Monday, 7 November 2016

'Release The Pressure' by UV Arts at Union Terrace Gardens!

If you take a walk down to Union Terrace gardens you might notice something a little bit different. The once drab, greying walls have been turned into a graffiti mural which stretches from the first archway to the last, the whole length of Union Terrace essentially and it looks incredible! So how did this unprecedented mural happen? Firstly Aberdeen Inspired have realised that most culturally fluent cities have murals dotted all over the place and although the granite is seen to be pretty precious the Union Terrace walls have been crying out for a splash of colour for a long time. Bring UV Arts into the fold, who have successfully hosted graffiti / street art events in Northern Ireland and there you have it, Aberdeen's first graffiti street art festival. Titled "Release The Pressure" the festival is a celebration of graffiti art but perhaps not as most people know it, instead of tags you will find incredibly colourful and thoughtful murals that will hopefuly change peoples perceptions about what graffiti is and can be.

Although not the first time a graff jam has taken place in Aberdeen (check out this old post about the Transition graff jam) it does signify a step change in Aberdeen with regards to graffit. Karl the main man behind UV Arts is responsible for bringing the eclectic line up of artists to the city including graff legends like Inkie, Betarok75 and Elph along with up and coming street artists like Darren JohnDead ILW and Aberdeen's very own Craig Fisher! There's a good chance you might have stumbled across Karl's work already without realising it as he was the artist responsible for the Northern Lights mural down beside the train station. With the lines between graffiti, street art and muralism becoming increasingly blurred more and more Cities are opening up to the idea of having this kind of art on show for people to enjoy and I think Karl understands the challenges of bringing this type of event to Aberdeen, having lived and studied here and having delivered similar festivals back home in his native Northern Ireland

Its quite a nice feeling to walk down a familiar path and being able to see the art works happening in real time as the artist work away from their sketches, crafting incredible paintings with spray cans which in itself is incredible (have a go at painting something with a spray can and you'll begin to understand the years of practice that goes into it). The final murals all sit side by side without detracting from one another, like a well curated gallery show, allowing people to see how different artists have evolved different styles and approaches to graffiti. Less bold line throw up and scrappy tags and more modern abstraction, unusual letter forms and incredible photo realism. Although each piece stands out they all shared the moniker 'Smoke' which was done as a tribute to a local graffiti writer who sadly passed away last year. Despite the misconceptions of graffiti as being pure vandalism you will find the writers community is one of deep respect and friendship although their chosen canvas might not always be the most suitable. 

That said I've always enjoyed stumbling across tags across the city, for me its a sign that the youth are out there and even though I don't always agree with where they tag there's something to be admired in their desire to create and leave their mark. Combined with the Painted Doors project it feels like Aberdeen is on the cusp of a step change with regards to public art. At a time when the art gallery is closed for the foreseeable future its nice that people can experience incredible art simply by walking the Aberdeen streets. Along with the incredible Look Again Festival and the debut Aberdeen NuArt Festival 2017 is shaping up to be a great year for public art in Aberdeen. 

Check out some snaps of the artists in action and the finished murals below, you can check out some great in progress photo's on the UV Arts facebook page here. A huge thanks for Karl for making Release the Pressure such a great event, I can't wait to see what comes next!