We all know Belfast is synonymous with murals – but now a new tour is coming to the city to celebrate the wonderful commissioned, and some not so commissioned, pieces of street art. I went along for a preliminary test drive.
Our guide for the morning was Adam Turkington of Seedhead Arts. Director of Culture Night, Adam has incorporated a festival of street art into the event – Hit the North, so who better to show us the quality works that adorn our city walls.
The tour is centered around the Cathedral quarter, North Street and the surrounding area. Departing from the Black Box we didn’t have to walk too far to see the first epic piece – The Duel of Belfast (Dance by Candlelight) by Irish artist Conor Harrington. Conor has evolved from a street graffiti artist to exhibiting in galleries and with his work commanding sums up to €100,000 I think we’re pretty privileged to have such a magnificent piece in Belfast that’s accessible to everyone. With two people fighting in the forefront and one onlooker take what you will from the piece. I really took note of this piece a couple of years back on Culture Night when the Medieval Combat Group were emulating the mural behind them.
A few pit stops later having seen examples of various techniques such as stenciling and gridding out, and seeing works from locals such as Kev Largey, hailed as “The Belfast Bansky”, it was difficult to ignore the murals of Commercial Court. Adamant that these art works were not “street art” Adam and the rest of our group could appreciate the satirical representations of all things “Norn Irish”.
Alongside St Anne’s Cathedral we saw my one of my favourite pieces of Belfast street art – Son of Protagoras by the unbelievably talented M.T.O. Born in France he spent some time getting a feel for the city on his visit – the result of which adorns the wall of a car park in Hill Street. Drawing on the physical and religious divides of Belfast with the son of an agnostic holding a dove shot with arrows bearing the Protestant and Catholic symbols I think he has created a real thought provoking piece. And it just so happened the model for the piece was on our tour! It’s definitely food for thought when you’re dancing to reggae music with people from all backgrounds in front of it – another Culture Night treat!
Continuing from the Cathedral Quarter we saw the beautiful True to our Words on the side of the Irish News building on Donegall Street. A piece by Christina Angelina, hailing all the way from California, Adam told us the story of how the intricate detail of three female faces was projected onto the wall, Christina had a unique way of completing her work, something about a cherry picker and a ladder but probably best to leave that story there!
Amongst these poignant pieces we saw plenty of playful and colourful art adorning the sides of buildings and shop shutters. (A reason why the tour takes place before the shops open!). I admired the Galaxy Paws from Belfast artist Friz, cleverly using the space and air vents in her creation. Steam can be seen coming from the eyes on occasion!
The urban underground nature of street art of course means that not all pieces are commissioned or have permission. The illegality surrounding street art means pieces are often completed in just a matter of hours which I think shows just how truly talented these artists are. It also means however that as quick as they appear they can disappear and being accessible to everyone also means they’re accessible to rival artists happy to tag and vandalise to make a statement. Adam informed us it’s to be expected to lose about 10 to 15 percent of commissioned work, that said in the time he put the tour together there was already 30 new pieces to be seen.
It was a delight to be taken around perhaps lesser known streets of the city to see such an array of impressive art. It’s fascinating to see the stamp of international artists alongside our homegrown talent and I hope more property owners and businesses will see the value of having art decorate their exteriors as well as their interiors.
This tour is a welcome addition to the Belfast events calendar make sure you keep an eye out for it come January. All details will be available from seedheadarts.com – tours are due to be priced around £8 and if your tour guide isn’t Adam it will hopefully be one of the street artists themselves.
You can see more images from the tour on my instagram here
And for a visual feast check out the accounts of these artists from the tour:
Now who can I get to do a commission for my home…??? I think Mr Harrington is a little out of my league!