At the launch of the ‘Cannon Fodder’ show last Friday I was lamenting the lack of wheatpaste artists in Bristol with Jimmer Willmott. It was Kid Crayon’s brilliant wheatpastes dotted around the city that inspired me to write about street art in the first place, but he has moved away from the form. However, what was very exciting was that Jimmer said he was thinking about doing some… now that would be amazing.
The exception to the rule occurs during upfest, when wheatpasters descend on North Street and festoon walls and lamp posts with their paste ups. One of the frequent visitors I look forward to each year is Face the Strange, and who can blame me with pieces like this one?
Face the Strange challenges the viewer by presenting ordinary images, often models from magazines, that have had major head surgery. This bizarre piece combines a suited worker with a seahorse… but of course why not? I am a big fan of this kind of distortion, particularly when combined with marine life. Fun.
With this wheatpaste we enter the complicated world of large corporates ripping off the work of street artists to use as a backdrop for marketing their goods without acknowledgement or payment to the artists. This is a long-standing and difficult issue and one that is becoming more of a conflict zone as street art becomes more and more popular. This article on the BBC website explains it really well.
Face the Strange and many other artists ran a campaign highlighting a particularly high-profile marketing strategy by clothing company BooHoo after they had featured work by Bristol’s own SPZero76 and Kid Crayon amongst others on some London walls without bothering to identify or contact the artists. It is clear from this paste up that this kind of corporate behaviour is unpopular and that payments/acknowledgment should be made to the artists.
This is a minefield if you venture into it too far, so I tend to keep to the periphery of the discussion, for example it has the potential to bring legal protection of potentially illegal activity and how do we square that one? I just wish people would treat others with respect and decency, I think that is all most people are expecting.
One of the privileges that wheatpasters have is that they can spend lots of time in the studio conceiving and preparing their work, and only a few minutes pasting it up. That is not to say it is in any inferior to any other kind of street art, it is just different and requires different skill sets. Perhaps the most challenging part is finding the exact right spot to paste a piece up, and in this instance, Face the Strange has nailed it with this large expanse of red brick wall.
The piece itself is a clever reworking of Waddington’s Cluedo in which each of the characters have been given the Face the Strange treatment and have heads relating to their names. I really rather like this concept piece as did many other visitors to the festival who were gathered round it. This artist’s name says it all really.
A yellow man in swimming trunks and a rubber duck’s head. This could only be the work of one man, and just in case you were in any doubt, he has rather helpfully signed the piece over the top. It is of course Face the Strange.
I’m not entirely sure when he pasted thie piece up, it looks quite old, but I don’t recall seeing it at Upfest 2017, so maybe he visited Bristol after that and put it up, or maybe I just hadn’t registered it before. It is a fine wheatpaste and appeals to my surreal tastes.
Wheatpasting is not as popular in Bristol as it is in other parts of the country, so it is a real treat at Upfest, when a (whatever the collective noun for wheatpasters is) descend on the city and cover just about every utility box with paste ups. Foremost among them is Face the Strange.
Most of his work has reasonably everyday scenes of people looking like models from a catalogue but with something weird obscuring their face. Face the Strange was going through a fruit phase during Upfest 2018.
However he is not a ‘one trick pony’ and this fun piece has a hamburger for a head. I love the Burger King packaging rip-off with his name in the ‘sandwich’. Things are good when FtS is in town.
Immediately adjacent to Gnasher’s chimpanzee in Stucley Place there is a door with a couple of wheatpastes on it. The higher of the two is by Face the Strange and features four brightly coloured suited gentlemen with half fruits or vegetables for faces. I am guessing that this has been around for a while. The piece is actually made up of four individual strips.
The lower pasteup is by Codefc featuring one of his characters with a camera head. Both pieces have similar themes and yet the individual style of the artists shines through.
I posted a piece by Codefc from Upfest 2016, but it seems that more recently he has favoured freestyle spraying, judging by his Instagram feed. I enjoy seeing artists moving through different techniques and expressing their work in different ways. This is a nice door.
Well it is no surprise that my path should cross with the work of Face the Strange at Upfest. What perhaps was a surprise was witnessing him pasting this piece up, and serendipitously on many levels, putting a face to the name.
I really should have asked him, what on earth is going on in his head…a man in a suit with a pineapple face and pineapple skin. Is it all just bonkers, funny and off-the-wall or is there some deeper hidden meaning. I expect it is a combination of both. Instead we talked about other wheatpasters and Upfest and the weather.