12December 2018

Hidden Canvases - Street Art in the City

Doug Gillen

Doug Gillen is heavily involved in documenting the street art scene in London and abroad through his project Fifth Wall TV, which focuses heavily on street art, stories, movements and events around London, and he makes the case for the art we see on our streets. Previously, Doug lectured for London Art and More, and when not filming he is an East End tour guide for Alternative London, an tour that focuses on history, culture and street art.

Doug Gillen will talk to us about Street Art in  the City, where there is more to it than sometimes meets the eye!

Art lies at the heart of social unrest, a voice for those who cannot be heard. It can even, accidentally, start a civil war. In February 2011, a young boy armed only with a can of spray paint in his home town of Derra in Syria did just that. ‘What made Mouawiya so special was that, through his spray paint, he acquired something so many of his countrymen and women did not have: a voice’

In art, context is everything. The wild scribbles of youth that plaster bus shelters and hoardings in towns and cities are often mistaken for nothing more than acts of Nihilism. In reality, they contribute to a movement drenched in history, driven by the desire to be seen and heard. One street artist truly seen and heard today is Banksy. Removing the barriers set in place through hundreds of years of institutionalisation, his stencilled murals and pop-up art happenings have bridged the gap between artist and audience like never before. It’s because of this that a crudely cut, single-layered stencil, sprayed onto the wall of a shop in Shoreditch, east London, is now one of Britain’s most adored pieces of art. A monochromatic girl in a dress, letting go of a red balloon – a piece that took less than 20 minutes to paint – had outranked work by some of the most technically gifted painters of all time.

This is down to context. It’s unlikely that you’ll walk to the shops and pass a Caravaggio on the way. To see such work, you have to be proactive; you must enter the world of procedure and protocol: in short, you must go to a gallery. Art is a voice for those who demand to be heard; and what better gallery to exhibit in than the streets in which we live?