A Street Art Explosion in Brick Lane

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Our obsession with street art around the globe has led us everywhere from the back alleys of Granada to the inner circle of Berlin’s true graffiti pioneers. To wrap up this street art series, we couldn’t think of a better hood to profile than the very nerve centre of London’s rich and diverse urban art scene: Brick Lane.

To wander London’s E1 postcode on a Friday night is an exercise in sensory overload in the best way possible, where London’s famously hip nightlife unravels against a backdrop of multi-coloured paste-ups, installations, stencils and stickers. We hit the streets to soak up some of the pieces that are making the area buzz right now -- from iconic London stalwarts like Sweet Toof and Eine to globetrotters such as Drab and Roa. And because we can always use an assist from our teammates, we hit up the people who live, work and (most importantly) play in the area for some insider tips.

Our fist stop is Turville Street, where we run into Woz, a cycle courier who has the area on lockdown. “My favourite piece is this one by Malarky,” he tells us. “He’s from Barcelona I think, and I love that he brings a bit of the Catalan spirit to the grey London streets.” Apart from Malarky’s Day-Glo eye-popper, Woz is digging on a three-story bird mural over on Hanbury Street that comes courtesy of an artist names Roa. “But everyone loves Roa, right?” Woz asks.

Umm, we do now. “It had been covered up by the council but everyone signed a petition and now you can see it again,” Woz tells us. It just goes to show you can’t keep a good tagging down.

Fixing for a caffeine boost, or maybe just looking for a buzz on par with the Malarky mural, we head to a nearby café and asked our barista Amanda for her take on an essential East London artist. “My favourite is Drab,” she tells us. “He’s a Kiwi native, but he’s here for a while. He does really fun stuff. He’s taking East London street art in a really modern direction.”

Hey, if tattooed moustache babies are modern, we’re pretty inspired for what the future might bring. With that, we head to Ely’s Yard, generally considered the best spot in the vicinity for peeping urban art, to absorb the mash-up of varying styles and mediums that play off each other like a live-action version of Super Mario Brothers:

The permanent car installation is by Brit D*Faced, and the recession monster eating coins is a Ronzo sculpture. Let’s hope the owner of that car appreciates making sacrifices for art’s sake.

Of course, some of our new friends worry that such Brick Lane jewels are in danger of becoming too mainstream. Just ask Pete, 22, who works at the nearby Aubin Cinema. “I think in the wake of the whole Banksy thing there’s people going around and doing tours and that’s kinda corny,” he tells us. But lest you think our friend is jaded, he points us over to Whitby Street and the latest work of Australian artist James Cochran. “I saw the artist do it and it took him ages,” Pete says.

We can see why. And with our heads now in a state like Cochran’s muse, we’re about ready to wrap up our tour of the area. But as several of our new teammates pointed out, our tour wouldn’t be complete without a nod to Sweet Toof, the prolific London artist whose gummy hallmark is perhaps the most recognisable style in the city.

Luckily, we caught this one just before the shutters were pulled down for the night ahead, which we also took as our cue to grab a pint and gear up for a long night out here in Brick Lane.

For our fellow teammates in the neighbourhood and beyond, be on the lookout for the launch of the PUMA Yard next month, right here in Brick Lane.

Photos courtesy of Louise Brailey.