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Feature: A Day Out in Bristol

Juxtapoz // Wednesday, 01 Aug 2007

Photos by Chris Osburn

a For a population of less than 500,000, Bristol's got more than its fair share of street art, with an overwhelming amount of it surprisingly clever and brazenly well-executed. Although I recently had visited Bristol to cover the Invisible Art Club opening, hopes of combining the IAC opening with a photo-tour of the town were dashed by a night of torrential rain. So with fingers crossed (this has been the UK's rainiest summer in 200 years), I headed back a week later to get some shots.

For a population of less than 500,000, Bristol's got more than its fair share of street art.

Helping me find the juiciest graffiti, local graf artist Cyclops volunteered his time to escort me on a guided tour. Getting off the bus at Bristol's coach station, I was met by Cyclops, who came strolling up munching away at a chips sandwich, or in his words, an example of "typical, carbohydrate-loaded English cuisine." Cyclops had moved from London to Bristol about two years ago. Since then, he's painted his trademark skulls and one-eyed beings all over town while still managing regular trips to London for ongoing graffiti projects, such as his and long time collaborator Sweet Toof's water tank beautification project back in May.

In the brief two years that Cyclops has lived in Bristol, he's painted his trademark skulls and one-eyed beings all over town.

Having Bristol shown to me by Cyclops proved ideal. A modest representative of the city, he was keen to make sure that my day did not turn into the "Cyclops tour." Still, with his work virtually everywhere in town, it seemed difficult for my visit to be anything else. Indeed, one of the main reasons for my trip was to document his and Sweet Toof's infamous three-story painting. This massive work, a grim and gloomy skull with a jittery toothy grin, looms atop a seven-story abandoned building, eerily surveying Bristol and its surrounding bucolic countryside.

First on our itinerary was a stroll up Park Street to check out a stencil by local legend Banksy, which had received a good bit of publicity about a year ago. The piece—an image of a woman in her underwear behind a suited man leering out a window with a naked man hanging from the ledge—had caused a stir when 97% of Bristolians participating in an online public discussion showed support for keeping the work on the wall. The city allowed it to stay, with a city official stating that it was "fantastic that Bristol's residents have felt so strongly about it as a work of art that they have been encouraged to register their views." However, he also made clear that "the decision to keep this Banksy image is not a green light for more graffiti in the city."

Due to overwhelming demand, the city of Bristol allowed this Banksy to stay.

Green light or not, during the course of my day, it became evident that there was much more to Bristol's street art than Banksy. Making our way to Stokes Croft.




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