Words, Leyla Gurr
Walking down towards Zap Graffiti is an exercise in restraint on a sunny day. It’s hard not to stop and stare. Along almost the entire stretch of Oldham Place, the store and its artwork have spilled out onto the walls. Decorating the industrial brick walls with twisted characters and splashes of colour. The effect is like an industrial paint mixer gone berserk, and makes for a perfect setting for the first solo show of an artist like Neist.
Originally from Paris and operating in Liverpool for the past few years, Neist is a street artist with visionary scale. His work shows roots in that certain, common style you expect to see scrawled on an underpass and yet his execution lifts these shapes and letters to a whole new level of work. The exhibition itself begins outside of the shop and along the panels in the street, a handful of large scale pieces painted especially by the artist. Walk into the space and your nose is near on assaulted by the smell of aerosol paint. If this was Tate you’d call it an all-encompassing art performance; here at Zap it’s the smell of artists at work.
Around to the right of the main room, Neist’s choice of layout comes as a surprise. Instead of more large scales pieces, the walls are dotted with a mixture of small, framed watercolours and pencil drawings. Each one seems like hours’ worth of work, rendered with meticulous detail. Each one also has a small price tag. Like an exhibition in the most traditional sense of the word, everything here is for sale.
The space itself feels a little empty, it could possibly have benefited from some larger work on one wall. This does however give a generous amount of room to study each drawing to the full extent that it deserves. Like I said previously the drawings are painstakingly detailed and each one is worth a very careful look. It’s an unusual approach for a street artist to shun the aerosol paints of his profession for the bulk of a show but it works here. You get the feeling that any medium sized work would do no justice to the detail which Neist demands of his art. Nothing average is going to cut it.
Zap Graffiti itself is well worth looking around when you do head down to see the show. Grab a member of staff and ask about the classes that they run and they will be more than happy to fill you in. It’s a unique space and provides a fantastic opportunity to learn about a fairly left-field art form. The sense of community very much shines through and you can feel the enthusiasm that everyone has for promoting the artist on display, an excellent choice for a first solo show with hopefully many more to come.