Street artists Stik and Thierry Noir joined forces last week to paint the 128 square metre Village Underground Wall in Shoreditch, East London. The result is a combination of the two artists’ distinct styles: Stik’s line men and Noir’s brightly coloured faces.
British artist Stik and French-born Noir were brought together by arts organisation Street Art London to collaborate on the project, after the two hit it off when they met last year in Berlin.
Noir, a forerunner of the modern street art movement, is best known for painting the Berlin Wall illegally from 1984 to 1989. He brandished the wall with bright, cartoon-like faces in order to “transform it, make it ridiculous, and help destroy it”.
He says: “The most frequent question people asked me was: ‘Why did you want to make the wall beautiful? Why did you want to ornament the Berlin Wall?’ I answered each time: ‘I am not trying to make the wall beautiful because in fact it’s absolutely impossible.
“I wanted to cover the wall with colours to wrap it up with paintings, to make it luminous, to show it like a mutation in the city, a mutation in art and nature. One hundred and thirty people were killed trying to jump over the Berlin Wall to escape West Berlin, so it cannot be beautiful.”
Noir describes his vibrant street art not as graffiti but “Kilometre-Art”. In the six years between 1984 and 1990 he painted 5 kilometres of the Berlin Wall in an act of protest.
“Everything you do on the wall is immediately political. Even if you just piss on the wall it is a political act,” he says.
Stik, however, is less political in his outlook. “I try not to be too preachy with my works, I like to make timeless pieces that would talk to someone from another age of society. My work is all about making lines come to life. I try to make it inhabit the wall and give it personality.”
The British artist has painted all his life, but first started doing his large pieces in London’s streets a decade ago. Since then he has developed his style and now paints murals all over the world in Europe, Asia and America. He particularly likes the relaxed approach to street art in Berlin, and admires Noir’s work.
“The Berlin scene is totally different, they are relaxed about street art. It is not a free for all, but people really seem to understand the dynamic. The Berlin Wall artwork really set a precedent for artists to follow and its social impact has not been forgotten.”
Noir is equally appreciative of the street art scene in East London: “I think the street art scene in Shoreditch, London is very strong in comparison to the rest of Europe. You can see the vibrant energy in the streets.
"There is always one extra emotion in the air which transforms every street art painting into a strong political act.”
Noir and Stik’s collaboration can be seen at the Village Underground Wall on Great Eastern Street in Shoreditch, London.