Meet the Locals: Street Art expert Cristóbal Guerra

One of the Mr. Cenz murals at Fashion Street Photo credit: Guidecris

A new category for Totally-London

Welcome to the new category on Totally-London: Meet the Locals. Here, we will meet interesting Londoners and they will tell us about their “hidden gems” in the City. This can be favourite spots for food and drinks or sights which are not to be missed.

Spanish born Cristóbal Guerra aka Guidecris kicks off this new series and I am absolute delighted that Meet the Locals starts off with Street Art.

Interview with Street Art expert Guidecris

I met Guidecris during the guided Street Art Tour around Brick Lane and Shoreditch when he was the guide of the tour. He impressed me massively with his knowledge about the Street Art scene in London itself and also with all he knew about the murals and the artists. In the interview below he tells us what Street Art means to him, where his favourite spots are and reveals places in London that are worth trying out.

Guidecris, please tell us a bit about yourself

I studied Arts and Philosophy in my country of origin: Spain. I came to London three years ago with the intention of getting a job and with the help of a friend I had the opportunity to start working as a tour guide for one of the tour companies that operate in East London.

Thanks to the experience that I gained doing tours about the local history in the East End I had the chance to get in contact with the Street Art scene.

I started to look out for street art locations and via social media for someone interested in making a Street-Art tour company.  An artist introduced me to a person interested in investing and developing a website, and with the creation of the website, the company became a project through social media, and gave us the opportunity to start to create our own concept of a Street-Art tour. Urban Street Art Tours London was born.

What is street art for you?

If you look for a definition in Google the result about Street-Art is the following definition:

“Street art is visual art created in public locations, usually unsanctioned artwork executed outside of the context of traditional art venues. The term gained popularity during the graffiti art boom of the early 1980s and continues to be applied to subsequent incarnations”.

If you search definitions into the quotations in relation to the history of Street-Art, you can find Street-Art curators with different points of view.

There are critics of the Street-Art scene same as if we will be approaching any other scene of arts in the world.

The difference would be that the artworks elaborated under a Street-Art concept are painted in the streets, when, other styles of art, have their artworks indoors, in a Museum or Gallery as is the case of the artworks of Contemporary Art.

I would like to include a Banksy quote that I found in one of my searches in the web as a valid definition of Street-Art:

“Graffiti is one of the few tools you have if you have almost nothing. And even if you don’t come up with a picture to cure world poverty you can make someone smile while they’re having a piss.”
― 
BanksyBanging Your Head Against a Brick Wall

Anyway, I can’t imagine good graffiti in a bathroom, maybe tags, but my personal definition of Street-Art would be: Street-Art is an extensive mix of styles of visual arts, the techniques that are used can be inspired by any of the artists, from artistic movements from a time before the concept of Street-Art was created.

The artworks can have many different influences and techniques that go from stencils, a technique of cutting one or various cardboard layers to create an image, to graffiti techniques that come from the graffiti scene.

The concept of Street-Art started mainly over the existence of Banksy: who has in his career of quotations many other definitions of Street-Art apart from the one aforementioned.

The Street-Artists

There are many Street-Artists when we consider how many artists are doing Street-Art in the world. You could say that every location with Street-Art has representative artists with more or less projection to the rest of the world from the local area where they start to paint.

I would consider Banksy and Obey Giant as the two names that gave a name to the concept of Street-Art.

Today I can see different artists everyday because the area I live in has two different cultural-hubs in Shoreditch and the area of Bricklane.

These areas have a strong tradition related to graffiti and Street-Art and many different artists from all over the world visit every year.

Some of the artists I have found here are: Mr Cenz, Jimmy C, Ben Eine, Obey Giant, Banksy, Zabou Artist…

One of the Mr. Cenz murals at Fashion Street Photo credit: Guidecris

One of the Mr. Cenz murals at Fashion Street
Photo credit: Guidecris

Mr. Cenz and one of his singular creations. This model drawn at Fashion Street is one more of the murals that Mr. Cenz has around London.

 

What makes Street Art special for you?

Street-Art is special since it can be documented with photographs. The photos become a kind of personal version of the artwork that you are taking the picture of.

The fact that I can look into the different painting techniques used by the Street-Artists makes the Street-Art special.

Where is your favourite place for street art in London?

My favourite place, or places are Bricklane, Camden and outside of London – Bristol. These areas have a good presence and variety of artworks and Street-Artists.

But in London there are many artist scenes like Hackney Wick, where the artists live.

Why are these places special?

Because some of the artworks in those places have a community intention. The artworks are respected by everybody for at least a while or even for forever and are preserved like the artworks from Banksy that are still in London.

There are artworks that are a tributes to artists that mean something to everyone such as Amy Winehouse for whom a trail was recently created with the participation of some of the most talented artists from the Street-Art scene.

AmyStreetArt by Philth

AmyStreetArt by Philth in Camden

How often do you go and explore new art?

Daily. Because there are areas that have many different Street-Art spots and even if you are not covering a long distance you can find enough good artists to take a good picture from.

If you travel around to the cities around London you can find many different areas with Street Art like Brighton, Newcastle, Sheffield…

"Tank Girl" by Lora Zombie at Hanbury Street Photo credit: Guidecris

“Tank Girl” by Lora Zombie at Hanbury Street
Photo credit: Guidecris

Lora Zombie’s – “Tank Girl” – is a free-hand artwork with comic-book influences at Hanbury Street.

Dan Kitchener (DANK) - Neo Geisha next to 5th Base Gallery at Heneage Street Photo credit: Guidecris

Dan Kitchener (DANK) – Neo Geisha next to 5th Base Gallery at Heneage Street
Photo credit: Guidecris

Dan Kitchener – “Neo Geisha” – the character of Dan Kitchener shining under the neons created next to the 5th Base Gallery at Heneage Street.

Who is your favourite artist and why?

I do not have a favourite artist. My attraction to Street-Art is that I can like an artwork as my favourite artwork for a while because of many different reasons.

The artists that I considered more talented are: Banksy, Obey Giant, D-Face, ROA.

The list continues with other artists: Mr. Cenz, Stik, Cept Trp, Tek 33, Jim Vision, Mighty Moe, The Real Dill, Dan Kitchener, Otto Schade, Zabou Artist. The artists I discovered are worthy a visit to their profiles on Instagram to see their next artwork.

Street Art by Stik Photo credit: Globalstreetart.com

Street Art by Stik
Photo credit: Globalstreetart.com

Stik is the artist that paints this sticker figures like people that appear on the walls of the neighborhoods of London. The housing debate and the community values are some of the subjects of his artworks.

 

Collaboration between ROA + Jim Vision

Collaboration between ROA + Jim Vision

ROA is the talented Street Artist from Belgium that drew this hedgehog in the neighbourhood of Shoreditch free-handed. The artwork shows great skills with illustration techniques. Recently the artwork had an intelligent renewal by the artist Jim Vision from London. Jim added the prehistoric men at the feet of the animal. An unexpected collaboration between the two artists.

 

"The CCTV chamera sign" by Otto Schade Photo credit: Guidecris

“The CCTV chamera sign” by Otto Schade
Photo credit: Guidecris

Otto Schade is the artist that did this “mummy hand” of the photo, he did the sketch with a simple chalk, and then ended the artwork with the help of some cardboards. The title: “The CCTV chamera sign”.

Do you have a favourite piece of art? If yes, which one and why?

The Sacred Crane of ROA at Hanbury-Street because it represents the disappearance of a species from the local area. ROA paints animals that were natural to the place where he paints.

The reason the artwork is called: “The Sacred Crane” of Hanbury Street or Bricklane is that when ROA was painting the artwork some Bengali kids stopped him to ask him what kind of bird he was painting. He answered that he was painting a heron. The kids asked him to paint a crane instead (which is a holy animal for Bengali people) and that’s why the free-hand artwork from ROA now is a crane.

I can say it’s my favourite as the technique used to make the artwork and the story behind its creation are deep.

Big crane by ROA at Truman Brewery

Big crane by ROA at Truman Brewery

Tell us a bit more about your company “Urban Street Art Tours London”

We opened one year ago. Urban Street Art Tours London offers two tours of 1.5 hours (Northside and Southside). You can also book both tours for a real connoisseurs experience lasting 3 hours. Also we have a special tour of 2 hours called: “The Bricklane Special”. We hope to expand our activities to other areas of London.

What makes “Urban Street Art Tours London” special?

We have the ability to curate a number of spots along the tour, we pay attention and stay tuned to the scene and get real feedback and different points of view of the artworks that are seen during our tours.

Where do you recommend to go for really good food and drinks?

The best places for food are around Bricklane and Shoreditch. In Bricklane you can find an extensive offering of Bangladeshi and Indian food and there are many places where they serve good buns and beer like the Hawksmoor in Commercial Street.

Imagine a person visiting London for the first time. What would you recommend doing and visiting?

I would recommend him or her to visit Westminster Abbey because of its historical importance.

Where is a “hidden gem” in London?

The hidden gems could be anywhere you want to search for them. The local history of London is immense! Now I’m familiar with the Spitalfields Community and the history behind the Huguenots and the other communities living in East London in the 17th and 18th centuries. That is a gem I found in the streets of Princelet Street and Fournier Street.

I found places that are special because of the Street Art in Bricklane, Hackney, Camden…

The gems are also the skyscrapers that are not that far away from Bricklane and are some of the most representative architecture designs from London. Such as the Walkie-Talkie, The Gherkin, The Shard and The Heron Tower.

And don’t forget to visit a church, like Christ Church Spitalfields. Built between 1714 – 1729 it is full of history and also worth the visit for the architecture that was created by the talented architect Nicholas Hawksmoor whom was previously the assistant of Sir Christopher Wren at St. Pauls Cathedral. Christ Church Spitalfields is one of the few examples of English-Baroque that exists in London.

Ready for your own street art tour?

Thank you, Guidecris, for your interview and the insights into the Street Art scene in London. If you are now interested in visiting the Street Art spots with Guidecris, you can book your tour here.

Guidecris (middle) and guests standing in front of "Designated Graffitti Area" by Banksy at the Cargo Bar in Shoreditch. Photo credit: Guidecris

Guidecris (middle) and guests standing in front of “Designated Graffitti Area” by Banksy at the Cargo Bar in Shoreditch. Photo credit: Guidecris

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