Nuart Aberdeen has arrived; international street artists have descended on our city, and used it's streets and buildings as canvasses. Workshops are taking place in the streets. Hundreds of people are crowding together and following tour guides around the many pieces, gasping with delight, snapping away to record their impressions, as if at any moment another artist may come along and re-imagine the piece, or paste over it all again. The beauty of Street Art after all. Is this really Aberdeen?
I cried when I first saw the HERAKUT piece. Disbelief after all these years of trying to "do something" about the Artscene in Aberdeen," artists had finally been allowed a voice, and a loud one at that. On the drum-shaped Aberdeen Market, it's simply beautiful. Poetic. Magnificent. It feels like the focus of the festival, the heart. A slightly uncertain, young girl with a boldness, a hope for the future.......a fitting first piece for the fledgling festival.
A few feet away - paste ups from Julian de Casabianca. My initial naive disappointment that they weren't actually painted was completely dissolved after hearing his reasoning. During his awesomely meandering lecture at the Nuart Festival launch he explained how he is setting these images free; he takes photographs of paintings from local museum collections, prints and pastes them. By doing this he is not only taking them out of their often stiff and sombre museum setting, but also introducing new people to the images, people who may have never stepped foot inside a museum before. I like this, a lot. Bringing art to the people has always excited me. Art should never be elitist, it should be there to be enjoyed by all. Breaking down these barriers, these museum walls, is simple genius. Being pastes, instead of painted copies, gives them real tangibility, this is an image of the work that actually exists inside the collection, not a lookalike.
I love the way so many of the smaller works help us interact differently with our city - on my first tour around to see some works on Saturday, I bumped into a family doing the "Nuart Trail" The pure joy on
the wee boy's face when he managed to spot another of Isaac Cordal's figures was magical. I felt myself walking slower, looking up and around, noticing new things about my "weel kent" city, I felt like a visitor, a tourist, seeing things for the first time......powerful stuff.
If you look over Union Bridge you can get a glimpse of another work, by Add Fuel - during the official tour today, whilst I, alongside the 100+ others, was peering and stretching to get that "perfect" shot, a wee old wifie sidled up to me. "Has there been another suicide?" she said. I said "No, it's the Nuart Festival tour, there's lots of amazing art to see, all over the city" "Oh" she said, obviously disappointed at the lack of "real" gossip. It might take a wee bit longer to convince some sections of our city.....
After the tour was finished I had a quick visit to my own wee piece of Street Art, my painted door on Windmill Brae, "The Mermaid and the wee Girl." Part of @painteddoorsabdn, which started last year, this is one of a number of doors on The Green, along Windmill Brae and Langstane Place, all painted by Aberdeen Artists. It was a great initiative, and it felt like a real turning point for myself and many other artists here.
Satisified with my afternoon's culture fix, I headed for home, not before bumping into one of the visiting NUART artists. Juane, a Belgian artist, who has been stencilling wee sanitisation workers, complete with high vis jackets and kilts in a number of city locations, was starting work on a new one just a few steps away from my painted door.
Not wanting to disrupt him too much I kept my "hello" brief, but I couldn't help but ask if he knew what had happened to his piece, which had been stencilled on the lane just off The Green. "We painted over it" he shrugged, "decided it wasn't the right place for it, and anyway whatever had happened it wouldn't matter, it's street art, it's what happens".
This discussion has been a real topic of concern for a number of Nuart visitors over the past few days, with a few questions in particular doing the rounds. "Is this permanent? What happens if someone vandalises them? How long are they going to last? This is the point - we don't know, and what fate befalls them after the festival is all part of the art. They are permanent as long as the building owner chooses to keep them. They will decay naturally over time, but perhaps this may even increase their beauty. Some will no doubt be vandalised, but this again, can sometimes add meaning, add interest; I loved some of the images Juilen de Casabianca showed of his pieces that had semi-survived attempts to being ripped off, they seemed to become all the more powerful for it. Yes, in time, some of the Nuart Aberdeen works will be painted over, but they did exist, and thanks to all of us "happy snappers" here, there is plenty documentation, spread all over this world, to prove it.
So, to the future, Nuart 2018. I for one, like many other people in Aberdeen, will be welcoming it back with open arms, I can' t wait to see what other artists arrive and breathe new life into our Art scene. But why wait until 2018? Let us not fall into that age old trap, that anything good has to be from elsewhere. Please everybody, artists, coordinators and the powers that be, let's not let this enthusiasm fade, we have a whole new audience that we need to continue to engage. Nuart has certainly whetted everyone's appetite, now it's time to build something more, something sustainable, that will ensure that Aberdeen can firmly establish itself as a thriving cultural centre for years to come.