Exclusive Coverage of the Tate Modern X Drips & Runs Collective's Street Art Collaboration, London
Drips and Runs is a London-based collective of street artists who engage with digital art as a medium by live streaming the creation of their murals. A quick browse of the social platforms of artists like Saki & Bitches, Seeds One and Himbad and it’s clear that their careers as individual street artists are booming. However, as they come together to combine their talents, there’s a unique sense of collaboration that’s surprisingly rare amongst young, emerging artists. Having previously worked amidst the street art of the South Bronx, New York and in Paris, I was particularly intrigued by this collaboration. To me, street art has always been a truly liberating and expressive medium, which is yet to be fully appreciated.
Despite the mystery that pseudonyms, tattoos and masks afford many street artists, they’re always delightful. None more so than the Drips and Runs collective whose enigmatic leader Seeds One bases himself around the converted, industrial spaces of Seven Sisters, London. Conscious of the development of digital art as a medium, Seeds One brought the group together earlier this year. The Tate X Drips and Runs collaboration was an idea generated by Tate Collective London who serve to diversify and attract a younger audience to the gallery. One of their members Clara Bacou, was embraced by Drips and Runs and showcased her talent last night as she worked on a brightly coloured fox.
The goal of Tate Modern and Drips and Runs’ collaboration was for the street artists to live stream their visual response to the EY: The World Goes Pop blockbuster exhibition. Only a few years ago it would’ve seemed like a distant dream to have one of London’s most respected galleries collaborating with an elusive group of street artists, but it happened. As you can see from the dialogue between Pop and street art in the final mural, the curator Flavia Frigeri gave the collective a tour of the exhibition. Reminiscent of Lichtenstein, the reversed, yellow ‘Whaaam!’ in their response illustrated how graffiti really is the new Pop.
Despite the influence of canonical Pop artists, the street artists I spoke to described their work as bring mostly spontaneous and intuitive, which makes it all the more powerful. Described as, ‘Brash, Bold and Exciting,’ by The Huffington Post, the EY: The World Goes Pop exhibition explored a very different side to Pop art, unearthing unexpected artists. With the tagline, ‘art, but not as you know it’, the curators presented the international Pop art movement of the 60’s and 70’s as a form of both protest and celebration.
Another artist I found particularly intriguing was Saki & Bitches who specialises in erotic female nudes. With a strong Instagram following and pop-up exhibitions all over London, her images like Biscuit Geisha Queen are becoming integral to popular culture. Perhaps drawing from female nudes within the EY: The World Goes Pop exhibition, her sexualised figures are rendered as empowered, liberated woman, whilst referencing classical nudes. Another big name was fanakapan who travels around the world creating hyper realistic helium balloons. Recent photographs depicted him adorning the back of a Thai restaurant with balloon elephants from Buddhist iconography.
In terms of collaboration, there’s a remarkable fluidity to the collective’s work as the artists move across the walls, entwining themselves in each other’s creations. I was even shown a series of elaborate tattoos that they'd adorned each other with. When speaking to a masked The Real Dill, paintbrush in hand, I learnt that the mural began with the four modern primary colours C. M. Y. K, which are known to mere mortals – and those in possession of a printer - as cyan, magenta, yellow and key black.
Embracing the power of social media, Drips and Runs engaged with their followers by allowing them to post their submissions and ideas on Twitter or Instagram. The street artists then took inspiration from some of the thousands of submissions by emulating, re-interpreting or even printing and pasting them onto the mural. Although the group is impenetrable in terms of sponsorship or other forms of commercialization, there’s no doubt that they are fans of social media’s ability to share their work and message.
As the nomadic HIMBAD described, there’s already a friendliness between the street artists, which the social media platforms catalyse – especially in terms of travel. He talked about how social media will keep connected when heads to Art Basel, Miami alongside fifty commissioned street artists. The contrast of contemporary street artists hitting up art fairs one day and illegally painting walls the next, is what make it such an interesting realm of art. As you’ll see on Instagram, Drips and Runs will be at the BSMT underground space in Dalston at the end of the week, so go and check it out. http://www.bsmt.co.uk.
Tate Collective London plan and develop events for other young people, 15 – 25 years old, to create, experiment and engage with the Tate Collection at Tate Britain and Tate Modern. Tate Collective London is a part of Circuit, led by Tate and funded by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation. (http://www.tate.org.uk/learn/young-people/gallery-collectives/london)
Written by Flora Alexandra Ogilvy, founder of Arteviste.com