It was only a couple of weeks ago, I was lying awake in the dead of night with the window open listening to the continuous rattling of spray cans and quick shuffles outside on the street below. While graffiti should not be confused with street art, it reminded me of the legacy that global artists such as Bansky (originally from Bristol) have left in this city and the informal title of ‘Street Art Capital of Europe’ seems to fit Bristol well. Not only has Banksy’s work encouraged young artists to express themselves in the streets here, but over time it has attracted much wider attention from international artists and journalists. The cultural heritage that is now associated with Bristol when it comes to street art is like none other this side of the Atlantic and in the last couple of years this has been played upon to great effect.
The street art project See No Evil, which ran in Bristol from 13 – 19th of August, was birthed last year by Mike Bennets and Bristol based artist Inkie with a vision to transform the concrete jungle of Nelson Street into a gallery of artistic talent. As part of See No Evil, artists from Bristol and across the world came together to showcase the very best of visual arts, and to turn this area of the city into a visual extravaganza.
Artist She One.
Artist Duncan Jago.
Artist Mark Lyken.
One of those artists was Mark Lyken, originally from Glasgow but developed a taste for painting slightly further afield.
“I started painting in 1986. I grew up in South Africa and got into hip-hop in South Africa which is a completely bizarre idea. Breakdancing had an explosion there too so I got into it that way. I think my first painting was 1986 and I’m still doing what I was doing when I was 14 which is great in some ways.”
It was evident that he is young at heart and that those dreams that every boy has of being an astronaut has perhaps translated itself into Lyken’s designs and paintings which have a particular focus on space, planets and reflections and refractions of light.
“The stuff that I do is kind of reacting to the space and considering the canvas a bit more. Particularly with the guys who are working on different kinds of buildings, they are reacting to the surfaces.”
Whilst a major focus of See No Evil was the actual street art, there was much more that was taking place as part of the event. Mail, Maps and Motions was a sound and visual collaboration from both local and world-renowned musicians and VJs providing punters the opportunity to experience some of Bristol’s history and culture. The culmination of all this was a New York style block party with live art, breakdancing and several music stages.
The Project Manager of See No Evil, Dave Harvey, heads up Team Love and runs ‘The WOW’ venue at Glastonbury as well as other events such as Love Saves the Day festival in Bristol. The idea of building on Bristol’s rich heritage in street art was a major factor in the event taking place. “Bristol is this amazing cultural hub, and it’s showing what we do on an international scale. We have invited some of the best artists from around the world to come and paint and some of the best musicians and DJs and producers from Bristol to be involved. It’s kind of combining art, music, parties, fun times all in one event.”
When asked about the legacy of See No Evil, Dave Harvey was very quick to go to the roots of it all. “In terms of legacy – obviously the street itself. This street this time last year, no one came here, there was nothing on the street, it was really grey and dismal. This year council figures show tens of thousands more people are coming down here every month to look at the art. We have gone a lot a bigger this year so we hope that will increase.”
Whilst the organizers had been expecting in the region of 20,000 people to come to the event, they wanted to ensure that as many people could access the art after the event. “We are setting up a little pop up shop down there so people who haven’t been able to make here can come and see what its all about,” Harvey says, “It will have information, merchandise and so on.”
Artist Pixel Pancho.
The Curator, Inkie, has been integral to Bristol’s strong street art culture and was also keen to stress the importance of See No Evil having a future and legacy. “The future of See No Evil is a more diverse base of art forms including photography, digital and animation with bigger music acts and better installations and street dressings. This is something we would like to take on tour to other cities across the globe. The legacy is the longstanding effect on the youth and their creativity in Bristol through the outreach projects and workshops in which we are directly inspiring the youth and showing them ways to express themselves. This will lead in turn to a bigger creative scene in Bristol for the future.”
Indeed, the future looks strong for Bristol’s street art culture. The plan is to take it across the globe and invite artists and musicians back to Bristol each summer creating an enhanced global network when it comes to street art.
By James Lee