Street art, for those who produce it, encapsulates spiritual survival, as well as the act of rebellion. Previously a tool for the poverty stricken and disenfranchised, it’s now a respected communicative tool and, more often than not, marker for the future. There’s plenty of art in urban life, and graffiti is increasingly being used as a method of advocation and self-expression, which has inspired the creatives behind Dubai Walls, a groundbreaking initiative by local developer Meraas. Yet another example of how Art Dubai is bringing new dimensions to the world’s most exciting creative movements, the programme hopes to attract various global admirers of street art to City Walk, which will host the inaugural project. 17 artists, the majority of whom have already left their creative imprint at various locations worldwide, have come together to transform the urban living destination into a unique exhibition. Here’s MOJEH’s edit of the initiative’s best graffiti artworks.
Born and raised in Tokyo, Lady Aiko has been living and working in New York since the mid-Nineties. She broke into the industry after assisting the famed contemporary pop artist Takashi Murakami and has since become well-respected within the international graffiti scene, having collaborated with the likes of Banksy, FAILE, and others. Her name, which means ‘Love’, inspires her work, which oozes femininity and the power of romance. She’s also been commissioned to create several works in collaboration with Louis Vuitton and Coach, to name a few.
Blek le Rat
One of the godfathers of the European street art movement, Blek le Rat was the first to use stencils when creating graffiti on the street. A true pioneer, the Frenchman has inspired hundreds of fellow artists with his contemporary style and use of icons, which he uses instead of writing his name. Cited as a key influence of Space Invader, he was first exposed to graffiti in 1971 in New York. It took another ten years for him to create his own artwork, which was inspired by a stenciled portrait of Mussolini during a trip to Italy. He signs each piece with the silhouette of a rat running along the street.
Born in 1969, Nick Walker has become one of the world’s best-known street artists. A printmaker by trade, Walker's easily recognised by his use of sophisticated, witty and ironic imagery, and his street work can be admired on walls throughout the world. Widely associated with the graffiti scene in Bristol, England, his works soon began to feature powerful political messages, which was particularly evident in his Coran Can (2010) piece, which he spray-painted in Paris and depicted a line of women dancing the can-can while wearing burqas. Bold, colourful, daring and often sensual, his pieces are thought provoking and often deliberately provocative.
Polish artists Sainer and Bezt, collectively known as Etam Cru, paint incredibly large murals of detailed scenes that span buildings up to 10-stories high. The duo’s intricate canvas works are heavily charged with Eastern European folklore and fantasy, and contain recognisable elements of their homeland’s rave and psychedelic culture. The pair studied fine art at degree level, and Sainer’s individual pieces can be spotted in Austria, Bulgaria, France and Germany, as well as Norway, Portugal, Russia and Slovakia. Etam Cru’s artworks are also scattered throughout Europe, and have recently been spotted in America.
Icy and Sot
New York City’s adopted street art brothers Icy and Sot have an especially fascinating background; they are refugee stencil artists from Tabriz, Iran. Their incredibly emotive stencil work depicts human rights and ecological justice, as well as social and political issues. America’s music and art community have often rallied to support them, particularly during one of their latest creative endeavors, which involved curating a cross-cultural dual art exhibition between Brooklyn and Tehran in galleries in both cities. There's no doubting that Icy and Sot want to merge the artistic mediums of both the East and the West, which they certainly do with their City Walk mural.