One thing I've always liked about art and creativity is the varied practioners and communities that exist under one banner. From architects to designers and contemporary artists to graffiti writers, all add to the conversation and all have a part to play. For a long time the voices of the graffiti writers has been somewhat missing from the conversation, apart from the occasional inflammatory headline in the Evening Express (last time I checked they were happily sharing the Nuart map and degrading street beggars and the homeless) and as you'd expect from a community that operates outside the legal boundaries you have to be careful.
Yet with the arrival of Nuart Aberdeen and a city discovering the power of street art its important to recognise those who have been plugging away and pioneering the movement for decades. And as anyone in the Scottish graff scene can tell you, none have been pushing harder than Aberdeens own Charlie K aka Slave. Charlie has been getting up and painting for longer than he'd care to remember, from bombing track sides to hitting roof tops. Now a bit older and a bit wiser, Charlie is focusing on painting legal walls and honing his craft. My first encounter with him came about thanks to Nuart where he'd stepped up to volunteer, this time painting with permission alongside Polish street artist M-City. Long days and hard graft led to the completion of the M-City murals in 4 days, no mean feat considering the size and scale of his wall.
But my meeting with Charlie goes way deeper than a shared appreciation of street art and graffiti. During the Nuart walking tours Charlie's name came up a few times, both his part in the M-City mural but also for a special collaborative piece he painted with Hera of Herakut. Those first few days were a hazy rush as more and more artists arrived and more murals went into production. And I can remember seeing Charlie, slightly the worse for wear and thinking he wouldn't last long on the productions. When I saw him the next day he had such a focus and readiness to get to work, it blew me away. That experience reminded me about how important it is not to judge people too harshly and about how we sometimes need to look at how we can help others who might be struggling a little.
From then on Charlie has been an inspiration, a friend and a teacher to myself, across many platforms. From learning how to paint to pushing me to get out and do stuff, Charlie is there ready to go. Bonding over graffiti stories and the rich history of the movement, watching Style Wars and getting to find out more about what makes Charlie tick has been a great experience, discovering those universal motivations, to paint, to create and to make something out of nothing. And Nuart might have given him the opportunity to paint with 2 of the biggest names in street art but its also give me a chance to call Charlie my friend and that means a lot to me!
A year on from Nuart you can find Charlies work on both the legal wall down at the skate park and he's also worked with Throwup Gallery to help establish a new legal graffiti wall in Sunnybank Park and he's been hitting up the soon to be launched Inspired Space down at the Tunnels. Charlie has produced numerous pieces including some tribute murals to his late friend Sacha Christie aka Smoke as well as a collaborative piece with KMG Yeah but you have to be quick catch them as Charlie normally paints a new piece over the top almost as soon as they're finished. Along with helping again on this years Nuart productions you can catch Charlie at Yardsworks Festival in Glasgow where he will be painting alongside an international roster of graffiti artists and he'll also be taking part in the Painted Doors Aberdeen project. And I'm sure if you look hard enough you'll find a few extra street pieces here and there.
Here's to going big and continuing to push yourself and those around you Charlie, our city would be all the duller without your presence!