Thursday, 20 April 2017

NUART Aberdeen - Part 2, Production Week!

When I told the NUART team I was feeling fine with all the running about over the first four days they just gave me that look of 'just you wait' but I have to say despite an incredibly busy week and a half there hasn't been any diva moments apart from one hangry French man and a tired and exhausted girlfriend. With each new day more and more new faces arrived in the form of volunteers and the various media partners including Steve Harrington & Jamie Rojo of the renowned Brooklyn Street Art blog and Evan Pricco of Juxtapoz magazine who would be covering the unfolding murals and events of the festival launch.

As Thursday quickly arrived I suddenly found myself in a slight rush to finish curating the Instagram show, a projected show made up of my favourite images from instagram feeds I follow with a focus on local or Aberdeen based artists. I mined the wealth of talent and came up with a hearty mix of well established artists down to guys who doodle in their spare time (I didn't get any pics but ill post more about them all later). I have to say setting up 4 projections with custom DVD loops, fixing the DJ set up and setting up a slide presentation for Julien really left me a bit drained, especially as I skipped lunch. Thankfully my brother was on hand with a can of G&T to keep me going. The Anatomy Rooms served as the venue for 3 launch events with the instagram show taking place in the old library, a special guest lecture / stand up show by Julien De Casabianca and finished off with DJs and VJs from Grays School of Art. I don't think I've ever seen so many people so eager to get involved in an event of this nature, the lecture theatre saw people having to sit on the steps as each row filled up.

Juliens lecture was a real highlight, listening as he talked about his infamous art stealing cousins, growing up with Picassos stuffed down the back of the fridge and the tragic death of his uncle, all events which spurred him on to become the man he is today. Julien is an incredibly talented artist and a provecateur with real vision. He takes photos of existing art works in galleries and museums and blows them up to different sizes and pastes them on the streets. By taking these paintings out of the gallery Julien hopes to give them back to the people who own them, us the public. Simple in theory but the impact of doing so is huge as can be seen when you walk through The Tunnels and emerge on the other side, confronted by the sombre faces of two children. During the street art tours which took place on Sunday Julien kindly told us about how some of Aberdeens children were sold into slavery in the 1700's and how their ghosts haunt the cobbled streets on which we stood. Juliens work has revealed stories about Aberdeen I'd never heard much as his practice uncovers art works that maybe not everyone knows of or has had a chance to view. I think there was a real moment of connection, a theme I've been seeing across the festival both in the artworks and their new audience. I was also lucky enough to witness Julien in action on the streets of Torry (see pics below).

The Robert Montgomery wall hit a few problems but none that couldn't be solved with my dads old Black & Decker Heat Gun, been a while since that left the shed! Jon & Simen did a cracking job on it along with the trusty volunteers who helped black out the wall beforehand. With the spirit of adventure I headed up to the John Lewis roof with WallKandy photo master Ian Cox who needed to get some official shots. Ian has become an instant friend since the first day and is a photographer I've admired for a while, even more so after finding out what a nice guy he is.

Fintan Magee seemed to be on a never ending mission to get not just one but two walls finished. With the help of Painted Doors curator Mary Butterworth (also my talented girlfriend) Fintan managed to get both walls finished on Monday just past. The walking tours certainly enjoyed seeing Fintan up on the platform and after explaining the ideas and themes behind many of his large scale works he recieved a round of applause, rightly so too! Its been a real challenge to complete walls of this scale, especially off the back of a 30 hour flight from Australia but the finished murals speak for themselves and also serve up a nice slice of political discourse, people standing on broken down walls, make of it what you will. 

Every day seemed to bring a splurge of new Jaune (seen adding to the Granite Reed sign below) & Isaac Cordal piece's (see pics from his second install below) with my instagram feed lighting up. The big pub debate aka Fight Club centred on the age old question, big vs small and these two have certainly proven that small scale works and interventions can have just as much impact as the larger works. Seeing people suddenly catch a glimpse of something on a wall and then looking up to see one of Isaacs figures has been so cool. And the kilted Jaune pieces are just magic, a real unique set of works for Aberdeen with the Marilyn and the piper editions being my favourites so far. But as I said on the tour there's so many new pieces about the town it will be a while before I can catch them all and that's fine with me, I love exploring and think a huge part of their appeal is making us step out of our normal routines and exploring the city with fresh eyes.

Alice Pasquini finished her beautiful mural on Shiprow and also added a new addition to Belmont Street which only took a few hours (you can see some snaps of it on Hooked blog here). Alice might have been the first artist to produce work slightly off script as they say, venturing away from the safety of designated walls and instead utilising some of the cities overlooked walls and poster spaces to create some nice stencil pieces. During my orientation tours I took many of the artists down Exchange Lane, an alley just off Market Street frequented by prostitutes, drunks and also home to my old art studio. This overlooked space became a hive of camera flashes as I led the first street art tour down it, probably the only time 300 people have walked down the lane to see one of these small intervention pieces on a gray door. To me this exemplified the power of street art and also the power of the audience hungry to engage with it.

Addfuel powered on with his massive wall, the ripped tile design starting to take shape with each passing day. It would be easy to underestimate just what a huge task some of these walls presented. Even the task of white washing the huge screen took a full day with 2 people up in the basket, my good friend Slav stepping in to help, total legend! The wall sits a hefty 7 meters off the ground and measures roughly 12M by 11M but does provide the perfect canvas for Addfuels piece, one of my favourites from the festival. I'd previously emailed him some pictures of the Victorian floor tiles you sometimes see on old shop fronts like Purdys down on The Green, I figured he might want to switch up from his usual blue and white Lisbon designs and the result has been stunning. Almost metaphorical for Aberdeen in many ways, the ripped layers revealing the beauty beneath, much like the Herakut (check out some shots from the GoPro below) and M-City walls.

John Nipper finally arrived in town all the way from Bergen via Stavanger. As with all the artists I gave Nipper the tour of the mural sites and all the lanes in between and I quickly noticed his eyes scanning every wall and surface we passed, looking for holes, old screw fixings and anything else he could use to attach some clips to. Nipper is a total activator and has worked extensively back home in Norway to engage with local creative communities and through his 'Mission Directives' has managed to activate a load of Aberdeen based creatives. Locals like Honk & Steve Murison have both been buzzing at the prospect of the designated free art sites which Nipper quickly set up. Work flooded into the NUART Hub while others simply looked for an empty clip and attached their work, free for anyone to take away or even better, to replace with a work of their own and keeping the cycle of giving. The speed with which Nipper worked was fascinating from black book drawings to large scale paste up, he seemed to go where few have gone before! When a passer by asked about permission for his paste up on the BrewDog boards he simply replied "No" and carried on pasting. It was a pleasure to discover it on the first walking tour and to see people looking on in awe!

The only face missing from the weekend was that of Martin Whatson. I finally managed to download the footage from the GoPros and was delighted to get a few shots of Martin at work in his cherry picker but also the moment he added some small childs name to the wall. The weekend was filled with these moments of interaction but also from the start whether its people stopping to chat with the artists or the constant stream of photos on social media, people are paying attention and enjoying it. Of course its by no means the first art festival to hit Aberdeen, this weekend see's the fantastic LOOK AGAIN Festival kick off, now in its thrid year but I have been truly overwhelmed by the response of friends and strangers alike to the NUART murals. I'll leave it there for now but will do another post about the completed works and one about some of the special people who have made NUART Aberdeen such a great experience for me. And you!