Sunday, 29 March 2015

12. Bangkok: Street Art by Permission 

by Amandine Urruty and Nicolas Barrome (France) 

Bangkok is not exactly what you'd call a great street-art city. Or even a good one. There are very few places in this monster-sized urban area where you'll find even modest stretches of art.

Tracking down street art in Bangkok means trekking across miles, through highly congested streets, breathing in polluted ("toxic"might be a better word) air, avoiding being run over by more types of vehicles than you can imagine, and tending to the wonky knee that you didn't have before you climbed three flight of stairs at the mono-rail station because the escalator wasn't working. Not to mention the baking sun and punishing humidity. It humbles you.

Bangkok came late to the street-art party. It really had no presence in the city until early 2013, when 15 European and 11 Thai artists painted large murals on approved spaces, in a festival called Bukruk (Invasion). Truthfully, the best works were by the Europeans, like the one kicking off this post, and these by:

Romanian artist Saddo:

Germany's Low Brothers:

And Daan Bolrek from Holland:

Then there was the one that almost got away. We street-art seekers are a bit like fishers - we always lament the one we didn't capture. Portugal's Kruella D'enfer painted this magnificent image, inspired by the race of giants (Laks) who supposedly protect Buddhist temples. We are grateful to without whom we would not have this picture:

Still, there was one discovery that we were truly proud to have made. We were out on one of our mid-day street-art prowls, when we spotted several young girls playing with a group of kittens behind a building. We went over to check out the kittens and, looking behind a haphazardly placed table, spotted these amazing beauties stashed up against the wall: 

While the Thai artists taking part in the Bukruk festival may have lacked the technical prowess of their European counterparts, there was still a certain authenticity and primitiveness to their work. It helped that their primary canvas was the outer walls of several abandoned buildings, below a monorail station in a run-down part of town - hearkening back to the early days of North American street art. 

Bangkokians Alex Face and Bon contributed their leitmotif baby rabbit and boned fish:

Their Thai countryman Mamafaka (MMFK) added his signature creation, MR. HEALYEAH, while P7 gave him a psychedelic dog as a companion:

Tragically, MMFK died a few months later in a surfing accident off the island of Phuket. We'll see more of his work when we look at street art in Chiang Mai. Meanwhile, P7 painted over both the images with his own character:

These murals may look a bit more spontaneous and subversive than the ones executed by their European counterparts, but don't let that fool you. Each and every one one was fully approved by the powers that be. Military dictatorships can be like that.

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

11. The Maltese Festival (Part-Three)

This is our third and final post on the street-art festival in Sliema, Malta. 

One of the goals of the festival was to elevate the profile of art created on non-traditional outdoor surfaces, like trucks, vans, phone booths, benches etc. We were a bit skeptical at first about the notion of art on vehicles. First, because it's not exactly a new idea - people have been painting vans since the first flower-child drew a petal on a VW in the 1960s. So what could be different today? And second, because metal can be a difficult surface on which to paint.

We were turned into believers, though, by the 3D murals of Bali-born, now Greek resident, WD (aka Wild Drawing):


Also "driving" home the point were Wesone:


And Valencia's own Felipe Pantone:

Other objects to receive the street-art treatment included telephone booths by Sofles:

and Denmark's Claus Frederiksen:

This garbage can by an artist we've yet to identify:

And even the Sliema rock wall, which survived the Germans in World War II, was easily captured by the yarn-bombing Julia Riordan:

For this year's activities, July 24-26 2015, the Sliema festival will evolve into the Malta street art festival, relocating to the island's historic capital of Valleta. Let's hope that the art and artists are at least as good as they were in the first two years. They really rose to the challenge and delivered their best.
But let's also add a giant wish that the organizers can move their way up from the bush leagues to the big leagues. Would it really be that difficult to issue a schedule showing what's happening, when and where. Or to put up signs and maps pointing the way to the action areas for non-islanders. Most importantly, if the majority of painting takes place miles away from the city and not where it's supposed to be, could they maybe, oh..TELL PEOPLE ABOUT IT SO THEY DON'T MISS MOST OF THE BEST ART? We can only hope.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

2. And So it Begins.....(Part II)

(This used to be the second post in our blog, but the knuckleheads at Google relocated it to after post #10, which made no sense. We suspended it for a while to see if the problem could be fixed, but apparently not. We thought the artwork was too good to be missed, so we're letting 'er rip. But please bear in mind that this was supposed to come after our very first post).

Let's pick up where we left off, looking at some of our favourite street artists and their work in Valencia. Only this time, let's stir in a little controversy. Vinz is a renowned Valencia artist who likes to paint naked human bodies topped by bird heads. 

Venus Striptease
Vinz (2013)
In his imaginary world, birds symbolize freedom - fighting for equality against anyone who stands in their way. But thanks to some Puritan who decided to take responsibility for the whole community's moral standards, the portrait now looks like this:

Venus Striptease
Vinz (2013)

As do many other of Vinz's artworks in Valencia. With it's generally liberal ways, you sometimes forget that Spain is a Catholic country. Other times you wish you could forget that it is a Catholic country.

Karas Urbanas is a professional stenciler who teaches at the Faculty of Architecture at the University National Autonoma de Mexico. He's enlivened Valencia's street scene by drawing on his cultural myths and symbols:

Karas Urbanas (2014)
Lolo Fonico was born in Seville, lives in Valencia and has been painting city streets for nearly 30 years. He seems to enjoy adding these unusual creatures to the Valencia landscape, both in his own work and in joint projects with other artists:

Lolo Fonico (2013)
This portrait by Gore was painted as part of a much larger mural by friends Doks and Suni of the Ojayo Players. They hail from Almansa, a small town south of Valencia:
Gore (2012)
La Nena Wapa Wapa - and we're going to go out on a limb here and guess it's not her real name - has distilled street art to its simplest elements. Her works often consist of two colours (black + another colour) and her images are largely of a woman from an earlier era, birds and a birdcage.

La Nena Wapa Wapa (2012)

Many internationally renowned street artists have chosen Valencia's buildings as their very large canvases. BLU, who is from Italy and studied in Valencia, rewarded the city with two massive works with unique twists. Moses' beard is yellow and made up of snakes:

BLU (2011)
And Buddha's mouth has been hyperextended to the point where it can span a gap in a building:

BLU (2011)
There is/are no signatures on one of Valencia's most beloved images, and there has been much speculation about its creator(s). Most of the smart money is on a collaboration between Julieta and Escif:

My Sweet End
Julieta and Escif (?)

It's not unusual that, despite the hours of effort put into creating their work, many superb street artists do not sign their name or even a pseudonym. That reason is quite simple: painting street art is still illegal - even in a city like Valencia, where the people and the police are quite supportive of it. Unfortunately, it means we have no idea who painted these works:

If you happen to know, please drop us a line at

10. The Maltese Festival (Part Two)

We're just back from our three-month romp through Southeast Asia. We took hundreds of pictures of street art (among other things) and will post the best once we've had a chance to sort through them.

In the meantime, we'd like to pick up where we left off before our trip, with another look at the annual Sliema Street Art Festival. Earlier, we presented the best of the 2013 festival. Now we're going to showcase some of our favourites from 2014.

Undoubtedly, the most powerful (and largest) work was by France's MTO. His wall mural, The Mediterranean Door, was a symbolic protest against European immigration policies that force illegal migrants to risk their lives at sea:

Also powerful (and also large) was Berlin's Die Dixons' spotlight on violence against children:

The beautiful sea around Malta once again inspired some artists, like local tattoo master Justink's (aka Justin Bonnici):

And provided a backdrop for others, like French artist Sone:

Many artists picked up on the nautical theme as well, like Kazakhstan-born Alex Maksiov, who whimsically welcomed those in attendance:

and equally light-hearted Danes, Sea Puppy, Prosimian:

and Skum:

Italian streetscape painter Vera Bugatti took the word "street" quite literally, adding colour directly onto Sliema's waterfront promenade: 

There was one mystery in Malta that we weren't quite able to solve. We saw a number of colourful portrait murals but couldn't figure out who painted them. They weren't signed; aren't on the Sliema 2014 Facebook page; and, don't appear on a Google search. If you can help enlighten us, please drop us a line at