Aberdeen’s grey granite transformed by international street art festival

Aberdeen’s grey granite has been blasted with colour and form as the Nuart international street art festival takes over buildings, gable ends and hidden corners of the city.

By The Newsroom
Friday, 19th April 2019, 1:46 pm
Updated Friday, 19th April 2019, 2:44 pm
UK street artist Hush has transformed the Aberdeen branch of John Lewis with his signature style. PIC: Louise Kendal/Contributed.
UK street artist Hush has transformed the Aberdeen branch of John Lewis with his signature style. PIC: Louise Kendal/Contributed.

Thirteen of the world’s most highly regarded street artists have transformed the oil capital for the three day event, with the “breathtaking” large-scale works to remain on permanent display.

Scottish artist and playwright John Byrne, who spoke at the launch of the festival last night, has paid tribute to the work on show in Aberdeen.

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New work by Glasgow-based street artist Smug is on show in Aberdeen as part of Nuart 2019. PIC: Louise Kendal/Contributed.

Byrne said: “The art I’ve seen so far is pretty magnificent and it’s on a large scale, which is so hard to do.

“I admire it enormously. They are wonderful artists to work on that scale.

“You don’t need to interpret it at all - you can just stand back and drink it in.”

Portugese street artist Vhils marks the links between Aberdeen and the Spanish Civil War with his piece Everyday Heroes. PIC: Louise Kendal/Contributed.

Byrne, who began painting large murals in the 1970s, said his advice to anyone interested in the art form was “find a wall”.

When asked about the difference a piece of street art could make to a city, he replied: “It livens it up.

“You turn the corner and you see something you have never seen in your life before, really big, on a wall, and brilliantly painted.

“It is really entertaining. It is a living thing in the side of an otherwise static space. It is just breathtaking.”

Street artist Axel, from Spain, adds the final touches to his large-scale work which will remain on permanent display in Aberdeen. PIC: Louise Kendal/Contributed.

Nuart started in the Norwegian city of Stavanger and has come to Aberdeen for a third year as the city bids to reposition itself beyond the oil and gas years as a place of art and culture.

Among the artists whose work can be seen is Smug, the Australian who now lives and works mainly in Glasgow.

Portuguese artist Vhils, real name Alexandre Farto, has carved his piece Unearth in a wall overlooking a city centre car park.

The work marks the links between Aberdeen and the Spanish civil war and depicts the first Aberdonian to go and join the International Brigades, along with an American brigadier and two Spanish children.

He said: “I wanted to make this old picture almost develop itself on an old wall in Aberdeen, allowing the past to resurface - reminding us that we should keep it in mind as it can tell us so much about the future,”

Berlin artist Jan Vormann has used Lego bricks donated by the city’s residents to repair a damaged wall.

“We put out a call on social media and in the shopping centres all over Aberdeen they put boxes for people to donate bricks,” he said.

“We asked for certain bricks that were compatible. We received 10-15kg. I was so impressed - it was really generous.”

Mr Vormann said the city’s granite posed a technical challenge to work with but was “beautiful”.

UK-based Hush has created two women in his signature style who look out from a wall of the city’s branch of John Lewis.

Meanwhile, a group of Aberdeen pensioners have picked up spray cans for the first time to create a piece of permanent street art.

The 16 senior citizens have spent days in the classroom learning about the art form and today (Friday) will put their theory into practice when they will spray a mural on a wall in the centre of the Granite City.

It is the first time the Lata-65 Young At Art project, which teaches graffiti to pensioners, has taken place in the UK.

Pearl Cameron, 68, a retired teddy-bear maker, signed up for the classes after her grandson told her about them.

“It is great to learn new skills,” she said.

“We made our tags. They are inspired by something in your history, something that is important to you.”

Vivien Kennils, 67, a retired home economics technician, said she had always “frowned” on street art.

She signed up to the classes, taught by Lara Seixo Rodrigues from Lisbon, after being encouraged by her daughter.

“As much as I did hate people putting names on walls, street art is different,” she said.

“It enhances places - certainly here in Aberdeen.”

Nuart Aberdeen is spearheaded by Aberdeen Inspired and the city council.

Adrian Watson, chief executive of Aberdeen Inspired, said: “On a dreary day in the north east of Scotland, granite can be depressing to some.

“The contrast when you bring something like Nuart to a city like Aberdeen is fantastic - it’s a real cultural transformation.”

Councillor Jenny Laing, co-leader of Aberdeen City Council, said the festival “transcended


“I’m hoping to be a Graffiti Granny in the future,” she added.

Nuart Aberdeen, which has a theme of story-telling this year, will run in the city until Sunday.

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