For a few years now, my release from work has been to wander the streets of London with my camera and capture “Street Photography” and the many characters and situations that throws in my direction.
Shoreditch has kind of become my second home, my safe space and my go to location for all things “street”, from the wonderful characterful people, the food (always have to get a Beigel) the coffee and of course the ever changing “Street Art” for which Brick Lane and Shoreditch is renowned.
From spray paint, to paste ups to stencils, the artwork around the East end provides colour, art and often political statements relative to the day and through the recent Covid 19 Pandemic this has continued – albeit slightly abated during lockdown, but now back in abundance and with messages of Hope.
Along these streets you often find quirky paste ups and stencil art which capture a sense of fun, or make their own statement and, as I say, there have been words of encouragement too.
One such artist whose work I have spotted around over the years is “Unify” a creator who uses his art to offer subtle messages of love, peace, hope and I have often admired his work on his Instagram www.instagram.com/unifyartist and Facebook profiles www.facebook.com/unifytheartist
It was via Instagram that he recently contacted me to ask if I’d be interested in documenting photographically, a new piece he was working on, to go high up on a roof space in Shoreditch – well I didn’t take much persuading – all we had to do was get our diaries together and check the weather forecast (which, incidentally lied to us!! – More of that later).
The roof in question was at Village Underground Night Club – an area I know well and we arranged to meet bright and early at 10am – the owners had pre-arranged his access via a fob, but beyond that it was fend for ourselves so with ladders, paint pots, rolls of stencils and my own camera bag, the adventures began. Up a staircase, across a roof and clamber over a couple of walls – who knew the roof was going to be this dramatic though . . . what a space!
The board in question was, for some time, home to artwork by graffiti artist Sr.X “Buy Shit” the board itself was shabby and weather beaten but Unify had a plan, to transform it, and started to work cleaning it up and painting the frame work.
A new “blank canvas” was created and his vision could be created . . .
Throughout the time on the roof, we chatted loads, and I got to know a lot more about “Unify” and he about me – we both have “day jobs” and both love our tattoos; – we use our art (his stencils, my street photography) as an escape, a release and somewhere to show our creativity – he was also forthcoming with tales of other street artists some of whom I knew, and a few I didn’t, and explained how artists got given wall space and also the downside of the street art world, where taggers trash great pieces without respect.
As we were at Village Underground – it seemed apt to also discuss the recent “Banksy” work on a Tube Train and i learned a few bits of info about that too. . . all is not as it seems in the art world.
Unify’s vision for this new piece – one of his biggest, was indeed “Hope” as London releases from Lockdown due to Covid 19 Corona Virus Pandemic we all need Hope. Hope that things will return to normal, or what is being called the “new normal”
So “Hope -Yoga Girl” was being created, in between snaps, it was great helping with the stencils and seeing the creativity and intricate design work, that went into making them, and learning about use of the spray cans and nozzles to create the right effects.
Over the four hours or so we spent on the roof that Sunday, it was interesting to see life continue below – Sundays in Shoreditch are familiar to me, but never before from this angle; it was interesting seeing people spot us and take their own snaps from below wondering what was going on, who we were, and what was being created.
We did also wonder if the Police, who passed by often, may have taken an interest, but they didn’t – we were up there with permission anyway and had the key fob to prove it.
What was supposed to be a bright and sunny morning did however, take a couple of turns for the worst – as I say the weather apps lie!! A couple of times, I had to stop us chatting and remind “Unify” to get a move on, otherwise we may be in for a drenching . . such were the black clouds looming
We just about got away with it, as by 2pm the “Hope – Yoga Girl” was complete just as the heavens opened – so it was a quick clear up of empty spray cans, rollers and camera gear put away and a hop back up the ladder and over the walls – taking a brief refuge in the roof toilet area whilst the showers fell.
Once down, it was a chance to admire what had been created from ground level before heading off to the pub for a couple of drinks and where we continued our chat long into the afternoon
What a great day and one I’ll never forget – here’s hoping its the first of many as I know Unify has plans for more work, in fact he’s been in touch with me since, showing me that he’s already undertaken some “brandalism” elsewhere in London with his artwork. Look out for his Tag next time you’re in town.