Politics and Street Art: Brexit in Brick Lane

dav

Street art is a format the frequently expresses political viewpoints (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

If you’ve spent any time in the UK over the last few years, then you won’t have been able to escape Brexit. Britain’s exit from the European Union may well be the most significant thing that’s happened in this country in decades, and it hasn’t even actually happened yet. Brexit has seeped into every aspect of life. Brick Lane in Shoreditch is one of the best places in London to see street art (and to get bagels!). The street and surrounding area has a fascinating social and cultural history, and in the last twenty years or so has become one of the most painfully cool parts of London. It is a hub of independent shops and cafes, art galleries, and gentrification. Brick Lane itself is an informal open air art gallery, covered in street art that is painted or covered over regularly. Street art is a format that often engages with politics, and the artists who produce it are not afraid of expressing subversive or critical views in their work. On a recent visit to Brick Lane in December 2018, I noticed a distinct anti-Brexit theme to much of the street art I found.

dav

This is an example of paste-up art, which has been produced elsewhere then attached with wheat paste or wallpaper paste. It looks hand drawn rather than printed. The artist, Honesy, has a bold, simplistic style that I quite like (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

dav

This is also an example of paste-up art, although it was obviously printed rather than hand drawn. This means the artist can produce as many identical copies as they like, although I only saw this poster once on Brick Lane. It was produced by a pair of artists called Quiet British Accent, who make street art based around pre-decimal pennies, a red white and blue colour scheme, and the acronym QbA (in this case it has been expanded to Quiet Balanced Advice) (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

dav

To be honest, this is the least artistically accomplished artwork that I came across in Brick Lane that day. It looks like permanent marker on a bathroom or kitchen tile, but I don’t know if the tile was installed by the artist, or if it was already there and the design was drawn on in situ. There is so much street art and grafitti in Brick Lane that it is often layered on top of each other, with new stuff partially or completed obscuring older artworks. My gut instinct is that this tile was already on the wall, and the artist made use of it rather opportunistically. That doesn’t mean that there wasn’t time and thought put into the design, however. This might not be as high-quality as the other artworks featured here, but someone still put some effort in (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

dav

This is another example of paste-up street art, this time produced by Uberfubs, also know as the Street Jeweller. This artist is known for images of skulls, often adorned with rhinestones or crochet. Their works also often contains a political message, such as this one. (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

img_5288

I haven’t been able to find out who produced this poster, another example of paste-up art. Many of the key architects of Brexit have been accused of acting to serve themselves, rather than in the best interests of the country (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

volde-mogg cropped

This poster was obviously produced by the same artist as the previous one. It features the inexplicably influential Jacob Rees-Mogg, comparing him to Voldemort, the evil villain from Harry Potter (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

img_5256

This mural was produced by American street artist BK FOXX, who is known for her photorealist style. It was painted in September 2018. It doesn’t explicitly mention Brexit, but it is hard to interpret it any other way. (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

London’s Protest Stickers

Stickers are a ubiquitous part of the urban environment, like this sign in Cable Street.

Stickers are a ubiquitous part of the urban environment, like this sign in Cable Street.

Stickers are a ubiquitous part of the urban environment, often more common than graffiti in city centres. They are quick, easy and cheap to produce and put up, so they are an effective way of getting a message across. They are employed for a variety of purposes, such as advertising, art and dissent. The meaning of many is not obvious, they remain indecipherable to all but the author and those with the right knowledge to decode them. They also come in many shapes and sizes, with many different techniques used to produce them. Like graffiti they are meant to be ephemeral, gradually disintegrating under the weight of the weather, idle hands and cleaners. As I move around London I photograph many of the protest stickers that I see, gradually building up a map of dissent in our capital. Below are some of the stickers I have seen.

A free education sticker outside of the University of London Union building in Malet Street on  17/02/15.

A free education sticker outside of the University of London Union building in Malet Street on 17/02/15.

Occupy Parliament Square Sticker seen on the 2/2/15 at King's Cross Station.

Occupy Parliament Square Sticker seen on the 02/02/15 at King’s Cross Station. This sticker has been weathered, picked, and written on- demonstrating how protest stickers can spark political debate.

Some stickers are printed, whilst others look more handmade, like this one seen in Brick Lane on 5/6/14.

Some stickers are printed, whilst others look more handmade, like this one seen in Brick Lane on 05/06/14.

Some stickers advertise a particular protest, like this one in Malet Street, seen on 17/02/15.

Some stickers advertise a particular protest, like this one in Malet Street, seen on 17/02/15.

Not all protest stickers are left-wing, like this one seen at Euston Station on 14/11/14.

Not all protest stickers are left-wing, like this one seen at Euston Station on 14/11/14.

Something as simple as speech bubbles can drastically alter meaning, as with this government advert, seen on 4/2/15 in Elephant and Castle

Something as simple as speech bubbles can drastically alter meaning, as with this government advert, seen on 04/02/15 in Elephant and Castle. These stickers allow a sort of audience participation, so others can add more tax dodging companies.

This sticker has creatively recycled a page from a book to oppose Israel. Seen in Soho on 31/12/14.

This sticker has creatively recycled a page from a book to oppose Israel. Seen in Soho on 31/12/14.

Protest stickers are particularly common in some areas, such Malet Street in Bloomsbury, where the University of London Union building is. This photo was taken there on 17/02/15.

Protest stickers are particularly common in some areas of the city, such Malet Street in Bloomsbury, where the University of London Union building is. This photo was taken there on 17/02/15.

Som stickers can be seen in multiple locations across the capital. This photo was taken outside the Inner London Crown Court in Southwark, but it has also been seen at Euston Station.

Some stickers can be seen in multiple locations across the capital. This photo was taken outside the Inner London Crown Court in Southwark, but it has also been seen at Euston Station.