Tom Miller is no stranger to these pages and remains one of the most wildly creative and surreal forces in the Bristol fine art and street art scene. There is so much going on in this colourful explosion of thoughts and ideas, but it looks like a conflation of a motorcyclist with a bird with a lamb?
There is so much movement in the piece and a blurring of the real with the abstract that confuses our senses a little. You could study the piece for hours and still wonder at the end what on earth it is all about. The best way to find these things out is to ask the artist, but unfortunately I didn’t get to meet him this time… perhaps when I next see him.
I believe that these arches at The Carriageworks are on borrowed time, as the developers of the site have plans to build retail outlets as part of the overall redevelopment of the site, so let’s make hay while the sun shines. Two of Bristol’s most recognised street artists, Sled One and 3Dom, have paired up to give these two arches a bit of a makeover.
On the left is yet another spellbinding piece from Sled One, featuring a skull-like character in a red hat next to a pond with a rather arrogant-looking duck swimming about. Sled One has created this surreal scene with such extraordinary detail and clarity. For me there is something of a retro feel about the piece, perhaps it is the colours or the overall way the elements in the water and foliage around the pond are presented, but it looks like it could be a poster from the 1950s with a surreal 2020s twist.
On the right hand arch 3Dom has painted an incredible dreamy piece where the main character, unlike anything we know or understand, is curled around the shape of the archway space. There is something most endearing about this smiley faced, reptile-humanoid creature, but look a little closer and there is something a little intriguing too. A love arrow runs through the character, although I’m not entirely sure what it signifies. I get a feeling that much of 3Dom’s work is about cherishing our beautiful Earth and a warning about its decline and losses in the natural world, he tells these stories through his ‘otherworldly’ characters almost as if warning us about the perils ahead. Of course they might simply be beautiful images without any hidden meaning, but I doubt it.
This magnificent collaboration between Paul Monsters and Tom Miller was painted a little while back, but I couldn’t work out where it was. I found it by accident when returning from a trip to Greenbank. Although it is a large piece, it is easy to miss if you are not looking out, and is pretty much invisible if driving in the opposite direction.
I’m glad that I did find it though, because it is a truly spectacular collaboration from a pair of artists who are unafraid of using a ton of colour in their work. The two styles, one geometric and the other surreal, are a perfect match because of the blending of colour palette. The elaborate geometric pattern is by Paul Monsters and is as complex as I have seen from him. The frenetic explosion of objects spilling out of a portrait is by Tom Miller, whose work I have been following closely and admiring for several years.
A closer look at Tom Miller’s piece gives us a small window into the busy mind of the artist, with at least three portraits, a car, a rubber duck and some crystals. Heaven only knows what it all means, but it matters not, it is the work of an enormously talented artist. This is as fine a collaboration as I have seen this year.
Elton Street paint jams are something that, until last year, have passed me by a little. Some five or six ‘billboard’ panels fixed to the wall of a building are painted simultaneously, by a selection of artists, usually with a colour theme running as a golden thread between the pieces.
This panel is by the magnificent Tom Miller, whose surreal and busy creations continue to thrill and bemuse in equal measure. Here we have a dog or wolf bursting out of the picture in a splash of colour, with a pan or bowl suspended in front of him. This is a real work of art, brilliantly executed. I miss his occasional pieces in the Bearpit, where he first announced his entry onto the Bristol street art scene, but he makes up for it with walls large and small all over the city.
Like so many of the artists in Bristol, Varo seems to go through very busy periods and then goes quiet for a while, before returning with a burst of activity. I managed to catch up with Varo briefly just as he was finishing off this extraordinary piece. The conversation was a little fragmented, because Varo’s English is a little bit basic, and my Spanish non-existent. We discussed the surreal and crazy nature of the piece.
Normally Varo’s work is quite easy to identify, but this piece is completely off the wall and had I not been there, I’m not sure that I would have been able to identify the artist. It feels like a comic-book Picasso, if you get my meaning, but to try and work out what the story is might just do my head in, so I am not going to attempt to interpret it. I prefer to stick with the ‘crazy’ descriptor. It is great to see something so utterly different and challenging.
The blue and yellow colours used in this piece give it away as another reference to the war in Ukraine. There is so much to like about this scene, by Sled One, painted alongside Smak, and it is typically full of fine detail and great composition, let alone the outstanding execution.
I have noticed that Sled One does enjoy painting cheese, and he has excelled himself with this cheese character, full of holes and a couple of cheeky mice. His work is always fantastical, combining characters with abstract shapes sprinkled with surrealism and always with outstanding results. I like that this piece references Ukraine, without being in your face, it demonstrates that there are so many ways to support the Ukrainians.
Tom Miller has been very busy recently with a few commissions, and of course his lovely collaboration piece with Kin Dose on Nelson Street, that I published yesterday (Christmas Day). This new mural on the wall of the Basement Beer brewery tap room in Upper York Street is an absolute beauty and full of depth and symbolism.
I was lucky enough to catch up with Tom Miller (thank you, Paul, for the tip-off) while he was putting the finishing touches on the piece, and stopped for a wee chat. Tom Miller is one of the gentlest, kindest and most lovely artists I meet doing the rounds, and he is so generous with his time, always willing to talk and discuss his work. During our conversation, I asked him about the painting, and he gave me a few little insights.
The steps that appear on the piece are a direct reference to the steps in the doorway sign ‘basement beer’, which kind of makes sense, but might not be obvious when just glancing at the piece.
There is always so much going on in Tom Miller’s pieces, and he has really delved into the spirit of the venue with some clever mash-ups of people and drinks, creating some rather surreal and colourful characters.
This is an artwork that deserves to be seen and admired, and we are so lucky in Bristol that we get to see so much free art like this. Tom’s canvasses are something special too. Always bright, colourful and frenetic, they display a stream of consciousness captured on canvass or a wall and frozen in that moment. Fabulous work.
Recently, at the top end of City Road, there has been a whole bunch of new painting going on for the launch of Stoked Food, an ethical food outlet in Stokes Croft. Among the wonderful fresh new pieces is this quirky piece from one of my favourite artists, Maesyhook.
Perhaps better known for her Kawaii style, this is something altogether a little more surreal from Maesyhook. The portrait, in black and white, looking like a giant stencil, is overshadowed by a large cloud with an eye and shedding pink raindrops and fork lightening. The purple heart choker just adds an element of interest. Unusual, quirky and fun.
Damn, damn, damn those damn parked cars. This is a notoriously difficult wall to photograph, and while Epod was painting this incredible piece, I commented on the fact and said that clean photographs of his work would be something of a rarity. Somebody needs to put in some double yellow lines!
I spent a little while chatting with Epod, an artist from London, about the piece and how it reminded me a little of artists like Yvette Tanguy and René Magritte. So I gues what I was saying was that there was an element of dreamlike surrealism and symbolism going on in this piece.
I am so disappointed with these photographs, and short of camping on the street for days, simply don’t know how I will ever get clean shots of what is a truly stunning piece.
The final photograph at least gives you a feel for the skill and talent that Epod has and the wonderful concept behind this piece. This is one that if you live in Bristol or are visiting the city you will need to see for yourself. A superb mural.
A couple of weeks back there was a very special paint jam organised by the Bristol Womxn Mural Collective on the left-hand side of the long wall at Cumberland Basin, and in all there must have been nine or ten different artists taking part, many of whom I know and many I have not seen before. For most of these artists, painting walls is not their usual thing, so it was great to get a sense of their art and how it translates to the street.
This first piece from the paint jam is by Erviti, an artist I don’t think I have encountered before and who describes herself as a surreal oil painter. I chose this piece to post first, because of the striking subject and wonderful execution of it. The strawberry is beautifully painted and has a very three-dimensional look to it. Rather like Dali’s melting watch, the strawberry is disintegrating into a pool made up of the colours used to paint it. A creative and imaginative piece, and definitely different from the usual fare at this spot. Welcome Erviti.