gave me a new appreciation of the talent of these artists. Here are some more ‘girls’ I particularly liked…

Women

One of the elements of street art is the speed and ‘furtiveness’ required as most is completed without permission. One of the techniques used to aid this is stenciling (Banksy is a well-known exponent of this). The image on the right is painted on the door of a barber shop and so whilst the artist had probably obtained permission, this intricate portrait was still created using a whole series of stencils.

We saw some great commemorative art as well. Joe’s Kid (below left) actually runs the coffee shop that owns the wall and Charlie Burns (below right) ran the business whose shutters are right next to his image.

generations

The Charlie Burns image also embodies the dripping effect evident in much street art – let’s face it, if you’re trying not to get caught, you don’t spend time dabbing at the drips! In this case the artist, Ben Slow has used it to effect on the left hand side of the image and then merged into photo-realism as he moved towards the right.

And the piece below – just off Bethnal Green Road – is by Citizen Kane (CZK) and commemorates the suicide of his son in 2013.

Citizen Kane

Street artists are also known for their strong anti-authority philosophies and these next two are great examples of taking a humorous and well-aimed poke at the establishment.

Ronzo is a German artist and his style is typified by the bulging eyes and the tombstone teeth of his monsters.  We saw the rainbow image earlier in Fashion Street. On the right you can see Crunchy, The Credit Crunch Monster, Ronzo’s mascot for the global financial crisis, in the Old Truman Brewery complex while the City of Ronzo crest was on the railway bridge at the top end of Brick Lane. This guy gets around…

Ronzo

Frenchman Clet Abraham is another exponent of thumbing one’s nose at authority and uses his witty imagery on existing ‘displays of authority’ (street signs) to make his particular mark.

street signs

Nathan Bowen is yet another using his art to make a statement. Using marker pens in his signature style, he makes this plea for peace in Syria below.

Nathan Bowen

Conor Harrington‘s work also appeared in a couple of different places along the way…

Conor Harrington

…and he also worked with U2 on Crystal Ballroom, part of their Songs of Innocence project. (He’s the artist in the video.)

No street art tour – of London anyway – would be complete without Banksy so we snuck through the gates of Shoreditch nightclub Cargo to see this…

Banksy

Yes, it is behind perspex but while not in the temporary and accessible spirit of street art, I’m pretty glad I got to see a real Banksy. And yes, his real identity remains a mystery, even to Dave. (There’s more street art in Cargo – even another Banksy so might be worth popping down to Rivington Street.)

There was so much more on this almost 4 hour tour and it gave me a new appreciation for both this pocket of East London – about which I knew very little – and the urban art scene – about which I knew even less. I didn’t like everything – probably only half of what I saw really appealed to me but it’s interesting how with a little bit of background, the whole genre opened up and became absolutely fascinating.

And let’s face it, if street art ruled the world, there’d be a whole lot more of this…

Coloured walls

…and for my part, that just adds some welcome colour to a day.

If you are in London and fancy a bit of urban art for yourself, check out Shoreditch Street Art Tours – Dave is obviously a guy ‘in the know’ and for just £15, it makes for a pretty cost-effective and entertaining education!