STREET ART: Stewy Stencils

Stewy uses stencils and spray paint to place animals and lesser-known cult icons in specific surroundings to highlight their importance to that location.

I first discovered Stewy when I moved to Bristol, England. As many of you will know, Bristol is saturated with street art/ urban art etc and pieces come and go rapidly. Some get painted over, some get defaced on purpose, and for some reason the local council likes to remove some of them 😉

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Leonard Lane, Bristol

Stewy, however, is an artist whose work (from what I have seen so far) hardly ever gets removed. I’ve seen people ‘add’ to it (who doesn’t want to draw a comical poo underneath a bear standing on it’s hind legs?) and I’ve seen people tag around it, but in the years I’ve been here hardly any of them have been removed or painted over.

This means I come across his work regularly as all the other pieces come and go around them. As an ever-curious art lover, I always wondered: Why are they there? and, “Who is responsible for them? Do they have a special meaning”?

… Well, after interviewing Stewy I now know the answers to these questions!

Read on to find out about his art, his methods and his reasons 🙂

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Stewy’s stencil of Bristol legend DJ Derek in Leonard Lane, Bristol


WHO IS STEWY & WHAT DOES HE DO? 

Stewy says, “My work forms an expanding library of ‘life-size’ hand cut stencils representing a series of indigenous British animals and cult icons created in around the UK since 2007.”

To be specific, the ‘animals’ he stencils are specifically placed within an urban setting to make the animal appear realistic and occasionally at odds with the surroundings. Other icons by Stewy are site-specific and appear where the cult icons lived, worked or died.

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Leonard Lane, Bristol (photographed 2016)

He says: “British identity has featured in my work since the mid nineties – and the use of icons since 2003. Its wasn’t until late 2007/8 I moved onto stencils as a medium.”

One reason stencil work is popular is that it allows for ease and speed when painting in the street, particularly for illegal work (although Stewy mostly gets permission to place his work). Stewy explains,”Once the stencilled image is laboriously cut its allows you to create images quickly in multiple locations“.

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Leonard Lane, Bristol (photographed 2016)


WHAT INFLUENCES STEWY? 

Like many street and urban artists, Banksy’s work has had an influence on Stewy.

Living in Hackney and Brighton, a new Banksy work appears overnight; I remember going to his first show in Dalston around 2003 and not buying his prints for £30 (!)… although my work is more in line with Blek le Rat.

I came to street art from an art/illustration/theory background, interested in people like John HeartfieldRay Walker and Peter Kennard.”

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Leonard Lane, Bristol (photographed 2016)

But his favourite?

Ernest Pignon-Ernest“.

Pignon-Ernest is famous for his paste-ups of Arthur Rimbaurd, seen all around France from 1978 to 1979. His stencils reflect serious political and social issues by making the passer-by confront the image of victims of injustice and war.

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Image of Pasolini, by Pignon-Ernest (courtesy of the official site of Pignon-Ernest)

This image of Pasolini 40 years after his death (by murder) is particularly haunting. Read more about the life and death of Pasolini here.


WHY STENCILS?

“I like the work ‘Ghosts Across the Street’. The stencils need to put up quickly and repeatable for multiple locations. I generally get permission to place my work and see the street as a gallery, accessible to all, with no restriction on who I create or for its permanence“.
I really like this as it’s also a major reason as to why I love art in the street; it’s easily accessible to all regardless of financial status, class, an allocated timeframe to view it etc.

 

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Image courtesy of Metro Gallery


WHY DOES HE DO WHAT HE DOES? 

“The bulk of my current work is the British icon series – where the location is key. I like the concept of placing people who are the forgotten; the eccentrics, people who have challenged the conventional. Living or dead, I try and tap into an intimacy people may have with the individual having the ability to make them immortal”.

I think this is a beautiful idea! Honouring the memory of someone perhaps lesser-known; keeping them, their ideas and achievements alive; encouraging people like me to explore their work and story more, and in doing so, making sure the life they lived lives on!

 


PROUDEST ACHIEVEMENT?

“When I left London, Mary Wollstonecraft was put up on the side of the Unitarian Chapel, Newington Green near where she set up the first school for girls in 1784. The image of Mary helps create awareness of the work she has done for feminism and contributes (through print sales) money being raised for a permanent statue of her in the green, and upkeep of the chapel.”

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photo courtesy of BBC News

I particularly love this as (obviously) I am a woman and I think it’s important that we actively fight for equality of the sexes. Appreciating and continuing to discuss what Mary has done for women’s rights keeps her ideas alive and ensures that her contributions to the discourse are not forgotten or overlooked. She was particularly passionate about education for women (something that is discussed a lot between me and my female friends actually as a few of them work in this area).

Here’s a great documentary to watch:


I was actually lucky enough to see Stewy paint in Bristol and it was really cool. He’s super quick and very precise. And now I know more about why he does what he does, I love his work even more 🙂

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Halfway through a stencil of Robert Wyatt (who is a Bristol musician with a prolific career)


Stewy’s work can be found throughout the UK. I highly recommend watching the documentary because it tells you more than I could write here, and straight from Stewy’s mouth too. 🙂


STEWY OFFICIAL SITE / FACEBOOK / TUMBLR / INSTAGRAM / ONLINE STORE


Street artist Stewy pays tribute to DJ Derek

Street artist creates graffiti of Yorkshire-born artists

Who Really Killed Pier Paolo Pasolini?

And here’s a link to a great article about Ernest Pignon-Ernest  (sorry, it’s in French but most browsers will automatically translate now)


If you’re a street/urban artist and want me to feature your work drop me an email at cosmictravellerinfo@gmail.com, or contact me on Instagram – @cosmictraveller_uk -sometimes just a follow will make me curious enough to check out your profile and then write about you 😉


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Love it! This one was inspired by Jean Paul Basquiat 😍 thankyou @daphnedaffodils for the photo!

A post shared by COSMO • cosmic traveller (@cosmictraveller_uk) on

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