I got another book out of the library today- a street art city guide devoted to Berlin dating from 2007. This means that some of the pieces might not exist any more or new work has sprung up instead. Unlike ‘Rackgaki: Japanese Graffiti’, where the featured artists were hard to find even on Google Images, there are some familiar faces in ”Urban Illustration Berlin’. Two of them, Swoon and D*Face, I had seen examples of their work during my second London trip.
Here’s some examples of Swoon’s work from Berlin.
Based in New York, the figures in Swoon’s paintings are based on her friends and family. An in-depth interview with Swoon in ‘Urban Illustration Berlin’ reveals her fine art background before turning to the streets for inspiration; “I loved the layers, the natural beauty of a thousand coincidental markings and factors. From where I was at the time it seemed like the street was the only place that real beauty was occurring. It was the only place open to spontaneity.”
I personally love the urban city scenes drawn into the bodies of the people in Swoon’s wheatpaste cut-outs; it gives a really textured dynamic that was apparently influenced by “Wayang shadow puppet theatre in Indonesia”. This maybe hints that the people and their city environment are interwoven. Swoon says; “When I draw I am cutting a little window and trying to let something come through.I want to translate to people who see my pieces what I saw in a particular moment. I want people to feel how that moment stopped time for me.”
D*Face, on the other hand, has a completely different style. Clean marker lines. Amusing characters. Pop culture satire. Working in London, D*Face has established himself as a more commercial artist, his website selling merchandise like t-shirts and stickers. His influences however lie in skateboarding culture, comic artwork and punk music as well as the work of Shepard ‘Obey Giant’ Fairey.
Here’s examples of D*Face’s work in Berlin, using two of his distinctive characters.
D*Face says in ‘Urban Illustration Berlin’; “I wound up working in design and advertising, the so-called ‘creative’ industry. Laughingly, this seemed remarkably uncreative to me. So I looked for a form of escape, a creative release free from any boundaries. I’d always drawn characters since I was a child and I liked the idea of creating these creatures, like dysfunctional Disney characters, that would be peering down at you from the streets.I really wanted to get people to question their presence: why were they there, who put them there?” Here’s the URL for D*Face’s official website http://www.dface.co.uk/news
Although the work presented here was done in Berlin, I am still reminded of all the great visuals I saw on the streets of London. It would be really interesting to go back again, now that I have a better understanding of street artists and how they work. I’ll let the sounds of Dubstep DJ Distance take me back there, with his thudding beats and Middle Eastern guitars.