Photo Essay: Bristol’s Graffiti Scene

You don’t need to be a fan of street art to enjoy Bristol, but it helps. In the homeland of the mysterious Banksy, who inadvertently brought graffiti chic to the masses (by way of the mechandisers who made money out of reproducing his designs), it’s only right that there should be a focus on the city walls as a canvas.

Bristol Mural
Shipshape and Bristol fashion – this nautical mural livens up an archway.
Bristol Mural 2
Sea monsters haven’t yet been a tourist attraction here, but I guess this might start the rumour mill going…
Bristol Mural 3
You can tell that the artist really had fun with this expressive piece, varying spray pressure and working both with stencils and free-hand.
Bristol Graffiti Nelson Street
Peek through the arch on Nelson Street and you’ll spot a man in period costume, emblazoned on the wall, by painter Conor Harrington.
Bristol Graffiti See No Evil
This bright turquoise piece sits right between two very different styles of architecture.
Bristol Graffiti Snippet
What could have been a very bland wall is suddenly a vibrant, glowing canvas.

As some of these photos reveal, I spent a lot of time in Nelson Street, which – as I’ve recently discovered – is home to Britain’s largest street art project, called See No Evil. This project involved 72 artists from around the world contributing graffiti, which is permanently displayed here.

What’s unusual is that this was created in association with the council, so it doesn’t come with the usual ‘vandalism’ label attached by critics.  You can even refer to a map of the Nelson Street artists to help you track down your favourites (I wish I had known about this before I visited, so I could appreciate it more!). Visit Bristol also has a great round-up of some of the people involved.

Bristol Graffiti Knight
Across Nelson Street you’ll find this larger-than-life knight, with a sci-fi twist.
Bristol Graffiti and Scaffolding
Building projects and dull facades are a playground for the guys (and girls) wielding the spray cans.
Bristol Graffiti and Colour
Here you can see how the industrial fencing and safety tape in the foreground contrasts with the crazy paint in the background.
Bristol Graffiti and Fence
I’m not even going to try and explain this one – let’s just say it involves a fireplace, a brain and some suction tubes.
Bristol Graffiti looking up
Looking up from Nelson Street, the tower blocks can be seen hosting some incredible large-scale works.
Bristol Graffiti Mother and Child
The photo-realism of the mother and child piece is really beautiful. I have no idea how long it would have taken to plan and create this, but it’s a great addition to the area.

If you want to learn more about street art in Bristol, there are tours available from Where the Wall (11am, every Saturday, £9 for adults, with other rates for children, couples’ discounts and family discounts; free for under 8s); I haven’t taken this tour, so I can’t personally endorse it, but the company seems to offer a comprehensive look at the street art scene, taking in key areas such as Stokes Croft.

Bristol Graffiti Toy Story
Psychedelic 70s flowers meet an indifferent review of Toy Story on this wall.
Bristol Graffiti Green
Moving further away from the centre of the city, this cartoon-esque mural livens up the suburbs.
Bristol Graffiti Triangle
Tiny pictures and geometric shapes create a mini masterpiece.
Bristol Graffiti Banksy and Colour
Underneath a much-loved Banksy piece on Park Street there’s an explosion of graffiti.
Bristol Graffiti Skull
Christmas Steps is home to this elegant but macabre monochrome image.
Bristol Graffiti White Harte
This pub scene combines official artwork of the White Harte with not-so-readily-endorsed graffiti from locals.

Hopefully you can see from my photos that Bristol is a colourful and distinctive place to track down art on the streets, particularly in the city centre. Whilst East London may be considered a trendier graffiti destination, I’d argue that Bristol is more authentic in terms of expressive art, creative projects and fostering local talent.

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