Nuart Festival 'RISE UP' The Indoor Show!

Now the dust is settling on this years Nuart Festival lets have a look at the indoor show. The indoor show is a huge part of the festival as it presents many challenges both to the production crew and to the artists, many of whom end up sharing space and they have to make it all work. I'm sure there's been instances in the past where this hasn't been the case and things went terribly wrong but everyone pulled up their socks and managed to produce a fantastic offering which not only extends from the artists street works but also shows their ability to slip into a gallery setting.

With the recent sale of a Jean-Michel Basquiat painting for $110 million and the ever increasing scrutiny of Banksy you'd be fooled into thinking 'Street Art' is legit, its in the galleries, it sells and is recognised as perhaps a new chapter for art historians to rake over. But even after almost 20 years and countless productions Nuart is still seen as some low brow menace, taking away valuable funds and resources from other art institutions and peddling some tat art for the masses. And in some instances they'd be right! Certainly bringing good quality art work into the public realm is going to ruffle a few feathers but it seems to be amongst the very people who have been tasked with overseeing culture in places like Stavanger, the one's who've organised countless exhibitions and shows yet can only dream of the kind of coverage and engagement that Nuart attracts. But instead of building good relations they let ego get the better of them. But even when you strip away the personal views and the egos what Nuart does has a fundamental cultural value, whether on the streets or in the gallery. And I think 'RISE UP' proves the point.

When you walk through the door at Tou Scene you're met by two repurposed advertising billboards bearing the work of Australian artist Ian Strange. Coming from tagging walls to painting entire houses is quite a leap but Ian manages to explore the possibilities with each new project and his current set of images combined with the smouldering roof structure proved quite mesmerising.  Slip into the next tunnels and you'll find a tiled car bonnet and a framed Union Jack which looks more punk than John Lydon. Activist and ceramicist Carrie Reichardts bio reveals a life spent fighting against those who would divide and make others lesser in society, using her tiles to stand up for gay rights and other worthy causes while also reminding us what it means to rebel "I am an artist, your rules don't apply". Up the back you'll find a temporary voting booth created by Portugese provocateur ±maismenos±. Where Carrie's work pushes against the status quo Mais employs the tools and symbols of the powerful and uses them to create a new narrative and subverts the message through simple word play.

Ricky Lee Gordon created a mound of black sand which leads the viewer up to an image of a man on horseback. Reminiscent of horse bound WW1 generals, its both strong and ghost like. The wall inscription reads 'Nature stretches out her arms to embrace man'. Ampparitos install was one of the simplest and yet still created an opportunity for people to interact and participate beyond the simple act of looking. The giant passport photo stencil and declaration "I've never lied and never will lie" made me even more suspicious of Slava Ptrk but there's no denying his talent with cardboard and Stanley knife! Bahia Shehab's doors lined the main tunnel corridor and served as both canvas and gateway into another life. Hearing stories of her travels and the challenges she faces every day made me thankful for the freedoms and power I have, a real eye opener but I can't think of a time she wasn't running about smiling during the festival.

One piece which only really hit me after is a poem created from other peoples stories of love and loss by Know Hope. Adam is well know for his distinctive street characters but really pulled together something special. Where it was fun to find his phrases out in the street to read the collected piece was to be moved to the core. The back of the tunnels is filled with a giant piece by Derek Mawudoku, his distinctive character offering both the answers and the questions while the background creates a strange sense of movement and chaos while the searching eyes reflect up from the calmer waters. Next door the light hearted work of Russian artist Igor Ponsov continued the themes of his outdoor works, prodding at the very movement he's entwined with through his blank projection mural, replicated indoors with a real projector while his giant seeing eye chart leads you down to a magnified image of the boat bearing his eye chart sail.

A huge paste up and two projections show the work of street art pioneer John Fekner. With graffiti kinds and street art pioneers John is truly a legend. Without knowing it John paved the way for a lot of political art we see today and reflects an ethos that runs through the best street art today, challenging and yet totally engrossing and accessible. The final pieces in the show come from ad hacktivist Vermibus. After years of working for fickle ad agencies he now find himself fighting against the glitz and glam of modern marketing, repurposing the faces of various ad campaigns and revealing the unsettling and sometimes ugly face of advertising. Being loaned two official lightboxes by JC Decaux sat uneasy with Vermibus, the main controller of our daily visual input but armed with his allan keys he managed to change out a few boxes in town without permission while his indoor posters blinked away, drawing in the viewer like a moth to the flame!

'RISE UP' was a call to arms for anyone operating in the streets and timely reminder of the roots of a movement which over the last decade has changed and not always for the better. The upsurge in mural festivals can bring many benefits to a city or region but when there's a lack of thought behind them you might as well stick up another billboard advert. But artists like Know Hope and Vermibus help bring about a much needed redress and remind us about the foundation of street art, the thing that made it so valuable to begin with and that's the people element, the artist and the viewer. Nuart remind us to challenge these notions, to self critique and to the haters and powers in high places its a clear statement of intent, we're here to stay and the streets belong to us, all of us!

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