My previous experience of large scale street art was limited to the taxi tour of Belfast murals John and I took several years ago. Those enormous Irish wall paintings were edgy, highly political and emotionally charged – the tour brought out John’s childhood memories of living there in the seventies. There was a raw, slightly unfinished quality to them.
Glasgow street art, in comparison, felt as impressive in scale but pretty, polished and safe. No doubt this is because most of the city centre pieces I saw were commissioned to top urban artists by the council in an attempt to disguise shabby blank gables and abandoned store fronts and rejuvenate key areas of Glasgow for the upcoming Commonwealth Games.
Although more decorative in intent Glasgow murals are witty and eye-catching, and proving popular with the city’s residents and visitors.
The first piece I saw near the Central Station, of a giant girl examining passers-by below in a loupe, was painted by Smug, the Australian born artist Sam Bates. It was fun to catch a glimpse of it just off Argyle Street!
As I pressed on it was apparent that Glaswegians embraced their street art as a daily staple. It was there when they were shopping… and when they were accosted by Greenpeace activists… and when they were parking cars… and when they were just crossing the street.
Some work destined to be ephemeral, such as a huge Glasgow 2014 Badminton piece by Guido Van Helten peeking out of the mountains of rubble from knocked down surrounding buildings (the block was cleared for a Selfridges store project that was later abandoned).
But the most bizarre and fun mural by Smug I stumbled upon in Glasgow that day graced the walls of Ingram Street car park.
What can I say – it was a visual feast of urban art which made my first trip to Glasgow very enjoyable! More photo stories from this visit are forthcoming…