Street Art often can be controversal and in the mind of many people it is seen as vandalism, but Street Art is more than the random spraying of paint on other folks walls. Personally I love the imagination and artistry that goes in to the creation of great Street Art and I also admire the subversiveness and humour that goes in to many of the images. The last Street Art ‘event’ I went to was about 5 years ago in London, called The Cans Festival which was held in the tunnels behind Waterloo Station, sadly the work created at that event was only there temporarily. So it was with great delight that I read the Facebook posts from Ch-Art (www.facebook.com/ch-art) that over this bank Holiday weekend there was to be a Street Art event taking place in of all places Chichester in West Sussex!
Genteel Chichester does not seem at first appearance to be the sort of place for an event such as this, better known for it’s High Art connections – the renowned Pallant House Gallery (one of the Arts Council’s ‘String of Pearls’) has its home here and while there is a very active Art ‘Scene’, the area is probably better recognised through countless watercolour paintings of the Cathedral and Market Cross. Chichester is certainly a very attractive city, so what could a Street Art event bring to enhance it? Well, in my humble opinion the work produced grabs the town by the scruff of its neck and shakes it into the 21st century.
Organised by a group called Street Art London (www.streetartlondon.co.uk) and Chichester’s own Neil Lawson-Baker (pictured below).
The event brought together 12 of the worlds best Street Artists affording them unique access to 14 sites around the city to create amazing, thought provoking and stunning artworks under close public scrutiny. Walking round the city I was really quite surprised by the number of people walking past these incredible works of art without seeming to even notice them. Those that did see them however, seemed to be of the same mind as me, that the works are truly awesome. That said, I have heard inevitably there have been some nay-sayers. I suppose this is only to be expected as you can’t please all of the people….
Gallery of Chichester Street Art
Cluster of work on Metro House and the Old Electric Cinema at Northgate
Yellow Shroom and artwork on side of private house in North Street
(from top left): Oxmarket Centre of Arts, Little London; Baffins Lane car park; North Pallant/East Street and ‘Anonymous’ Street Artist
Cluster of work at Chichester College
Corner of St Pancreas and Spitalfields Lane and Chichester Festival Theatre hoardings
I think one of the best things about this event was not just being able to watch the creation of such massive and often complex pieces of artwork, but being able to speak to some of the artists about their work was a real bonus.
While strolling round the city it seemed like a good opportunity to have a look round the Cathedral. Now I am not in any way a religious person, but I do have a bit of a fondness for ecclesiastical architecture. The cathedral in Chichester was established in 1075 and building work began in 1076 by Bishop Stigand and completed in 1108 by Bishop Luffa in time for its consecration into the Holy Trinity in the same year. The Cathedral itself is also home to some fantastic modern artwork, including a painting by Graham Sutherland called Noli me tangere (Do not hold me) which feature Christ appearing to Mary Magdalene on the first Easter morning, and beautiful stained glass window by Marc Chagall, installed in 1978 based on Psalm 150 and the stunning tapestry by John Piper (1966) which features the Holy Trinity and is installed at the High Altar.
Top: Marc Chagall window, John Piper tapestry front and back views.
Outside there is a statue by the world renowned sculptor Philip Jackson of St Richard which is quite spectacular and also bears a passing resemblance to a not-to-be-named character in a well known children’s novel…
Some of the memorial plaques have quite intriguing dedications such as this one for a lady called Frances Waddington who departed this life in 1728 after living a good and pious life – “51 years spent in piety and good offices, 29 of which were particularly employed in the happy intercourse and returns of conjugal affection…”
After a very agreeable slice of cherry and coconut cake at the Cloisters Cafe it was time to walk on through the cloisters and past the delightful terrace of cottages in Canon Lane, back along South Street towards the Market Cross to pick up the Street Art trail once more.
Terrace of cottages in Canon Lane and South Street towards the Market Cross
Although the Street Art Festival took place over the May Bank Holiday weekend, the actual works themselves will be available for all to see indefinitely, so there is plenty of time to get down to Chichester to see them, and while you are there pop in to the Cloister Cafe and grab a slice of one of their yummy cakes – you won’t be disappointed!