When confronted with the term ‘street art’, it’s perhaps easy to envisage the deviant murals that pepper our cities, the hooded figures that swiftly spray-paint their tags onto concrete, the art with swagger that’s on view for all to see in the most public of galleries. But there is a quieter, more secretive haven for the urban artist, nestled deep within the landscapes most have forgotten. Photographer Romanywg has captured largely unseen works found in disused buildings and derelict spaces across the UK, and brought them together in the book ‘Out of Sight’, a veritable treasure trove of urban artistry.
Taken from a range of post-industrial hinterlands, the images do not merely document a liminal space between dull, iron-wrought lines on the one side, and colourful, fluid designs on the other. Rather, the artists engage directly with the obsolete status of the structures and walls they paint on: Aryz’s social outcasts hide their faces as they cower away from a world that they can no longer bear to look at, and seek solace in places which emanate a similar aura of dejection; whilst Roa reminds us of the havoc urbanity has wreaked on nature by endowing the viewer with X-ray vision, turning spaces into graveyards scattered with dishevelled and dying animals. But whatever the style or concept, each photo reveals a figure that seems to have quietly grown from the depths of our forgotten worlds, as if it had been festering there for years. Like the spaces they occupy, they too are rejects – people, creatures and places we conveniently wish away, devoid of life and decaying in the wake of their lost purpose.
In some ways, many of the images are deeply saddening, and reflect both the environmental and social scars left behind by urban development. Yet paradoxically, the transformative properties of art are on full display: the designs exist as striking and often vivacious creations, born from miraculous verve out of an environment that seemed beyond hope. Although Aryz’s crouching and masked figures wilt away from the world, they are also huge and impossible to ignore for those brave enough to venture ‘past the No Entry signs’. It is this sheer boldness which urges the viewer to think again about the possibilities of the rejected landscape.
This street art speaks of the liberating power of the abandoned space as a playground of expression, an opportunity to create art sans ego and a realm removed from mainstream judgement: ‘this isn’t a hall of fame; it’s about personal artistic evolution.’ Artists have reclaimed these environments rather like the plants and weeds that have begun to encroach upon some of the disused spaces, as they work to reimagine and adorn the landscapes everyone else has turned their backs on. ‘Out of Sight’ opens up intriguing discoveries, and presents to the viewer art which has a truly symbiotic relationship with the canvas it’s so expertly, and rather beautifully, emblazoned upon.
Out of Sight is out now published by CarpetBombingCulture. See www.carpetbombingculture.co.uk
words Claire Ramtuhul