5 English-speaking street artists you need to know

At Gymglish, we believe that learning a language is also learning the culture behind it. That’s why we strive to highlight iconic authors, movies, TV series, poems, books and songs in the “dessert” section at the end of each of our lessons.

In this blog post, we’ll be focusing on urban culture and street art – art that uses public space as a blank canvas.

Here are 5 street artists that will take you on a colorful and sometimes political journey through the city.

Lady Pink

Considered a pioneer of street art, Ecuadorian artist Lady Pink has made a name for herself in the male-dominated world of urban art. In 1972, her family moved to Queens, and at the age of 15, she created her first graffiti in the New York City subway. A true feminist and a politically-engaged artist, she launched her first solo exhibition Femmes Fatales at just 21. Lady Pink eventually decided to stop her street graffiti work to start painting in her private studio.

In her own words: “When I first started, women were still trying to prove themselves, through the 70s, that women could do everything guys could do. The feminist movement was growing very strong and as a teenager, I think it affected me without me realizing that I was a young feminist. The more guys said “you can’t do that”, the more I had to prove them wrong. I had to hold it up for all my sisters who looked up to me to be brave and courageous and to prove that I could do what guys could do.”

Today, some of Lady Pink’s canvas work is featured in museum collections around over the world. She also runs her own company which aims at passing down the art of painting murals, which she runs with her husband, the graffiti artist SMITH.

Banksy

Renowned British street artist Banksy has been expressing himself on walls worldwide since the 1990s. To this day, his true identity still remains unconfirmed.

Banksy is a lover of satire and poetry; his graffiti draws on a broad liberal philosophy that showcases anti-consumerist, anti-war and anti-imperialist beliefs. He presents his art as social criticism and commentary. His critics often mock him for the simplicity of his work and the naivety of his causes. Unlike his peers, Banksy’s graffiti is largely done with a distinctive stencilling technique. Often imitated but never equaled, the artist claims the authenticity of his canvases via his Instagram account and website.

Did you know? Banartwork Girl With Balloon sold at Sotheby’s auction for a whopping $1.37 million. Seconds after the closing bid, the artwork was partially self-destructed by means of a mechanical paper shredder hidden by Banksy himself inside the painting’s Victorian style-frame.

Mark Jenkins

Through his art, American-born Mark Jenkins seeks to evoke a reaction from his audience. How can one possibly pass by a man whose head is stuck in a concrete wall or a woman coming out of a trash can without a second look?

Born in 1970, Jenkins is known for his unusual street installation with an expertise in simulating human figures made from rolls of tape. One thing’s for sure: Mark Jenkins knows how to make heads turn. Through his art, he attempts to “distort the city fabric” in hopes of getting people to question what’s around them. He once said: “I create a social experience first. I could be a sociologist. I think I’m exploring something that is beyond street art. It’s another experience.”

Faith XLVII

Faith XLVII was born in South Africa in 1979. She started traveling the world in order to find her own artistic style in 2006. Her exploratory approach led her to create a broad range of artwork – from immersive new media installations and hand-sewn wall tapestries, to sculptural bronze works investigating hierarchies of power. She also creates traditional paintings and a variety of fine art prints. 

Faith XLVII is a human rights and animal activist. Her goal is to show the beauty of the world surrounding us. Today, her work can be admired in more than 50 countries.

Shepard Fairey

If the name Shepard Fairey doesn’t ring a bell, you might be more familiar with his alias, OBEY. The American artist is best known for creating the iconic HOPE poster designed for Barack Obama’s 2008 US presidential campaign – and has been close to a household name ever since.

Fairey began his career as a creative director in 1995 and launched BLK/MRKT Inc, a guerilla marketing studio with corporate clients like Pepsi and Hasbro. His colorful and satirical work features elements that echo the work of Barbara Kruger, Andy Warhol and Diego Rivera.

Ready to roam the streets in search of these unique artists? Try our online English course Gymglish to chat with the locals you meet along the way!



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