Writing's on the wall for festive season as street artists gather

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The Independent Online

A diagram demonstrating how to dismantle a gun, a lurid scene of frantic sales shopping, a 3D nativity scene and graffiti letters warning "Nightmare" feature in an exhibition of street art which opens in east London next week, showing an alternative vision of Christmas.

The UK's leading street artists including Rugman, D*Face, Kid Acne, Eine and Chu are all taking part in the Alternativity exhibition, the first group show by the Stelladore collective which aims to bring urban art to a new audience.

Alternativity is the successor to Santa's Ghetto, a festive street art show that has been held in east London for the past five years, showing works by Banksy among others. The high priest of street art is not involved this year, but Steph Warren, the show's organiser, who also organised Santa's Ghetto, insists that his popularity has boosted interest in the genre. "Banksy has definitely opened the door. People are more responsive to street art than they were a few years ago," she said.

At the centre of the exhibition, which opens on Thursday at Studio 95 in Brick Lane, is an installation representing two sides to Christmas on one hand a time for joyous celebration, on the other a miserable and lonely time for people with no homes to go to.

D*Face, who is known for his skeletons and angels' wings, has created Guns R 4 Idiots, a diagrammatic imprint of how to take apart a gun with a bullet covered in skulls in the foreground. The screen print and spraypaint on canvas is a reaction to the shooting of Rhys Jones in Liverpool last summer. D*Face said: "My studio is in Brick Lane, there's a higher rate of youths carrying guns around this area, so it has an impact on me as an artist seeing and hearing about this. I had a child this year and it changes your perspective."

Chu, who like many of the other artists in the show got into graffiti as a youth but now describes what he practises as street art, is painting a nativity scene in 3D, which people will be able to view through a stained-glass window. Inspired by the German tradition of people who can't afford to buy a nativity scene getting their children to colour paper and cut out shapes, he has also created a cut-out Christmas scene, which people will be able to buy in miniature.

Eine, who is best known for the letters he paints on shop fronts around London, is spray painting the word "nightmare" across the longest wall in the gallery, which is 110ft long. He said: "I'm quite anti this chirpy message. For a lot of people Christmas is a nightmare." The piece, which is also a reference to Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas, is one of six word paintings by Eine in the exhibition, based on two of his street works, the words "scary" and "vandalism", which are currently the biggest pieces of graffiti art in London.

Kid Acne, who lives and works in Sheffield, has created a set of alternative nativity figures cut-outs of cartoon warrior women stuck on to burnt spray-paint cans. He said: "I've got old cans of paint which I've collected, which have then been burnt in a fire. I've put little characters on to the cans and built nativity scenes. They are warrior girls, unsung heroes, interacting with animals in a fantasy world."

Other artists include Twinkle Troughton, whose piece December 27th at 5am and in Britain it's the Greatest Day on Earth is a nightmarish vision of consumerism.

Alternativity, 6-10 December, Studio 95, 91 Brick Lane, E1. www.stelladore.com