PAT Exhibition | Leadworks | Plymouth | October 2021
For as long as people have been building walls, other people have been using them to communicate. Satire, Irony, Advertisements, Social and political slogans, declarations of love, can all be found on walls in Ancient Greece, Rome, Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Sri Lanka.
Here in Plymouth a group of artists who have come together and created outside galleries, street art and location art across the city since 2020, hosted an exhibition at Leadworks in Stonehouse.
ABOVE : A local external Urban Gallery in Honicknowle Plymouth (left) and an original piece of large scale street art (right) from westcountry artist SpraySaint
There are a lot of preconceptions that often accompany street art and the people that make it, but scratch below the surface here at this exhibition, and this community of street and graffiti painters reveal themselves to be as diverse and eclectic as any other group of artists.
ABOVE : Plymouth artist K9 (Kev Davison) former music promoter and backdrop painter
Mention the world Graffiti and the first thing to come to mind for many will be the vibrant tags on the subway walls and underground trains of New York in the late 1970's and early 80's. In a open battle against the gentrification of urban spaces, whilst extreme polar opposites of wealth and poverty jostled for space among one of the most multicultural and socially diverse spaces on earth, the artists often inspired by a musical phenomenon that not only took it's inspiration from the street but repositioned it as a venue, reinvented the gallery and moved outside.
ABOVE : Plymouth based Contemporary Abstract artist Martin Bush who created three works for the Union Street lockdown gallery had the wonderfully expressive painting above and some other great work in the show. His love of music is very apparent and is one of the common themes here among PAT artists exhibiting here and around the city.
That the post modern sampling and re-purposing of pop art and logos provided the backdrop for dance battles in which break dancers, DJ's and MC's brought the noise should have been no surprise for the cities authorities, but they were wrong footed and it was not until the mid 1980's that they started to build fences and takes other steps to protect their property. By this time the art-form had begun appearing on walls across Europe in Paris, Amsterdam and London, and modern street art as we know it would flourish and brighten up urban spaces across the world.
ABOVE :Jon Lilly Graffiti/Community artist. Jon's work will be familar to many Plymouth residents where he works as a Graffiti/Community artist having painting large scale murals on the walls of Street Factory ( the local nationally reknowned street dance group and the Stonehouse-Past-Present-Future Cliik commision along the walthrough next to Pilgrim primary school
The work here in Leadworks clearly demonstrates how street art has been embraced by an incredibly contrasting and disparate group of artists. Attracting work made by artists from all age groups and cultural backgrounds, working across a range of mediums and disciplines, and at different levels, none of them seem hampered by the usual expectations and boundaries imposed in many other 'art' settings.
ABOVE : Classic Old Skool Graffiti tag by MASE in Honicknowle Plymouth
Street art has always had this uncomfortable tension built in by the idea of creating what was originally often illegal work on other people's property, created anonymously whilst trying to get your 'name ' out there. This is why tags became so important. Especially when Graffiti was wrongly attributed as a cause of crime. The thinking being that street art, rather than being a form of self expression, was a sign of visible neglect, and therefore violence and street crime were more likely to occur in these tagged areas were people thought they could get away with it, because the tags presence indicated that nobody cared. The uncomfortable reality in many areas of New York though, was that the authorities were worried that free street art, made not for profit, was actually signposting their own negligence.
ABOVE : Koeone 'Brighter Days'. This self taught artist from North Devon known for their monochrome portraits of women with pink and turquoise logos in their hair, demonstrating how tags, the recontextulisation of logos and the importance of the human element has informed street art
There is a reason that artists like Banksy and Blek le Rat resonate with the general public. Now even more so, in a world where we are bombarded with the commercial sloganeering of companies that are often driving others into poverty and mental health crises, people feel oppressed and shouted at by the advertising and architectural callousness of many big cities. Many feel like pawns in a war where people have become little more than commodities, to be traded by companies, and those with more power and agency have often not factored this human need to be acknowledged and feel cared about, into the urban landscape.
ABOVE : Plymouth/Madrid artist Ana Barandiaran who like a few of the artists here also works as a tatoo artists with her work on display at leadworks and on the boards at Honicknowle (the Octopus and eye)
Since ancient times, toilet, temple, church, Parthenon and Civic walls, have often become a battle ground where the internal struggle between people's own struggles and the will of the land have played out. Scratching away the dull pacifying surface, and revealing this need to be heard in words and images,the expressions that unfurled were often much more vibrant, original, and culturally resonant than what they 'defaced'. When a place does not reflect accurately the people who live there and the pride they feel, the mirror is not restored when their expressions are simply hidden, censored and obscured.
ABOVE : Work being created during the paint jam outside Plymouth City Centre in 2021
I am not going to go into a sociological discussion about a cities citizens using their own municipal buildings as vessels of free expression here, but it is important to note that PAT have managed to create all their public art, from large scale old skool style tags on construction site hoardings, to murals on residents walls, and groups of paintings hung across outside spaces in the city, with the full legal permission and blessing of the local authority. It is a credit to all involved that the city has been allowed to be reimagined by it's resident and visiting artists in such a way.
ABOVE: A small section of the huge lockdown gallery in Martin Street, Millbay (thanks for permission from Plymouth City Council), named because much of the work there was created during lockdown when the gallery started.
ABOVE: The first external gallery, 'Random Art Corner' that started this citywide project, in Union street
ABOVE: Another urban external gallery at Honicknowle (thank you to Coyde Construction for permission ). These have provided an amazing outlet for so many different artists from children to pensioners and have gone from strength to strength, even now that lockdowns have eased.
Due in no small measure to the never ending campaigning of Mike Vosper, many of the artists who previously had to do their work at night have now been given the opportunity to work out in the open, during the day, with the permission of not just local authorities, but also private companies and have transformed the walls and hoardings not just around the city centre, but in estates and suburbs right across the city. This open dialogue between artists, the city infrastructure and the residents has kept the conversation started by Plymouth hosting the British Art Show in 2007 and carried on with the Plymouth Art Weekenders since. There is a public appetite for art, and these artists are the chefs cooking up new recipes to satiate that need.
ABOVE: Mike Vosper the inspiration and coordinator behind PAT adresses the private view audience and reflects on
The vibrant and diverse lockdown galleries have also proved to be a powerful way of giving a voice to artists of all ages, and exposure for those working right across the range of mediums and at all different levels of experience. That eclectic mix is reflected here in the exhibition were those who had created work outside were given the opportunity to offer two pieces of work in any medium for the public to enjoy and then bid on.
ABOVE: The Silent Auction blind bid process through which anybody could bid for the artworks on display
Mike Vosper spoke on the opening night at the private view explaining what the groups aims have been and will be moving forward.
“ We have got a long way to go but this movement is opening doors, it is getting us to meet councillors and into offices and in a position where we can impress on people that we need more space.
ABOVE: The artists and others in conversation during the private view at Leadworks
I have a bit of a cheesy quote adapted from a Government site
'Hands, face, space..'
so my policy and advice to the council is Replace, Embrace but also Make Space. So you Replace unauthorised graffiti with authorised and legal paid for street art. You Embrace street art culture with the decent infrastructure provided to then give people, time and funds to create new art, but you also Make Space for the up and coming artists, who want to practice somewhere. Without that space, then they never get the chance to grow and improve, and get their work out there. If you do not give them access to these spaces they can never build a portfolio and nobody is going to say 'yes I will ask you to do a bit of work for me', if they have never seen the artists' work.
The biggest critics of the art, are the guys themselves. They will spend six or seven hours on a piece over a day and probably spend about 80 quid on paint and they will not want to leave because they are worried somebody is going to pick them up over a dodgy line or something.”
ABOVE: Some of the diverse artwork exhibited at Leadworks in Plymouth
One of the artists I spoke to told me how "It is such a pleasure to paint in the daytime...Mike has brought us out of the dark ages"
K9 spoke for many of the artists I think, present or not when he said
“ You should be proud of what you have achieved Mike because what you have done for us artists is unbelievable”
ABOVE: Street artist working at one of the paint jams organised by PAT in 2021
There are nods here on the walls to Frank Auerbach, Matisse, Gauguin and other shining lights from the history of art. The quality and breadth covered here should put to bed any idea that street, location and public art is some kind of second rate amateur version of 'Art' with a big A.
ABOVE: Roisin Cunningham with one of her portraits at the PAT exhibition. Roisin came over to Plymouth in 2006 to study fine art but is well respected and sought after as a fantastic tattoo artist, Her astonishing vibrant and colourful portraits are made even more remarkable when you know that she has made her reputation specialising in black tatoos and dotwork.
ABOVE: The Walls surrounding the carpark in Millbay transformed by PAT street art
ABOVE: The Mayk-Up Artist with the work 'Moonlight Stag' created with cosmetics applied directly to the back of glass
ABOVE: Olivia Kazlauskaiteur who has painted everything from telephone boxes to huge hoardings for PAT with two of her smaller artworks
ABOVE: I love the mark making on this painting of a Hyena by Alix Temple. This was one of my personal favourites.
ABOVE: Graffiti Artist Danny Simpson
ABOVE: PAT work at Leadworks in Plymouth
ABOVE: Azza Gasim artist (above) with her work
BELOW: Jess Campbell-Plover had always wanted to learn how to work with cans and has now finished several very large scale works across the city
ABOVE: Graffiti artist Gas came down from Barnstaple and was working on something at Millbay on the Sunday of the exhibition. He started after seeing a few YouTube videos and thinking, 'well there is no reason I couldn't do that', and gave it a go. For most artists a can of each colour will do about ¾ of one piece and then the cans of remnants get used up on a multicoloured piece to prevent wasteage.
BELOW: Anja Anahata with her works 'Intensity of love' 1 & 2 which were both sold
Mike Vosper and PAT would like to thank Billy Finch and everyone at Leadworks for all their hard work hanging the work and organising the show, and of course the artists for making the work itself.
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