The walls of a city have been the place for people to canvas their thoughts and emotions since antiquity. Initially considered to be vandalism, the perception and styles have shifted. In London, the street art scene is thriving, with artistic creations adding colour and life to the boring bare-bricked walls of the streets of the big smoke. Brick Lane is a bonafide East end mecca for magical murals, so we sent our local insider Willie Gevertz to uncover the very best of brick lane street art.
Brick Lane is most famous for having 34 different restaurants each labelled the “world’s best curry” and its vivacious, razzmatazz, one-of-a-kind Sunday market: an amoeba of flowing foot traffic, clusters of old bags, military fatigues, Ghanaian food, street performers and every nick-nack you could dream.
However, those who may find themselves a bit skint or merely want a break from all the crowds and hawkers need not fret. A psychedelic street museum winds down every side lane, alleyway and mixed up mews in the immediate vicinity of thy Lane o’ Brick.
The selection of brick lane street art to see is eccentric and eclectic. Here the colours are brighter, sexier, groovier and glossier than any other part of the city. From the mundane and miniature, to the politically jarring and aesthetically bizarre. No matter the size or subliminal message involved, everything works in a clusterfastic concert; one constantly growing, mish-mashed, graffiti glazed, saturation symphony.
Below are 8 best pieces of Brick Lane Street and the streets where you can them. However, in the spirit of exploration and discovery, you won’t get the exact GPS coordinates. We believe that street art should be discovered on your own terms. Also keep in mind that there is so much more to discover around Brick Lane. The street art flows here, so much so that the sewers are laced in paint. Perhaps that’s why the rats are so big.
1. Slime and Crime
This is a work by the street artist aptly named The Real Dill, who created this masterpiece alongside his friends Trexus and Captain Kris. It’s hot off the presses fresh, having been put up on Pedley Street just around the corner from the Nomadic Gardens during September’s “Graffestival” (see #8 for more info). “Gums and Tongue” which can be seen written out in big blocky neon green letters in the upper corner of the piece, is also the name of a collaborative ‘zine run by Mr Dill and his super talented, artistic friends from around the world.
The whole back corner of Pedley street is an orgasmic medley of acid-infused chaos. Some real paradigm-shifting pieces around here that will set your senses on fire.
2. Galactic Girl
Mr Cenz has been laying down paint on the streets of London since 88. His work is intricately flowing and mystical. Like this one on Fashion Street, many of his pieces, feature an otherworldly interpretation of the female form, often in a deeply provoked state of thoughtful emotion. Mr Cenz is deft with his cans, weaving together a galactic palate to create soulful imagery. It’s an aesthetic that pleases something deep within the mind. Look out for this magic piece on Fashion Street, a truly iconic strip for brick lane street art.
3. Couple Holds Hands
The piece is called “A Couple Hold Hands in the Street”, created by a real brick lane street art sensei who goes by the name of Stik. It shows a woman in a niqab holding hands with a second stick figure. Born back in ’79, Stik has been slapping his doodles around East London since 2001. In the course of this time, he has become one of the most well-known artists famous for the six-line, two-dot stick figure characters, that were loosely based on Japanese calligraphy known as kanji. This particular piece is one of his smaller efforts but is also probably the most famous. It was voted the 17th favourite piece of British art by a Guardian poll in 2017. That’s not just street art, that’s all art. Ever.
4. Boris the Clown
In the words of Ante himself, “I’ve never mixed politics and painting but this just felt right.” Ante often works alongside friend, musician and designer Sam Sure to create free-flowing collaborative pieces all around London. When the two of them get together there are, “No sketches, no planned colours, just sort it as we go.” This piece depicts a rather glum-looking Boris Johnson as a clown. However, after the recent election results, it’s most likely old Boris has a grin on his face.
5. Asterix and Obelix
Location: Hanbury Street
There’s a sneaking suspicion that this piece is also by the aforementioned Ante_Ltd because the tag looks quite similar. However, we are still awaiting confirmation. Whoever the artist, one thing for certain is that they’ve done a fine job of beautifying this formerly grey slate space off Hanbury Street. This cartoonish portrayal depicts legendary figures Asterix and Obelix, as they appeared in the famous French comic strip about the pair of Gaulish warriors during the era of Julius Ceasar. The tongue in cheek comic is famous all around Europe and provides a bit of levity to compliment some of the more politically charged pieces of Brick Lane street art.
6. Man With Delicate Houses
It’s difficult to be truly unique in the street art game. However, the Welsh-born, Sheffield based artist Phlegm accomplishes that very feat with his hyper-stylised black and white narratives. This piece was put up in 2012 and is veritable writing prompt porn for the aspiring novelists in the audience. Where the conventional street artist captures attention through the use of colour, Phlegm does so by its absence instead. An impressive accomplishment.
The name “Phlegm” is derived from one of the four bodily ‘humours’ in ancient Greek medicine. In addition to blood, yellow bile and black bile, ‘phlegm’ was said to be responsible for an ‘apathetic and unemotional temperament.’ The world-renowned artwork of this illustration-based street samurai are a testament to that descriptor.
Simply put, Shepard Fairey is one of the most famous street artists to ever breathe. This colourful mural up on Hanbury street is an ode to his iconic ‘Obey’ icon sticker featuring deceased wrestling legend Andre the Giant. Fairey’s themes often touch on government control and Orwellian dystopia, something that “obey” and Andre the Giant’s menacing mug have come to represent thematically. Fairey is also the genius who spawned one of the most famous American political messages of all time: the stylized “Hope” poster of Barack Obama during the 2008 election campaign.
8. All of The Stuff by the Community Garden
Location: Nomadic Community Garden
The Nomadic Community Garden has been a creative experiment over the past 6 years, becoming a hotbed of collaboration in the process. Some of the most diverse, eclectic and unique of London Street art could be found here.
Since coming into existence in 2014 the Community Garden has seen a wave of gentrification encroach on all sides. Particularly in nearby Sclater Street and Brick Lane which have become hubs for tourism and the so-called trendy crowd. And now the developers will come for the Community Garden as well. The real estate is just too valuable. See these pieces while you still can! The end is nigh. Many of them were recently done up for “Graffestival”, the last hurrah of the Gardens put on by the EndoftheLine collective.
If you liked this round-up of the best of brick lane street art, then boy are you in for a treat. This is just part one of our series, stay tuned as willie delves deeper, into the streets, nooks and crannies. Uncovering a smorgasbord of scintillating spray-creations that will delight your sight. If you do check out some of the street art featured and want to find some cafes, restaurants or bars nearby. Download the Like Locals app now, on both iOS and Android devices.