A Camden Street Art Tour, London

Do you recall that photo of a woman’s dress that went viral last year? It was the optical illusion that made national news as a result of the debate and near divorces it was causing with some camps perceiving it to be white and gold, others to be blue and black. Even now as I re-inspect it, I remain  flabbergasted at the stark contrast in perceptions it prompts.

Camden Town Street Art banana painting
Camden Town Street Art

Such is the depth of mystery concealed in human cognition and perception processes and the way in which our brains engage in tomfoolery with us – that two individuals could be exposed to the same sensory stimuli yet perceive them in entirely different capacities.

London street art tours

And for me, London’s street art scene, is an ideal example.

Camden Town Tours street art

I have been living in London for aeons now and whilst I claim to be no expert on the area of Camden, I have still walked the streets there at least a dozen times. But never has my mind paused long enough to take in the talent and creativity that was staring me in the face the whole time on the walls and streets of Camden, existing and evolving the whole time.

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The Camden Street Art Walking Tour

Sometimes, you just need a little helping hand to help you distinguish the raw, gritty, talent from the clutter and congestion that clogs up the streets of London and on a grey, drizzly winter Sunday morning, I had a date with Camden Street Art Tours for that very purpose.

Camden Town Tours street art

I couldn’t think of a more perfect companion for this experience than my best friend, an artistic-minded woman with a keen interest in urban regeneration, who has been gallivanting around this city with me since we were 11 years old.

quirky London walking tours

Far from allowing the rain to put us off, we both arrived half an hour early armed with our brollies and giving us an opportunity to have a proper chat about London’s street art scene with our guide, Nelly, whose passion for street art and support for artists emanated from the outset.

Irony Burn Camden Street Art Tour
Artist: Irony

Although I had spotted some of East London’s street art offerings during the Eating London food tour, my first proper introduction to street art actually happened in Argentina when Pumpkin and I joined a Buenos Aires Street Art Tour and became inspired by an artistic world neither one of us had ever really been privy to before. It was all the more fascinating, therefore, to find evidence of street art in Camden during this tour that was created by South America artists Onesto and Aire.

Onesto and Mart Aire South American street artists

I had no idea for example that factors such as the differences in climate and number of daylight hours in South American countries as compared to the UK can greatly influence street art styles and we heard that South American street art is often praised for being more daring and boundary-pushing.

London street art scene

We saw the ingenuity and lateral thinking of street artists such as Ben Wilson, who envisioned blank canvases in pieces of used chewing gum, using those to create intricate paintings, a renowned artist who now creates commissioned pieces on chewing gum. I had never even remotely heard of such a concept prior to this tour let alone seen an exhibit and whilst this one is now a little faded, a nosy snoop online at some of his other gum art will leave you speechless.

Ben Wilson chewing up painting art Camden
Chewing Gum Paintings

Mau Mau’s words of wisdom reminded us of simple humanitarian principles of charitable thinking, sharing and stepping away from corporate thinking, made all the more thought-provoking due to its strategic positioning adjacent to a bank.

Mau Mau Get Rich or Try Sharing
Wise words from artist Mau Mau

We learned of political struggles in some of the most remote regions of the world with the squeaky clean blues and reds of a regular London phone box mirroring the tones of face paint on the fierce face of the adjacent mural, which draws attention to the Free West Papua movement.

Dale Grimshaw street artist Free West Papua
Artist: Free West Papua

Free West Pappua street art Camden

We found faces flush with the concrete beneath them but also the faces that quite literally stood out from the surfaces with the French artist, Gregos’ face sculptures.

Gregos face sculpture mould Camden
Gregos

We observed that to discover the array of street art forms, it pays to look  beyond just walls with lamp posts providing an innovative space for interactive street art.

interactive street art Camden

Some artistic symbolism was found lurking in a more understated fashion in concealed waterside spaces, with what appeared to be an octopus holding a grenade, a pointer, perhaps, towards the threat posed by modern day life on conservation and marine life in modern-day society.

octopus street art Camden

We gleaned an understanding into the distinguishing styles of street art veruss graffiti, two terms frequently but often inaccurately used synonymously by those of us less au fait with the intricacies of street art terminology.

Camden colourful graffiti London

Whilst almost each and every one of these pieces of art left me feeling inspired (and desperately wishing I was more artistic), the ones that I found most appealing were these.

Alice Pasquini street art Camden
Artist: Alice Pasquini

spray can painting Camden

The Camden Street Art Tributes to Musical Legends

The languorous, unmistakable melodies of Back to Black sounded in our minds, as street art murals appeared repetitively in memory of the late Amy Winehouse, a proud Camden resident, who the locals had taken to their hearts.

Bambi Amy Winehouse street art door Camden
Amy Winehouse by Bambi

Some tributes were clear to see without too much brain power required, particularly the eye-catching, colour-splashed paintings by Bambi.

Amy Winehouse Camden Street Art Tour

However, you would have been easily forgiven for dismissively walking past this pub without giving it a second thought.

Hawley Arms pub Amy Winehouse

But for those of you who not blessed with 20-20 vision, take a closer look and you will spot how The Hawley Arms, one of Amy Winehouse’s favourite watering holes, continues to ensure her spirit remains every bit as welcome after her passing as it was during her lifetime.

Hawley Arms Amy Winehouse window Camden

And Amy Winehouse is not the only example of an eminent British musician, whose life has been honoured through Camden street art. Just notice the attentive detail of Gnasher’s John Lennon mural and the way in which the reflection of the buildings opposite have been encapsulated within the illustration of his glasses.

Gnasher Murals John Lennon Oxford Arms Camden

And as our street art tour was drawing to a close, we witnessed one of the most energetic and busy paintings of the day.  You have heard of seasonal menus but were you aware of seasonal art?

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This enormous winter wonderland spread was one of the examples of collaborative street art we were shown, where several artists have joined forces to work on this display.

Camden street art winter painting collaborative

I have to confess that I often struggle to feel an affinity to classical art forms when I’m traipsing through galleries and museums around the world. I have no doubt that this is mostly to do with my own lack of  knowledge and understanding in this field but there is something about street art that I find so curious.

Perhaps it is the dynamic, ever-changing and unpredictable course that I find thrilling. Perhaps it is the vivid burst of colour, the absence of rules, defined parameters or official regulation that brings out a more rebellious interest or resonates with the more disorganised facet to my personality.

faceless painting Camden street art

Either way, a morning spent exploring the best of the Camden street art world has certainly tuned my radar more finely to detect these creative masterpieces, dotted all over the city.

Are you a fan of street art? Which one of these paintings catches your eye the most?

 

If you feel inspired to uncover these hidden masterpieces in Camden Town, I have a treat in store –  the lovely team at Camden Town Tours are offering a neat, little discount code to my readers, which you can find below. It’s only valid until 30th June 2016 so if you are interested, get your skates on – we all know how full the diaries get as soon as the sun starts to make an appearance in England!

1. Go to http://camdenstreetarttours.com/ and choose a date / time that suits you.
2. At the checkout enter the voucher code  WWAL20. It is case sensitive.
3. Wait for you email confirmation with detailed meeting point information and enjoy the tour.

Disclaimer: Many tanks to Camden Town Tours for hosting me for this tour. Whatever you  make of my words, the street art speaks for itself. All views, good or bad, are entirely my own.

 

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30 thoughts on “A Camden Street Art Tour, London

  1. Sounds like a good tour! I did a street art tour in Shoreditch once and really enjoyed it. I like your reference to ‘the dress’, too. That one really hurt my brain!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) March 25, 2016 — 11:28 am

      Haha,mine too Julie – my husband and I still have arguments about what colour the dress is! I’m just amazed that I had never really even processed how much street art is around in so many cities until I did the tour in Argentina and certainly had no clue there was so much in Camden!

  2. I love Camden, such a fun part of London and a hangout for very creative types too! Great street art photos!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) March 25, 2016 — 11:29 am

      Thank you Becky! Definitely so creative, so much so that I felt a bit of a fraud being there since I’m not creative at all! Loved the incredible art that a just filling the back streets there!

  3. How lovely! I’ve been wanting to join one of these tours for ages (after taking 3 in the east end). I love street art!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) March 25, 2016 — 11:31 am

      I keep hearing about the East London street art tours too Mandy – think that might have to be the next one on the list! Definitely try and check out this one in Camden – I had been there so many times before but after taking this tour, I was just so surprised at how easy it is to miss all this!

  4. Camden used to be one of my old haunts when I was at uni in London, I bet this tour would open my eyes to so much in the area! K x

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) March 25, 2016 — 11:35 am

      I went to uni in London too Keri and even when I go back to the Kensington & Hammersmith areas where I spent a lot of my years there, I can’t believe how much it’s all changed (makes me feel quite old!) so I’m sure you’d love being able to re – explore Camden and finding all this incredible art there! 🙂 I thought I knew the Camden highlights but this tour made me realise I really didn’t!

  5. The chewing gum painting is so realistic but I think that the face sculptures are my favourite

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) March 25, 2016 — 11:39 am

      The face sculptures are quite cool but the chewing gum was so unique Suze – can’t believe how talented that artist must be to be able to paint mini masterpieces on used chewing gum on the floor, just incredible!

  6. Looks and sounds like a brilliant tour – I love the way street art brightens some of our dreary buildings and streets.

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) March 25, 2016 — 11:42 am

      Completely agree Suzanne! It was such a drizzly grey day when we went and yet there was something so uplifting about seeing all these colourful & inspired murals! I never used to even contemplate doing tours in my own home city but when you do a tour like this & realise just how much there is left to discover even in areas you thought you knew! :mrgreen:

  7. magical! Thanks for posting!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) March 25, 2016 — 11:44 am

      Thanks Andy! Hope you liked some of these street art pics ☺

  8. Love finding lots of street art in London, and it never gets boring as there’s always something new to see! You found some great ones!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) March 25, 2016 — 11:46 am

      Thanks Ayla, I love how dynamic it is so that you can see the same wall at 2 different moments in a year and find completely different murals!

  9. This is such a fun post Shikha! You see street art posts a lot, but very rarely do you get the explanation for each piece of art like you have done here! That painting featuring the chewing gum is just unreal!! I’m the same way with you, I don’t get that exciting about looking at classical art in museums, and dare I say it, feel bored even. But street art is so fun to hunt for!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) March 25, 2016 — 11:51 am

      Oh thank you Anna! Delighted to hear you enjoyed this post and share in my ambivalence towards visiting conventional galleries etc. :mrgreen: I know it’s all individual preference and knowledge but I just find street art so engaging! The artist who works with chewing gum literally gets down on the floor with his equipment and paints etc & paints little works of art on these discarded old bits of chewing gum stuck to the floor – I found it such a quirky & innovative art form & had never heard of a concept like this before!

  10. Was looking at doing a street art tour in east London with my family, but we are obsessed with Camden so this would be perfect! Thanks for the heads up, looks like an awesome tour!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) March 25, 2016 — 11:54 am

      Oh if you and your family enjoy street art & already really like Camden then you absolutely must do this tour Kylie!! It was honestly one of the best things I’ve done in London in the way that it showed me a side to the city that I never even knew existed! And almost every painting just left us gazing in awe and debating our favourites etc. Hope you do make it & that you enjoy it if you do! 🙂 Thanks so much for reading!

  11. I love street art – it’s a brilliant way to get a handle on what a place is about. The dress, however, that shizz is the work of the devil XD

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) April 3, 2016 — 7:22 pm

      Haha, I know Frankie – that dress has a life of its own! I honestly think I was too dippy to even notice street art till a couple of years ago when I took a tour in Argentina and once that opened my eyes to it, I’m now spotting murals left, right and central, just evidently not in my own city without a tour!

  12. I can’t believe how amazing London street art is coming along – just so beautiful! (Ps. for more chewing gum art go for a wander along the wobbly Bridge in front of Tate Modern)

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) April 3, 2016 — 8:21 pm

      Ooooooh….thanks for the tip off Emma, I’m definitely going to remember to keep my eyes peeled for that when I’m next in the area. I’d literally never even heard of the concept of art on used chewing gum but I think it’s flipping brilliant as far as innovative concepts go!

  13. Really enjoyed reading this. Came back from Camden last week and missing it!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) September 2, 2016 — 7:12 pm

      Thank you! It’s such a cool part of London isn’t it with so much character and so much always going on there!

      1. Definitely! I’m from the country and our city isn’t very big so it was a huge difference! Felt right at home there though, and if I didn’t have all my animals I’d move there in a flash!

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