Monday, May 27, 2024

Brick Lane

I got out of the house yesterday by taking a midday trip to Shoreditch and Brick Lane, in East London. I used to go there all the time for the excellent photography opportunities -- the colorful streetscapes, murals and densely clustered street art. For some reason I hadn't been in years, and when we went to dinner at nearby Brat on Saturday it made me nostalgic for that area. So back I went.

I loved this maniacal clown (the hair looks like Boris Johnson...?) and several other pieces by this same crayon-wielding and possibly demented artist.

The whole area has changed a lot. I encountered numerous street-art walking tours, which are a thing, and many older buildings have now been replaced by big, shiny modern apartments. Ironically, the older buildings were the canvases for much of the street art, but despite the gentrification there are apparently still plenty of places to paint and paste.

There were tons of people out, which isn't a surprise on an intermittently sunny bank holiday weekend. Getting there was interesting in itself, because a big football match was scheduled at Wembley -- the English Football League's championship playoff, between Leeds and Southampton -- and in the tube stations I encountered a couple of trains rammed with singing, chanting football fans, all in team jerseys. At least I was headed in the opposite direction.

That's just a general view of Brick Lane, above. You can get used furniture or a bagel, whatever you prefer. (Interesting spelling of bagel -- not one I can ever remember seeing before.)

I found some beautiful murals...

...including some that were quite large. Some were too large, at least for my camera, covering basically an entire building. At least this one (above) by artist Jim Vision on a curved corner wall fit into a single frame.

There were lots of small pieces too, funny and bizarre. This one made me think of blogger Linda Sue, not for lustful reasons but because she loves her neighborhood raccoons.

Here's a long wall of smaller works that I couldn't possibly fit into a single photo. Pause the video when it gets to the posters of the world leaders -- I lingered on them so you'll have plenty of time. They're worth a closer look. There's also a video of a gigantic, colorful mural by Dotmasters.

As I was lingering on some of the smaller pieces of street art, a couple of young guys passing by said, "Hey, do you want this?" They held out a can of Lynx "Africa" body spray. "We're going to a party and we can't take it with us," they said. (They did smell good, I must admit.) When I demurred they insisted, and that's how I wound up with a free can of Lynx "Africa" body spray, which I will probably never use. No one's ever handed me deodorant on the street before. Should I be offended?

On my walk back to Liverpool Street station I passed Kenny Hunter's sculpture "I, Goat" -- or as I called it when I posted it way back in 2011, right after we moved here, "Goat of the Empire" or "Goat of the Realm." I love that it's still there, looking as proud as usual.


gz said...

Impressive murals!

One of the top time trialling cyclists of the 60s and 70s used to work in his family's bakery on Brick Lane..doing a very early shift before heading out to compete on what to everyone else was an early start ..but to his body was mid morning!
Alf Engers is happily still around.

Going the other way to crowds of football supporters is always a good idea. If nothing else with too many around you can't appreciate where you are walking through.

I like the goat..a definite presence!

Yorkshire Pudding said...

The first wall in the video is quite something and it speaks powerfully about the world we currently inhabit. Lots of confusion, a veritable phantasmagorical mosaic of impressions and responses. As for the canister of Lynx Africa - what an absolute insult to your personal hygiene!

Sabine said...

These are some brilliant photographs and video! What an amazing variety of artwork. I love that part of London.
Beigel is the German or possibly Austrian/Jiddish spelling of a bagel.

Moving with Mitchell said...

What a beautiful post! I love the art, although I could live without the maniacal clown. Thanks for taking the time with the video. The wall is amazing and the world leaders are brilliantly done. I would have enjoyed that day. Glad I got to experience it through your eyes.

Elle Clancy said...

Steve, your travels and interactions make me think I have the most boring life.

Love those murals. I too would have enjoyed this day.

Rachel Phillips said...

I used to wander around this part of London, firstly in the mid 1980s when it started to be talked about but there was nothing to see and then later when I was a student at Chelsea in the early 2000s I took photos like you have here but there was less street art then.

Andrew said...

I like the goat sculpture. The area certainly does look busy, and yes, I've never seen that bagel spelling before.

A nice post from a Hampstead boy walking on the wild East End side.

Boud said...

What I know about London is largely through writing and songs! Shoreditch is from Oranges and Lemons, Brick Lane is a novel. Strange to think they're places.

Bob said...

I love the madness of the first one, and love the names of the various world "leaders."

But a Goat Statue has to take the cake!

Ms. Moon said...

All of this would do me in within five minutes. The humans, the visual stimuli, the sound. I am so far removed from that sort of experience that I can hardly believe it exists. Thanks for going so I don't have to!

Marcia LaRue said...

Such an interesting walk on the "wild" side with you! Better to see all that jumble through your camera 📸 lens then in person!

Ellen D. said...

Those murals are amazing. There is so much to see that one could spend hours studying it all. Thanks for the videos, Steve!

Sharon said...

That is a lot of street art. Those extra long ones take in a lot of different things and ideas. I also can't believe the crowds. It was crazy busy.

The Bug said...

Love all the art! It's fascinating that of all of our "bad actors" over here MTG would show up in that lineup. I mean, she deserves it, but it's interesting!

ellen abbott said...

I love pedestrian streets. it seems to be a thing in Europe. at least what I've seen through you in London and the ones in Portugal. I do like I, Goat.

Marty said...

I'm sure Madonna, as she clings desperately to relevance, would be gratified to see herself still preserved on that wall.
Fabulous murals.

Susan said...

The street art adds to pulse of the city. An artist must spend a good amount of their time to produce some of the larger pieces. I also love the Goat statue. It is bold and stately at the same time.

Margaret said...

That's a very vibrant area with so much to look at/digest! Beigel, hmmm. I've never seen that spelling of it either. Is it Yiddish?

Kelly said...

What an incredible area! I enjoy murals and street art, so thanks for sharing so much of it with us! The goat at the end made me laugh. We use to have goats and they're amusing creatures.

Ed said...

I love the art but am not sure I could handle the crowds.

Allison said...

There is some great street art there. Thanks for showing it.

Jim Davis said...

Thank you for this post, the street art is just fabulous!! Love the goat!

River said...

Brick Lane looks like the kind of place you'd have to wander through slowly over several days to properly see it all. Loved the video.

Steve Reed said...

GZ: The early bird and all that!

YP: Ha! It was one of the stranger things that's ever happened to me on my walks.

Sabine: Ah, that makes sense!

Mitchell: Weirdly, I love the maniacal clown!

Elle: Well, one thing about being out on the street -- it forces interaction with the rest of humanity, for better or worse!

Rachel: And it has changed SO much since the early 2000s. It's even changed a lot since I began going there in 2011.

Andrew: Ha! I'm a "Hampstead Boy" imposter -- only a renter.

Boud: They are indeed real places! We have "Brick Lane" in our library.

Bob: There's just something about it, isn't there? A normally humble animal given such a place of pride.

Ms Moon: Yeah, I know it's not everyone's cup of tea! When I'm in it, I actually enjoy the energy of the crowd.

Marcia: Well, it wasn't THAT wild, really. It's a pretty gentrified area despite all the graffiti.

Ellen D: And I only photographed a tiny, tiny fraction of it all.

Sharon: It was CRAZY busy! Holiday weekend!

Bug: I had the same thought: MTG, of all people! But she IS such a caricature and thus easily mocked.

Ellen: And in quite a few cities in the states, too! When I was growing up Tampa had a pedestrian mall down the center of downtown, though it has since reverted to a street for cars.

Marty: Madonna in her "Desperately Seeking Susan" days!

Susan: Yeah, I wonder how long some of those larger murals take -- I imagine they need to be planned out before painting can even begin.

Margaret: Sabine says in her comment that's one of the possibilities. Seems likely.

Kelly: It's funny and noble at the same time!

Ed: At least they were largely well-behaved crowds. I bet the football game was much rowdier!

Allison: I was very impressed by some of the pieces.

Jim: So do I!

Steve Reed said...

River: Oh, definitely, to go into all the shops and explore all the nooks and crannies would take at least a few days.

Jeanie said...

That looks like a terrific walk. Great street art. I like that weird clown too, but there is much there to love. I remember in a book I read, the character lived on/near Brick Lane. Now I have an image of it!