The same place, the same artist, the same year (2017) as my last post, but a different character piece. Many readers will be familiar with Nevergiveup’s rabbits, but fewer might remember that he went through a phase of painting monsters. It is funny how he abandoned these in favour of the bunnies.
This one in The Bearpit (RIP) is beautifully sprayed in chrome on a red background… a rather gentle looking monster, not very menacing. These framed boards in The Bearpit were a perfect place for artists to showcase their work. Unfortunately taggers and some antisocial behaviour ultimately led to the removal of these boards and application of anti-graffiti paint. I haven’t been to The Bearpit for about two years, but nobody can take away my memories.
Taking a trip through my archives is a bitter-sweet experience, and nothing sums that feeling up better than this wonderful old rabbit piece from Nevergiveup (Followmyrabbits). Bitter, because it was taken in The Bearpit in its prime, when artists had the freedom to paint the boards there without reproach and there was an atmosphere and creative buzz about the place. Two years ago, Bristol City Council turned this vibrant space into a sterile, utilitarian, CCTVd void… exactly what they wanted.
This is one of Nevergiveup’s early rabbits, and by looking at this you can see just how much his work has evolved since 2017, when he had only recently arrived in Bristol. He has certainly left his mark in the city since that time with literally hundreds of these little characters populating the city.
This piece from Decay in May 2017 was encouraging people to use their vote in the June General Election of that year. An election that resulted in a hung parliament in which the Conservatives ‘bought’ the seats of the DUP to gain the slimmest of majorities, to continue the miserable administration we have become used to for more than a decade. I can’t wait to be shot of them if I am honest. The current Cabinet are an absolutely incompetent shower and the coronavirus outbreak has evidenced their poor decision making, not just during the crisis, but in running down our essential public services for more than a decade. I’ll stop there.
The artwork from Decay is really nice and it is great to have a piece from the artist that is a bit different from his customary writing or concentric pattern work. The three ovals on the left of the Y are a similar feature used by Slim Pickings on his Ts and Ss. A nice political piece.
I miss The Bearpit street art so very much, particularly when I find pictures like this one of a Tian wheatpaste in my archive. Using his favoured sepia tones, Tian presents us with another glamorous lady… possibly famous, possibly not. All of his work is designed to get us thinking about the central character, even if we can’t help ourselves.
I am a very big fan of paste ups, and finding them in Bristol is a bit of a treat, because unlike other parts of the country/other countries, the scene is pretty small here, and most wheatpastes are from visitors like Tian or qWerT or Upfest artists. It was Kid Crayon’s wheatpastes that drew me in to being more curious about street art some five or six years ago, and I haven’t looked back.
Looking back to May last year when The Bearpit was nearing its end as a street art spot, (shame on Bristol City Council) and the visiting French wheatpaster Tian, left us several fabulous pieces in Stokes Croft and the roundabout.
This fabulous piece, printed from a stencil, is of a boxer, I have no idea who, and is one of his larger paste ups at about three-quarters life size. The yellow tones work really well on the red background and the piece is full of life and movement. If and when Tian returns to Bristol he may struggle to find as many spots to paste his work as he has been used to on previous visits as the pace of gentrification accelerates.
This prophetic piece by Object… in The Bearpit was a protest and exposure of Bristol City’s determination to shut down the space and clear it of all ‘undesirable’ activity and make it a safe, clinical space. Object… quotes from Tom Flemming a creative consultant for Bristol City Council:
“…it will also be vital to champion the messy, the marginal and the avante garde, where imagination drives the city of the future.”
The Council shut The Bearpit down, expelled the homeless people (some of whom I note have returned), removed skateboarding and buffed all the walls with anti-graffiti paint. The space is now sterile (and indeed safer), but street art and graffiti were not contributing to a lack of safety, but perceptions seemed to rule the Council decision making. A council, I would add, that celebrates its association with Banksy. Some muddled thinking here.
Object…’s piece once again features a contorted and strangely proportioned figure propping up the rights of the overlooked, the messy, marginal and avante garde mentioned above. He is a true champion and I salute him.
It is only a few months ago that The Bearpit was a street art hub, and very much a ‘go to’ destination for street art tours and hunting in Bristol. But then the Council stepped in, painted all the walls with anti-graffiti paint, cleared out all the containers and a double decker bus that had been a cafe, but once closed became a squat.
It was as if the graffiti and street art was symbolic of the squallor and so it had to go. In my view it was the chronic homelessness problem in Bristol that was responsible for the decline in amenity value and increase in anti-social behaviour, but the Council know best and have created a sterile space.
Nothing happens there any more. No more artists, no more skateboarders, no more gardeners – it is a joyless place. I wonder where they have shifted the homeless people to. I know a bunch of them live in the underground car park near my work.
One of the last pieces I photographed there was this wonderful wheatpaste by French artist Tian, which was one of a series of wheatpastes he left us in and around the Stokes Croft area last spring. I guess on his next trip to Bristol he’ll have to give The Bearpit a wide berth.
As a street art hunter (a rather geeky description that I am not very fond of – archivist might be better) it is always worth taking pictures of everything you see, even if you don’t know the artist – you never know, you might be able to find out more later. And so it is with what is probably the first piece I saw by Conrico back in April 2018.
You can tell this is an old piece, because it is from The Bearpit, which has been ‘hermetically sealed’ since the spring this year. The picture is of a coiled snake and a hat without a body – presumably the owner of the hat – has been consumed or crushed by the constrictor, with only his spray cans and hat surviving the ordeal. The patterns on the snake are brilliantly done and this piece was an early indication of the talent that has since been unleashed on the streets of Bristol this year.
In recent days, The Bearpit has been shut off and there is no access. Bristol City Council stealthily went in to evict a group of rough sleepers who had made themselves at home in a bus (formerly a cafe) and some container units. In forcing the eviction they have completely closed down the space. This was an not an inevitable conclusion to the problems caused by homelessness, addiction, antisocial behaviour in The Bearpit but a terrible failure in ‘upstream’ thinking about how to tackle the issue.
As a result of this intervention, all the good things about this public space have been closed down, possibly permanently. In my view this has been really poorly managed by Bristol City Council, but I would concede that they are grossly underfunded and what we are witnessing is the result of years of austerity and public sector funding cuts, and this in one of the wealthiest countries in the world. Disgraceful.
I say all of this because this lovely piece by Panskaribas is likely to be one of the last I will be posting from The Bearpit for some time.
Panskaribas is probably the easiest artist to identify in Bristol on account of his kind of cubist-doodle style and this is a wonderful example of his work. The other outstanding thing about this artist is his incredible energy, he seems to be the most prolific artist in Bristol currently. RIP The Bearpit.
Always lighthearted, the work of Nevla is instantly recognisable by his cartoon style and minimal use of colours. Often although not always, his pieces are on the small side and generally speaking are simply sprayed ove other stuff, a bit like a throw up really. To give the piece a bit of defiition he goes round the whole thing with a thick colour line, in this example it is a blue line.
I don’t know if his caption ‘soul contact’ is a wordplay on ‘sole contact’ or not, but it kind of works. His whole style feels very free, and looks like it would be equally at home on the page of a sketch pad as it is on The Bearpit wall. Great to see that some artists are still painting this spot, in spite of a council clampdown.