Since March most of us have been largely confined to our houses except for ‘exercise,’ which in my case means a substantial dog walk every day. I went out to see if the coronavirus experience had motivated any of east London’s street artists to respond to our current situation.
Shoreditch is the acknowledged epicentre of London’s street art scene, apart from the Leake St Graffiti tunnel. Shoreditch is where the graffiti tours take place, and in normal times it’s buzzing with fashion shoots and selfie-chasers. Over the past decade it has erupted in street art boasting a bewildering array of styles and subjects.
Unlike cities like Berlin or Valencia, street art in London is very new and was commercialised very quickly. This means there’s some really impressive work but not much of it has anything to say. This isn’t necessarily a criticism, just an observation. For the most part, while there are a lot of good artworks there hasn’t been anything particularly impressive happening in the wake of coronavirus here in London. This possibly reflects the fact that much of London’s so-called street art is actually commercial; it’s never had much of a political overtone.
However, there have been some very interesting coronavirus responses in the form of paste-ups. The paste-up is the really political London street art. Very interesting graphic work printed onto paper, either simple black & white or full colour, pasted very quickly on to surfaces around the city. I absolutely love paste-ups, much more than the big impressive murals. Paste ups are a kind of conversation of the street: the appear and disappear quickly, get ripped down, ripped up and repurposed.
But there is one piece of Coronavirus street art that stands out above all others. The artist printmaker Mark Titchner has created one of the great paste-ups of the Coronavirus era: the wonderful “Please Believe These Days Will Pass.” The first time I saw it, on Cremer St, it genuinely relieved some of the terror-pressure I had built up inside me. Since then, whenever I see it, I feel like I am being greeted by a reassuring friend.


Street art is for everyone. All these photos are subject to Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) You can share them, use them noncommercially but you must attribute them to me, Gillian McIver.