The famous Leake Street Tunnel in the arches underneath Waterloo Station was turned into a bright pink promenade by over 100 female artists on Sat 8th March, in an attempt to break a new world record. The event also aimed to raise money for Breast Cancer Awareness and celebrate International Womens Day through a creation of art. As part of the organisation, which supplied the reclamed pink paint for the event, I documented the day as a participant.
We arrived at the tunnel at 11am. Most of it had already been painted pink as some of the girls had gotten there as early as 6am.
After observing the surroundings, Sev & I found a perfect spot near the entrance of the tunnel where the air wasn’t so thick from the spray fumes and the sunshine was sneaking in. It was a beautiful day in London.
To make things even better, famed graffiti artist Steffi Bow coincidently picked a wall space next to ours. I caved into my reservations and approached her as a nerdy fan. She informed me that she had flown in from Dubai especially for the event and was super excited to be a part of it. With a great grin, she showed me the design she would be painting- a union jack bow with “London Calling” as a slogan- very fitting
Unlike the other artists, Sev & I had arrived with absolutely no idea of what or how we were going to paint, just tons of inspiration and enthusiasm. After some deliberation, we decided on a Mexican skull- embracing both her love for tattoo art and my obsession with Latin American culture. We had only brought black spray but fortunately ‘a man with a van’ was selling cans at the end of the tunnel. We bought 3 colours that we pictured would look pretty together- teal, gold and light pink.
We began the piece precisely at 11.30 and with a few breaks in between, didn’t properly finish till 6 in the evening. I had no idea just how tiring painting could be (our piece wasn’t even that big).
Apart from the artists their were also several talented beatboxers present. Roaming the tunnel throughout the day, they entertained the spectators, provided a rhythmic track for the artists and portrayed just how varied & skilful street culture can be. Their day-long repetoire included dubstep mixes of Dr. Dre and Snoop as well as wailing police sirens, fireworks and cheesy pop ballads.
Placed among such a talented group of artists, I really got to appreciate graffiti in all it’s glory. Still today, there are so many misconceptions about graffiti as an art form and people class it as vandalism and a transgression on city streets. But as I discovered, it is SO much more than that…
Graffiti is art in its purest form. It allows artists to express themselves when there is no other outlet to do so. Modern graffiti has its roots in the early 70’s through music genres such as Punk and more extensively in the 80’s through HipHop– but it has since become a platform for talented underground artists to exhibit their work on a large scale and receive recognition for their pieces.
Possibly the only art to evolve so quickly and dramatically, today graffitti incorporates murals, stencils and even moss. Present-day styles reflect popular messages of social and political ideals and some prominent artists such as “Banksy” have created a name for themselves through anti-establishment pieces.
Furthermore the technique of using the can itself is very complex, having to take into consideration the pressure applied to the cap, the distance the can is held from the wall, the proportions needed to cover the wall (as pieces look very different from a far than close up).
I felt a great sense of privilege being amongst so many talented women and what was even more encouraging, was seeing so many men there supporting and appreciating them as great graffiti artists.
True graffiti is emancipation and I completely recognised that yesterday. Trying to fill a space on a wall with something beautiful and leaving your mark for others to gaze and wonder at is empowering. More so, as one large unit in correlation with womens day and in the spirit against such a devastating illness.
In regard to our piece, as a first time joint venture I was extremely happy with it . We reallyhad fun and put our all into our bandito skull & doing it together gave it a special value. As a piece it stood out because of its bright colours and somewhat naïve style. It turned out much better that expected, with a few people stopping to take pictures too!
Truly a great experience, the Femme Fierce event created a community; seeing parent artists teaching their kids how to write, people sharing beers, music, pens, ladders (for those not tall enough) and most importantly ideas.
Towards the end of the day we climbed on top of the tunnel to view the sunset. Instead we saw what was once the road that had lead towards the city through Leake St tunnel. Since the Eurostar moved to Kings Cross the tunnel had been completely closed off and the surrounding area was disserted. Street signs were rusting and weeds were growing in between the cracks of the road, but somehow this space, this once busy & polluted tunnel had been found a new function- an underground gallery to exhibit some of London’s best artwork and a place to bring like-minded people together under one roof.
http://www.inspiringcity.com – for interview with artists
http://femmefierce.co.uk – official website