Howard Griffin Gallery
4 April – 5 May
Howard Griffin Gallery have a great new show coming up on 3 April with the iconic Berlin Wall artist Thierry Noir. We at Street Art London have of course worked with Noir on numerous occasions throughout 2013 so it is fantastic to see Howard Griffin Gallery and Noir staging the artists first significant solo show of his thirty year career. In February 2013, we invited Noir over to Shoreditch to paint The Village Underground Wall and also deliver a lecture at Somerset House. During this visit, Noir also painted a number of other walls around Shoreditch. Pictured below is Noir’s wall on Great Eastern Street underneath Steve ESPO Powers. Later on in 2013 Noir also participated in the Dulwich and Chichester street art festivals that Street Art London staged. It has been very interesting to see an artist of Noir’s repute painting large works on the street once again, pioneer of the modern street art movement as he is. The exhibition at Howard Griffin Gallery will also represent a full retrospective of Noir’s life’s works and experiences in painting the Berlin Wall illegally for years throughout the 1980s.
Full details of the exhibition are reproduced below:
In 1984, Noir was the first artist to illegally paint mile upon mile of the Berlin Wall. Noir wanted to perform one real revolutionary act: to paint the Wall, to transform it, to make it ridiculous, and ultimately to help destroy it. Noir’s iconic, bright and seemingly innocent works painted on this deadly border symbolised a sole act of defiance and a lone voice of freedom. In this landmark exhibition at Howard Griffin Gallery in Shoreditch, the artist’s first solo show, original works will be exhibited on a concrete wall bisecting the space alongside rarely seen photographs, interviews and films, juxtaposing old and new to reassess Noir’s enduring legacy and contribution to society.
A number of artists, musicians and free thinkers settled in West Berlin during the 1980s despite the difficulties of the time. Within a group which included David Bowie and Iggy Pop, was a rebellious young French artist called Thierry Noir. Thierry Noir was born in 1958 in Lyon, France and moved to Berlin in 1982 with one suitcase. By chance he settled in a squat overlooking the Wall at the border of East and West Berlin. One day in 1984 Noir spontaneously started to paint the Wall and continued to do so each day for five years with whatever paint he could scavenge from nearby construction sites. Noir’s aim was not to embellish the Wall but to demystify it. As Noir says, “I did nothing but react to its sadness.” During this time Noir would sell small paintings on cardboard at local restaurants to survive.
Noir painting on the other side of the Berlin Wall in 1989
Noir’s exploits and highly distinctive visual language have become world famous and immortalised in popular culture such as Wim Wenders’ 1987 film Wings of Desire and the cover of U2’s album Acthung Baby. It is remarkable, then, that ‘Thierry Noir: A Retrospective’, held in the 25th anniversary year of the fall of the Berlin Wall, is Noir’s first ever solo exhibition and also his retrospective.
Noir is today being increasingly recognised as a key forerunner of the modern street art movement and in 2013 worked outdoors in London alongside renowned international street artists of the current generation such as Phlegm and ROA. Noir is also compared with contemporaneous New York pop artist Keith Haring also born in 1958 and who likewise began his career on the streets.
Keith Haring meets Thierry Noir
Noir’s practice has a strong emphasis on line and aims to simplify forms to their most basic elements. This simplicity reflected the necessity of painting quickly outdoors in a hazardous environment with very real risks to his personal safety. Noir reacted to his environment and his monsters are a metaphor for the wall itself, each one relating to his experiences or feelings of what he calls a ‘killing machine’. His enormous murals in vivid colours represented both a personal response to the oppressive environment he found himself in and a poignant political monument that is just as relevant in the 21st Century as it was at the height of the Cold War. Visually, his iconic style is the very embodiment of 1980s Berlin and conjures up a timeless nostalgia for this cultural era.
Thirty years later, Howard Griffin Gallery is bringing Noir to London, offering a unique opportunity to look back at the story of this notorious artist alongside new works.
Noir painting the Berlin Wall in the 1980s
1980s Noir Wall painting entitled Red Dope on Rabbits. Dedicated to the hundreds of wild rabbits which lived on the Death Strip in Berlin in the 1980s
Segments of Noir Berlin Wall as featured in Wim Wender’s Wings of Desire.
GDR soldiers partrolling the ‘Death Strip’ (view from Noir’s window).
GDR soldiers removing a heavy iron door from the Berlin Wall and taking back to East Berlin after Noir had stuck it to the Wall.
The fall of the Berlin Wall
2014 Noir canvas