Craving an off beat art experience, I bussed across town thirty minutes to Leith in search of the 360 Wraparound Street Art Courtyard and Urban Art Exhibition. Spying a spray-painted Asian-looking cat on a large metal industrial door told me I was probably close. A brick and stone arched tunnel about fifteen feet long covered in more painted art marked the entrance into an open-air parking lot space enclosed on all sides by high walls now covered in murals with a small indoor gallery space to my right.
A lanky, fellow bent over his painting project in the yard looked up and smiled. David welcomed me in to the parking area and introduced himself jokingly as the “curator” of the urban art project, and the landlord. Another gal painting away on a 3 x 3 foot wood cube, offered a friendly Hello too.
“So what’s the impetus for this project?” I asked David. He explained that initially he wanted to feature female Scottish street artists and invited as many as he could find to cover the outdoor space. Most of the art was created a month before the Fringe Festival during the Leith Festival, but David showed me a few new works that were done during the Fringe – including an incredible work by Elph (@elphone). David offered that Elph started out as a graffiti artist, then went to art school, and has returned to his street art roots by creating a new original graffiti work every 24 hours! Upon closer inspection of his painting, you see his lovely lightly painted touch in striking contrast to the other wall art with bold thick layered paint. The Elph of Edinburgh is like the new Bansky of London. Now I’m on the hunt for his work! How long has he been doing this? Anyone know?
Only three of the woman artists and one male (Elph) regularly do graffiti art as their primary art form. Zoe Atherfold (@zoeatherfold), the gal I met when I walked in is a very talented screen print artist (I mention as I ended up purchasing a print), although she contributed to the 360 urban art project by painting a cool pigeon art mural high on the wall above the arch of the tunnel.
David explained that inexpensive art studio space is hard to find in Edinburgh. His indoor gallery and workshop space is a former refrigeration storage facility (that failed to pass a cheese inspection – not cold enough!). I entered through an industrial roller lift door into a small gallery space with a variety of different artists’ works displayed. Zoe invited me into her work space. What work space? Voila … A secret door opened amidst the displayed art, and we entered into a myriad of tiny work spaces with artists buzzing about. She showed me her small print shop area. David commented later how artists are great tenants because they don’t need much. “Just a space to create and a toilet. No need for high speed wifi, etc,” he joked.
I asked about other graffiti art I had seen around town. He explained that there’s a group of graffiti artists located not far away who do only spray paint mural art. He showed me their “tag” of approval on this space – a show of urban art respect.