The early days of this blog covered a lot of snaps of graffiti around the area by a local artist who goes by the moniker Icon, or more lately, Trust Icon. He (or, indeed, she) has seen a lot of comment, featuring in the Newshopper pages and on Trust Thamesmead’s website and was dubbed the local Bansky. I somehow wound up following him (or her, but I’ll stick with the male pronouns from hereon) on Facebook although I can’t recall how I found him.
It recent months he seems to have gone “legit”, creating more art on portable media and displaying in various galleries. At one point, somebody from the project to paint Coralline Walk wanted to contact him and left a comment on my blog which read as though they thought I was the artist. I’m not! But I passed on the word that they wondered if he might want to be involved in the brightening up of the area with artwork and he said he’d get back to them.
Despite being interested in the project, it slipped under my radar and suddenly a great big bird and brash bold colours were decorating the site. It didn’t have any of the hallmarks of our local Banksy, who had mentioned on Facebook that he had given up decorating Thamesmead. As he told it, a site could be covered in filth, have all kinds of tags and proclamations of who loves who and amateur pictures of genitals, but if he came along and put up some sprayed art then the whole wall would be repainted within days. Often it wasn’t the whole wall – there are little rectangles of mismatched paint all over the place where the council or Gallions have come along and obscured the art. I can kind of see the point – obliterating unofficial art stops it from getting out of control, but I do like the work and I wish it stuck around a little longer.
Anyway, I’d not seen much from Icon that wasn’t online of late, except for little stickers, which don’t seem to be immediately cleaned up. They link to the dude on Facebook and they’re interesting little artefacts – although I wasn’t impressed to see one on a bus timetable, preventing people from reading it. One of the things I always liked about his approach was that it questioned morals and authority, but only landed on blank walls that were public property, never on something someone had worked on, or needed, or owned privately.
And then I saw this, this week:
Now, there is some question over whether “flower guy” and Icon are one and the same artist. Flower guy puts little roses or tulips all over the place, sprayed with black stems and colourful heads. Back when Icon was active the Newshopper was asking if Banksy had visited B&Q in Belvedere and their story showed the image leading to the query – a large pair of eyes, and several flowers beneath it. The same eyes seen here. Eyes that seem to suggest “you are being watched” and which pop up overnight, under no watchful eye. Cool and creepy and… well, in this instance I think not so well placed. It doesn’t have Icon’s signature, which is unusual, so maybe it’s not a disgruntled Icon defacing work he didn’t approved of, but the Flower Guy, or maybe not. Maybe they’re one and the same anyway. Still… Thamesmead has problems, everyone knows it. But there are attempts to improve community spirit, to regenerate more than just a few buildings. The people who painted that mural on Coralline may not have created the most aesthetically pleasing bit of art, but there are a lot of people who liked it, time and effort went into it, and it was created by volunteers with investment from Dulux. Painting that panel back to the original red isn’t going to be as easy as whitewashing a white wall, or throwing up the same blue that is used all over the whole estate. And they will repaint it, because that’s what they do. Graffiti doesn’t stick around, and when it’s on the spine road I’d guess it has a very short lifespan.
I’ll let you know when it’s gone.
Edited to add: It strikes me that I can’t remember whether that end piece of wall was made red as a part of the mural work. I think it was – it fits the other brightened sections facing the road on the front of the overlooking building. If, in fact, that end was previously bare concrete then my metaphoric tutting can be taken down a notch. If it’s an entirely new addition, that’s one thing. I’m more concerned if the eyes were placed on top of someone else’s art, no matter how simple and glaring a red panel may be.