One of the most ambitious permanent graffiti projects in the world is currently underway on Nelson Street in Bristol, with international artists bringing the kiss of creativity to dilapidated 11-storey buildings. See No Evil's organizer, UK graffiti legend Inkie, chats to Bella Todd about the blood, sweat and spray cans behind this extraordinary street art happening... Read part one here.
We’re guessing there are lots of answers to this question, but why Bristol?
'When I started there was no internet, no mobile phones, you just saw bits of art in the subway or on a film or a rock video, went home and drew and practised. And ’cos Bristol is quite cut off from London and any other city, everyone would share ideas. Some cities are a bit cheeky and you don’t get that, but in Bristol all the artists get together and discuss and learn. Also, there’s a big Jamaican population here with relatives bringing stuff over from New York.'
What excites you about Nelson Street specifically as a canvas?
'If you walked down it before we started, it was the worst concrete ’60s urban nightmare. Decaying and decrepit. Even in a couple of days it’s completely transformed and people are walking down there that would never have before.'
Whose use of the space has impressed you most so far?
'I think what Aryse from Barcelona has done is the most exciting at the moment. It’s a wolf in a lumberjack shirt with braces, up the side of a whole building, which looks stunning. He’s only 22 and he just came and did it in a day and a half with rollers, didn’t even project it, just did it straight onto the wall. A lot of people doing that scale project the image up to get it right. I don’t. I kind of like the mistakes of the human mind.'
We’re deliberately not asking you why Banksy isn’t involved as it’s so nice to see up-and-coming names up there…
'It’d be nice to have him there, but I don’t want him coming and stealing the thunder of other artists. I’ve picked the artists because of what they do, not who they are. So there are a lot of names that people haven’t heard of - but who they will be hearing of afterwards. There’s a girl called from Paris who is really gonna go places. She’s just arrived today and is gonna be doing these big beautiful graphic faces with four eyes, moustaches and fifties hairdos. You won’t miss it when you see it. There are some cool girls, some cool cats out there, painting.'
You’ve also got some massive international names. What reeled them in?
'Literally I think it was the canvas and the location. Tats Cru haven’t been here since ’85 and El Mac’s never been here. When I was 15 I met Tats Cru in Bristol and they inspired me to do what I do now.'
‘20 years ago, if you’d said we were going to do this, people would’ve laughed you out of town’
Some people would say the words ‘graffiti’ and ‘permanent project’ are a contradiction, that true graffiti is ephemeral and unsanctioned…
'That’s kind of true, yeah. Graffiti to me is wild-style lettering, characters and tags. What I do now is more illustration with spray cans. It’s just the term graffiti has stuck. But I just love the fact we’re down there painting the old magistrates court, where I got done for graffiti, and the police station, and the old juvenile courts. Twenty years ago, if you’d said we were going to do this, people would’ve laughed you out of town.'
How much has the world of graffing changed since you started in ’83?
'When I was 15, the people who were in power and could tell you what to do were older than us and didn’t understand about graffiti. Now I’m 40, so those guys in those offices are my age. They’ve grown up with hip-hop culture. They quite like it. Before, in art class, you’d get given an onion and a few flowers to paint. Now the kids are probably doing stencils. That’s all it is, a generation change. Technology changes, art changes, everything changes…'
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