Monday, March 07, 2011

Street art and big lips

click photo to enlarge
Not until last weekend did I realise that the area around Brick Lane in London is something of a graffiti hotbed. Many of the streets and much of the waste ground and buildings feature examples of this street "art". Quite a bit is done to a technically high standard, a few pieces are witty or visually interesting and several are all of those things. Much is poorly executed, derivative or lacks interest. I came upon this example just off the main area, on the side of a building that overlooked a small car parking space. The graffiti extends to the left  with the elaborately written green word, "sugar", the last part of which can be seen in my shot. In order to avoid a very elongated crop I photographed only the right hand side showing the jacketed torso and pipe-holding arm surmounted by large pink lips. I suppose the whole piece was called "Sugar Lips". Part of the word "lips" can be seen poking up out of the breast pocket of the jacket. Which sugar lips? I ask because when you put those words into Google you get a multiplicity of different references. Perhaps it's obvious to those who create such works and admire them, but it isn't to someone of my generation.

In the absence of any obvious reference point based on "sugar lips" I focussed on the smoker's pipe, an artefact that is rapidly disappearing from our everyday experience as the pipe-smokers die off. Not as a result of their habit I hasten to say (though some doubtless do), but because it is something that was favoured in the past, is no longer fashionable, and the remaining practitioners are largely older folk. Then I thought of what is possibly the most famous pipe in art - the Rene Magritte painting, Ceci n'est pas une pipe , and the use of lips by the Surrealist Dali, the Pop Artist Tom Wesselmann, and Andy Warhol - just the type of mainstream artists a graffitist might reference.

For more examples of the graffiti in this part of London see here.

photograph and text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Canon
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 67mm
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/125
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: -0.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: On