When I visit a new city, or even one I know well, one of the things I love to do is take photos of street art like graffiti and yarnbombing as well as the more traditional forms of art like statues. Sometimes I take photos of odd things just because it’s something quirky that takes my fancy, but sometimes the street art in unexpected places can be a real work of art. Recently I visited Bordeaux which seems to have a lively urban art scene and the municipal council brings art into the public spaces so that you encounter exciting artwork wherever you go.
You see more when you walk
Recently I spent a week in Bordeaux, doing some of the things I love best: walking around, taking photos, visiting museums and gardens, churches and cafés and just soaking up the atmosphere. I have a terrible sense of direction, so I like to start out getting my bearings by walking rather than taking public transport so I get to know the landmarks and can find my way back ‘home’ at the end of the day.
Another bonus of walking is that it gives you the chance to hear people talking and accustom your ears to the rhythm of the language or local accent, even if you don’t really understand what’s going on. But one of the real joys is the time you have to peek into odd corners, peer over fences and through windows and double back to take a second look at something you glimpsed in passing.
The slow tourist
On the first couple of days, I was with my husband in the car, but when I was free to go at my own (slow) speed, I decided to take advantage of the pleasant autumn sunshine, get some exercise and walk into town. We were staying at least 5 km from the centre, but there is a fantastic tram system in Bordeaux, so I knew that if was further than I thought or my legs gave out at the end of the day, I could always hop on the tram and get back to the hotel. In the end, I walked both ways and ended up walking 20.5 km. I impressed myself no end!
Street art and graffiti near the Cracovie tram stop on the Allee de Boutaut
There I was, walking along, minding my own business – or to be more accurate, peering over the fences into the allotments to see what was growing in Bordeaux at the beginning of October – when I came across an amazing wall full of professional-level street art. I have been trying to find out when it was made and by whom to get a little background, but apart from a couple of photos online that are the same as mine, I haven’t been able to find out anything more. I did manage to find a YouTube video of a Graffiti Jam in 2013, based on a monster theme, and I’m pretty sure that many of the same artists took part and it’s the same wall.
This street art is fabulous. So much better than a plain concrete wall. I have no idea what is behind the wall, but there are obviously some trees, so this evil triffid fits in perfectly.
The trees in this mysterious scene blend almost perfectly into the real trees behind.
Let’s have a closer look at the deer priest.
Here’s another monster that definitely wants to sink its teeth into you.
A hip hop or rap star. Not sure what the difference is, and I have no idea who it is meant to be. Please let me know in the comments if you know who it is.
Finally, a colourful abstract graffiti-style mural. I haven’t been able to decipher what it says, if anything, but I love the colours and the intricacy of it. Looking at the photo, I realised how much work went into painting the whole wall blue to start with, and I’m intrigued by the moulding in the concrete on the right. What was this wall built for?
On another day, I came across this tiny poster pasted to the window of a shop. It means ‘art will save the world’. I don’t know about that, but it certainly makes it a more colourful place.
This makes me realise that I should make more effort to track down street art in my own area, especially as some of it can be pretty spectacular and may be painted over by the local council, other artists or even the same artists the following year, as seems to have happened with this wall in Bordeaux. In Wijchen, the small town where I live, there was a wonderful street art painting of a tiger under one of the tunnels under the ringroad a couple of years ago. I do wish I’d taken a photo because the local council painted over it with white paint that added nothing to the beautification of the area. This was then covered in less accomplished graffiti that has now been covered with white anti-graffiti paint. I note somebody has nonetheless managed to spray something on it. Why not encourage talented artists to decorate the tunnels instead of making them bland?
More about Bordeaux and Bordeaux street art in upcoming posts.
What do you think of street art? Beautiful? Entertaining? Should anyone be allowed to take part or only established street artists? Or is it just vandalism? Do you prefer blank white walls? Let me know in the comments, and if you have any idea who painted the murals I saw, please let me know so I can credit their work and link to webpages.