By Alistair Farrow
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Art Under the Westway

This article is over 11 years, 4 months old
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Issue 350

Part exhibition, part legal graffiti wall, over 30 artists are on display there, from backgrounds ranging from fine art to graphic design and everywhere in between. These include Shepard Fairey (aka Obey, of André the Giant fame), Eine (anyone walking down an east London high street will recognise his single neon letters on shop shutters), Pure Evil (owner of the Shoreditch gallery of the same name), Tina Hage, Mode 2, Agent Provocateur, Keh Ng and Part 2ism, to name but a few.

The exhibition brings into sharp focus the debate between “illegal” graffiti writers and “legitimate” street artists. As Keh Ng showed me around, he described how, two months before, a group of illegal writers (one now serving an 18-month jail sentence for graffiti) broke in and vandalised the installations, hence this new project. Ng is from a fine art background and is critical of the vandals’ artistic merit: “Regurgitating 3D graffiti letters can be dull. This new project is about pushing the boundaries of what street art and graffiti can be.” However, it is difficult for many street artists to criticise illegal writers too deeply as this is how many of them started.

Despite this, there are representatives from both disciplines on show here and the respect that they show to each other is refreshing. Tina Hage’s interpretation of the Saatchi & Saatchi “Britain isn’t working” poster stands next to a spectacular 20 foot high portrait of a pregnant woman and her lover by Mode 2, one of the first writers in the world to experiment with photorealistic graffiti.

Ng tells me that they want to create an atmosphere of “inclusion rather than exclusion”. Because of this there is a high turnover of work, with anyone with graffiti skills or something to express welcome to do a piece on the walls.

The project provides a possible template for how ordinary people can begin to claim back their public spaces under capitalism and also shows graffiti writers and street artists that they have far more in common than they would like to admit.

Under the Westway is at the junction of Portobello Road and Acklam Road, Portobello Green, W10 5TY

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