Having spent some years living in China before adopting the mantle of street artist, I returned to the UK in the summer of 2014 with a bit of a fresh perspective. At least that is how feels looking back on it now. I remember quite clearly starting to notice artists paste-ups around the city, mostly on those green PO boxes you see around any urban area. I was really taken by them, I hadn’t really seen anything like this before and though I was familiar with street art, graffiti, spray art, stencils, tagging and so on, this was something a bit more to my taste. I loved the work of a couple of artists in particular (see images below by #mister.samo #thisismidge) and thought the idea of pre-making art that you could then paste-up later really appealed. I think this was the first step along the way for me towards embracing street art as a practice.
I started reading more about it, watching little videos, I even did a mini-project with a group of students for a module I was teaching at the time. I don’t think they really embraced it wholeheartedly but for me, clearly, I was soaking up the culture and trying to figure it out. At the time, a new gallery, Play Dead had just opened in Portsmouth and I started going to their openings. There I discovered that Portsmouth already had a thriving street art scene and I started to meet a few of the key players around town. Having soaked up of this interest in paste-up art I guess it was just a matter of time before it emerged as some form of creative activity.
The genesis for this creative urge occurred when I found myself trying to problem solve a story idea for a project I had started to develop in Spring 2018. I had wanted for a long time to do something about urban magic and had an idea about people in the 1970/80’s leaving cassette tape around cities with incantations recorded on them. I needed to set the story in a contemporary time frame and obviously cassette tape wouldn’t work. The eureka moment came when I made the leap to street art and paste ups as a potential vehicle for urban magic (there is a longer post about this aspect of the story here ).
For the project, which was an adaptation of The Snow Witch novel by Portsmouth writer Matt Wingett, I had borrowed one of the characters from the novel with the aim of bringing him to life for an immersive story experience. The conceit was that Lisstich as a shapeshifting trickster had assumed the role of a street artist and had been pasting-up coded occult messages around the city. Early 2019 I created an Instagram account for the character (what self-regarding street artists doesn’t have an Insta account) and started to populate it with content. At this stage, I was playing the role of “catcher” (there is an extremely interesting relationship between artists and catchers which is explored in great detail in the book Instafame by Lachlan MacDowall ). I started hanging out in areas of cities where there was a lot of street art, going on street art tours, getting inspiration. The plan was that we would commission a ‘real’ artist to do the actual paste-up design for the project.
That never happened and, in the end, I became the artists who created all of the street art for the Cursed City – Dark Tide project which saw me out and about with a bucket of paste slapping up A4 prints around the city. I even took a rubber Fox mask with me so I could get videos and photos to share on the Instagram account, to try and set up an air of mystery about this strange character roaming the city at night. It was great fun and I think I started to realise that part of the enjoyment is being out in the city, liberating walls and disused spaces to create street art. One thing I have noticed myself is that when after people come out with you, they talk about seeing the city differently. That they start to notice the street art on the walls around them in a way they didn’t before. This chimes with the strapline I have used for Lissitch “open your eyes and see the magic” and I think, if you do open your eyes you will be surprised at quite how much creativity there is on the walls around you.
Having created, or borrowed and adapted is closer to the truth, the character of Lisstich the street artist. Come to the end of the Cursed City – Dark Tide project, I didn’t want to let him go. I liked the persona and enjoyed going out at night paste bucket in one hand, Fox mask in the other. So, I started to create some new work just before the 2020 lockdown in the UK. Then I got a little sidetracked after I put up a call to other paste-up artists to send me their work and thus was born the concept of #pasteuppomepy (there is a video on this blog post here). It seems this is one of the ways that people get their work up on walls around the globe. In fact, I had already had my own work post in Melbourne, London and a few other cities. I had also been putting up work by a London artist #daddystreetfox around Portsmouth. Some 26 artists sent me their work and I had a few months of fun putting it up on empty shop fronts, disused billboards and other sites around the city.
Nowadays, when I go abroad on holiday or visit another city, I always take some of my paste ups and take the opportunity to add some content to the walls around wherever I am visiting. I have a new piece ready to go, it’s all printed up and will be going out on the night of the 31st Jan 2020. Timed to be seen on the day the UK leaves the EU it’s a little more political than other material I have created. I have also stolen parts of the image, purposefully trying to create a sense of that the image is a call to rise up (in an ironic way of course). It has been in interesting journey, from someone who started out just appreciating the work of a few local artists, to someone who is actively creating work that has been slapped up across the globe. I am just small fry in the global pond of paste-up artists, but I do feel like I am at least swimming in the pond and enjoying the experience.
#lisstich2019 on Instagram
“Open your eyes and see the magic”!