Review: Contrast Mural Festival

Emily Gray, Contrast Mural Fest. image Joanie Magill

Contrast Mural Festival

Words, Joanie Magill

It couldn’t have been a better week for the Contrast Mural Festival. The sun beat down on the streets in our mini heatwave, as non-descript walls in the Baltic Triangle, Dale Street, Slater Street, Oldham Place and Fabric District and became canvases for vibrant street art.

Contrast Mural Festival is a collaboration between Liverpool based Zap Graffiti and Beta Rok 75 and is part of Absolut’s Build a Better tomorrow today. During 16 – 22 April, 30 local, national and international street artists converged in Liverpool to inject colour, light and energy into town.

Over the course of the week, Twitter and Instagram fired up with images of murals in progress and finished works spotted in various locations around town.

Convention usually dictates the creation of art takes place in private – in a studio or out of the way place – to be presented as a finished work in a gallery. Street art too, at times, takes place under cover of darkness or in more inaccessible places.

Walking around the Baltic Triangle on a hot, sunny Saturday afternoon, it was amazing to see the streets animated with energy as they transformed into an outdoor studio and gallery.

You don’t often get the opportunity to stop and casually chat with an artist as they are working about their process and influences and watch the work emerge.

Medsone’s usual canvas is the walls running along the storm drains in his native Bristol. His wildstyle tag on Crump Street is an energetic interlocking and woven set of shapes that emerged over the course of the day.

Vancouver based artist, Emily Gray, has been painting murals in Vancouver and beyond since 2004. Her work, in the Botanical Garden on New Bird Street is illustrative, colourful. She is also a scenic artist and the scale and figurative nature of her work reflects her background.

Further along the same street, Danny O’Connor’s work, also illustrative, has a sense of energy. His portrait is a vibrant, illustrative burst of colour and form. He uses a variety of influences from cartoons, to tattoos and fine art to create striking colourful stylised explosions of colour and form. Soft and figurative, slashed with energetic lines and messy splats. When you get close, there is an unexpected texture to the work – a mix of paint, spray paint and thick textures in places.

Contrast Mural Fest. image Joanie Magill

Street art is many things. It was once and still is in places, politicised, a form of creative expression and a tool of communication for the disenfranchised. It is also a bone fide art genre. Street artists have crossed into the mainstream and are represented by international galleries. Street art is used in advertising and represented in pop culture.

Cynics might view street art as a contemporary form of gentrification – bringing emerging city districts to life. Maybe it is the ultimate democratic and accessible art form.

However you view street art, what is obvious, is that Contrast Mural Festival is a celebration of local and international street artists. It has brought colour, vibrancy and energy to Liverpool’s streets.