Spray Paint & Inspiration
Gavin Conwill, aka street photographer Urban Shutterbug, talks Nottingham’s vibrant street art scene.
Nottingham is being steadily nurtured into a pivotal hub for urban art. The genre once frowned upon but subsequently popularised by ‘Banksy’ et al, is now finding a home in the heart of the midlands.
For an art form to flourish, it needs passionate innovators. One of the early protagonists responsible for Nottingham’s rise is artist ‘Dilk’. Held in high esteem throughout the Graffiti community Stephen Dilks has been a driving force on the local scene. First establishing the Coverage shop in the city’s West End Arcade, then subsequently heading Montana Colours Hockley, Dilk has been friend, mentor & key provider for Nottingham’s graffiti scene.
So we have Spray paint & Inspiration, what we need now are walls – Bricks & concrete provide our canvas.
Here’s the tricky part, at it’s inception Graffiti provided a voice for the disenchanted. With no legal platform to paint, it’s originators scribed on doors, walls, even trains. These public spaces enabled the artists to highlight creative talent & show their contemporaries what to aspire to. Although without permission, inevitably the graffiti artist incurred the wrath of authorities, thus creating a negative perception.
Cue the arrival of Bristol’s Scarlet Pimpernel.
Like many before him stencil artist ‘Banksy’ was initially frowned upon but persisted. Remaining incognito the artist’s humorous, often satirical works continued to appear. This was the tilt shift, often amused the public’s perception altered. To witness a ‘Banksy’ was now a badge of honour. With raising popularity,’Graffiti’ & it’s new sub genre ‘Street Art’ are now very much en vogue.
Thanks to Urban Art’s rise, Nottingham now hosts a number of legal walls throughout the city. Just a short stroll from the train Station, you’ll regularly find works by local artists adjacent to the Hopkinson building. The city’s ‘Rock City’ nightclub also provides space for a constant turnover of graffiti art. In Nottingham’s Creative Quarter, the scene is flourishing. In 2015, Hockley’s Broadway cinema celebrated it’s 25th year. Among it’s celebrations, Broadway commissioned artists to paint an eye catching mural on the front of the building. Two local innovators involved were the aforementioned ‘Dilk’ and close friend ‘Onga’.
With ‘Dilk’, Londoner Tim Onga has been instrumental in raising the profile of Graffiti & Urban Art through the city. Collaborating with Sneinton’s Surface Gallery, Nottingham’s Street Art Festival continues to grow with the help of Onga’s energy & enthusiasm. 2016’s events attracted International artists mixed with some of the UK’s finest to paint our city. Complementing the annual exhibition housed at Surface, Cobden Chambers & Sneinton Market both played host to events throughout July. Following the show’s opening night the ‘Sisters of Street’ paint jam took centre stage. Celebrating the female artist in the eloquence of Cobden Chambers, with live painting, dancing & DJ sets. Already buoyed by street art fever, festivities moved to Sneinton a week later. Over twenty artists converged at the ‘Sneinton Bloc Party’ to brighten the area, complete with street food, entertainment and an independent’s market.
Although a latecomer to this genre, I’m always amazed by the evolving originality. Our protagonists are a varied bunch all brought together for the love of ‘The Wall’. My weapon of choice isn’t the spray can but the camera, not an artist but a proud narrator of this wonderful scene.