Saturday, 15 April 2017

NUART Aberdeen - Part 1, Production Week!

By now the sight of a giant yellow cherry picker at the Indoor Market is a common sight with hundreds of photos appearing across Instagram and Facebook. NUART Aberdeen kicked off last week with the arrival of our first artist Martin Whatson. I had the pleasure of seeing Martin at work up a cherry picker in Stavanger for NUART 2014, a sight that definitely makes you stop and stare. Having initially met team NUART on their first few visits to Aberdeen I'd offered to help in any way I could and was given the role of artist host. I would be meeting them at the hotel, showing them around and hopefully giving them a little insight into our fair city.

So on a sunny Wednesday we headed to airport to meet the infamous Martin Whatson. Being the first to arrive I was a little unsure what to expect, after all I've been a huge fan of street art for 10+ years and to be honest the whole concept of NUART in Aberdeen has been blowing my mind for months. So when this tall blonde Norwegian appeared out of the arrivals gate with a huge smile on his face and a My Neighbour Totoro t shirt I knew we'd get on fine. I think the exchange of akward selfies before hand might also have helped break the ice. We got Martin to the hotel and then took him out for a quick tour around and to see his wall. The McKays building in Aberdeen is a bit of legendary place with the camping shop having a certain air of mystery about it, perpetuated by the interesting array of vintage clothes downstairs mixed with more modern camping equipment on the 1st floor.  

With 8 large scale key sites it would be easy to take for granted the enormity of painting a wall like McKays! Measuring 18m wide by 7.6M high its small by no means but Martin seemed unphased by the task ahead. With his wife recently returning to work he was on a tight deadline to finish his wall and get back to the kids, street art and family life eh! Primarily working with stencils Martin tends to blend a black and gray stencil element with colourful tags which create an unusual energy in his work. As soon as Martin turned the key on his cherry picker he was off marking out the lines for his iconic golfer. I'd just like to point out to any Aberdonian friends when we say golfer its important to emphasise the L or else you might end up in a weird chat with Martin about gophers, true story. 

Martin really put the hours in on his wall and even had to paint the 'golpher' twice due to the wall absorbing so much spray paint. The tags were a bit easier, used to created the ball being hit motion of the golfer. It was great to hang out and watch as Martin painted and chatted with the locals who stopped to admire his work, especially the families with small children, their kids faces lighting up as Martin added their names to the mural. This was the first sign that something a bit more than just some murals was taking place. It feels like he was off to catch his flight home before we knew it but Martin has certainly left a lasting legacy for us to enjoy and I'm hopeful that he'll be back sooner rather than later.

The next few days saw Falk aka Akut of Herakut arrive along with M-City, Jaune, Isaac Cordal and Addfuel. Many will have seen the initial pixação style scrawlings across the market which Falk informed me is used to make a grid for laying out the next step, adding a face! The sudden appearance of a small child took me by suprise when I saw it the next day and left me craning my neck to get a good look. To see this beautiful childs face emerging from the once gray concrete market facade was quite incredible, I even felt a little emotional if I'm honest. Falk continued to work away adding more detail with each spray and somehow created these eyes which have so much life in them, its hard to believe they were done with spray paint. 

The Herakut mural is a collaboration between Falk and his painting partner Jasmin aka Hera who arrived a few days later. After a day working together Falk set off for home to get married (congrats again) while Jasmin set to work completing the mural. Over the next few days the small childs face changed dramatically with the addition of hair, seagulls and the most incredible unicorns, a nod to Scotlands national animal. Using rollers and spray paint the mural has really morphed and changed, quickly filling up social media feeds and drawings crowds down to the Green to see it in the flesh. Strangers exchanging stories while the small child grows before their eyes has been a pretty special experience and hopefully one that will continue once the work is completed.  

M-City arrived, went to his wall and got straight to work. Employing paper stencils which he pre cut after recieving the wall dimensions allowed him to quickly out line his first large scale piece in less than a day. With the help of local painter Charlie he completed 2 rather outstanding murals in less than 4 days. He worked so fast I really struggled to capture much of the work in progress but ill have a few to share in the next post. Jaune & Isaac Cordal were given the tour and shown a few potential spots to hit with their small scale works and before I knew it small gray figures began appearing on ledges and balconies while the city workers in their dayglo work gear have been taking over the back lanes of Aberdeen at record speed. Addfuel quickly set up about laying out a brand new tile piece, inspired by the tiled floors found in many of our older shop door ways and Victorian tenement flats. I actually emailed Diogo with a few images of the tiles in the hope that he would be able to create something unique to Aberdeen and the initial results look promising.

Julien De Casabianca, Fintan Magee, Alice Pasquini and Nipper were the final artist to arrive for the week. Many will have seen the paste ups as you come from the tunnels, made up from existing art works housed in Aberdeen Art Gallery by Julien for his Outings Project while Fintan has started the first of a new series of works based on walls "We're gonna build a wall" along Jopps Lane and Alice has already made a number of big and small pieces between Belmont Street and Ship Row. Nipper has been beavering away at the hub in The Academy Shopping Centre helping to curate take away art with some local additions and the mission directives which ill really need to cover in the next blog post.

The first 4 days of NUART were pretty special with many more stories to be shared but ill save some for the next post. For now just get out, enjoy walking around and seeing the works as they develop, speak to each other and watch this space for more photos and videos in the coming days and weeks.