Home Uncategorized In Awe of the Incredible Street Art of the Waterford Walls

In Awe of the Incredible Street Art of the Waterford Walls

by Roberto
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In the lively city of Waterford in Ireland, an artistic revolution has been taking place of late. The city has long had a reputation as Ireland’s oldest city, due to being founded by the Vikings over 1000 years ago. It also serves as a gateway to the Copper Coast, a UNESCO Geopark dotted with a string of interesting sights. But over the past six years, one of Ireland’s newest festivals has been transforming the city into the walking gallery it is now. Known as the Waterford Walls festival, it has been bringing colourful street art to the city streets. It is the first such festival of its kind in Ireland.

History of Waterford Walls

Waterford Walls is the brainchild of founder Edel Tobin. The project was first started as a means to bring renewal to depressed areas of the city. Originally founded as a pop-up garden on a derelict site, the project subsequently grew from there into a small local street art festival. The following five years have seen exponential growth and the festival is now internationally renowned and has invited over 160 artists to date.

Waterford Walls’ team runs a guided art trail of the walls, which can be booked on their website. Note these are limited somewhat at the time of writing, as a result of current government restrictions.

The 2020 festival runs from July 13th to August 28th and will see Case Maclaim, Aches & Maser, Maker & Land, Russ, Curtis Hylton, Nean and a whole host of others to bring their reimaginings to the city’s public spaces. Now that you know the background behind this wonderful festival, isn’t it time to get to the art?

A Waterford Walls Guided Tour

I was delighted to be invited by Terez of Waterford Walls to take a guided tour and gladly took up the offer. My tour occurred just days before the start of the new festival and as I entered the committee office, planning was very much in full flow. The office itself is quite distinguishable, helped by the Dan Leo bird that adorns it. His colourful depiction of animals is unmistakable. It was here that I met Ciaran, who would be my guide for the next hour or so. Ciaran has been with the team here for over a year, and as a local lad was indeed very knowledgeable about the area and the art.

The tour began with a special mural, the tiger by Sonny (a South African artist) on Newgate Street. Bringing attention to the plight of Tigers, of which only 4000 exists in the wild. It’s striking, and the dangers are emphasised by the glass shards surrounding it. Right around the corner is one by Kreemos from Russia. If you can tell the hidden message in the writing, then you have a keener eye than I do.

Waterford Walls
Waterford Walls
Any guesses on the hidden message here?

We moved to Stephen Street where a full wall of art awaits. A work by local artist Coilfhionn Hanton focusing on racial diversity in the city is probably the main focus here. Next is the colourful signature of Rask. The three sisters in the following one represent three rivers nearby, the Barrow, Nore, and Suir, collectively known as that. The artists commonly try to include aspects of local nature and geography in their art. Also here is a rainbow serpent by Kevin Bohan who used Aboriginal painting techniques, and a building frontage by Eoin.

Waterford Walls
Waterford Walls
Waterford Walls
Waterford Walls
Cian’s attractive building, painted in just 15 minutes apparently

Patrick Street art

Ciaran then led me to Patrick Street, where first we saw the puffin by Meshos, a Belgian artist. Again referencing local wildlife, the bird is painted in a raw visceral defragmented style. In the bird’s eye, the skyline of Waterford can be seen. Just around the corner, a rabbit by Dan Leo hops into view.

Waterford Walls
The puffin by Meshos
Dan Leo
If ever you need a splash of colour on your building, Dan Leo is your man

Nearby on Little Patrick St I set my eyes on a personal favourites. Curtis Hyltons masterpiece adorns the walls of the Finders Keepers store. Its central character is a child, looking at the marvels of the seaside, and the creatures that lie beyond. Right across from it two further portraits make this area unmissable.

Curtis Hylton
The marvels of the sea
Waterford Walls
Apparently these were painted by two friends, who unexpectedly met on the day at the same wall. They blended their two works together

All the way throughout the tour Ciaran provided excellent backstories to all the art, and an insight I couldn’t have garnered on my own. Our next stop found is in an alleyway, where the pick of the paintings here was a dog. The dog, Ned, is in fact that of Edel (the mastermind behind Waterford Walls), and become something of a celebrity owing to it. Again the excellent Curtis Hylton painted this. The foxes on the interior of the tunnel are a real explosion of colour too. Our introductory tour ended at the old Waterford Walls HQ, where Curtis Hylon also left his mark.

Curtis Hylton
Ned looking very dapper
Waterford Walls
This reminds me of a game I used to play.
Waterford Walls
This one is definitely Sinead O’Connor
Waterford Walls
Curtis Hylton

Continuing the tour on my own

Ciaran left me not only with a wealth of information from the tour but also an invaluable map to find some of the other murals scattered throughout the residential parts of the city. Armed with this I set off alone to find the rest of what the city has to offer. It’s really worth leaving the city behind. You can find that map here.

On Ciarans good advice I left the centre via Barrack Lane, and immediately my walk paid dividends. Two house sides featuring portraits off Barrack Street were the first to catch my eye. I’ve no idea who the artists are, but the bearded man is certainly excellent. The area following had a huge collection in its mazed streets, such as the cartoon-like Animalito, the colourful monkey by Louis Masai, and the Koga One portrait which I found had a particular likeness to Cillian Murphy. This was helped by the fact I’m currently binge-watching Peaky Blinders.

Waterford Walls
I wouldn’t mess with this guy
Waterford Walls
Waterford Walls
Waterford Walls
Waterford Walls

This area continued to marvel me, as every new street produced houses with elegant frontages. Curtis Hylton’s (my new favourite street artist) Swan, is a commentary on pollution in our oceans. Another unmistakable Dan Leo is nearby. An interesting female portrait by Russ and a typical Shane Sutton (whose work usually features astronauts), finished my hunt here.

Waterford Walls
Shane Sutton

In search of the mural that brought me to Waterford

From the first time I heard of the Waterford Walls some years back, one particular mural caught my eye. It was a long march up Military Road to take me back towards the River Suir though. Luckily there was lots of art between to keep me distracted. The first to attract my attention was Nina, not least cause it’s my daughter’s name. Again focusing on Irish wildlife, its an excellent view of foxes, by Nina Valkhoff.

Morgan Street took me from my route, but to one even more intriguing. Studying a mural on a corner, it was interesting to read that the woman embracing the octopus, represents Waterford, a city which in fact never fell in its 1000 years history. The octopus depicts Cromwell, who also never breached the city. A faithful depiction by Garreth Joyce, I believe.

Nina
Nina
Waterford Walls
Birdo by a Canadian street artist of the same name
Cromwell was no match for Waterford.
Waterford Walls
Holly Perreira reminding us to live with young heart

The intersection of Thomas and Baker street is another gold mine of art. The pastel colours of Taquen (a Spanish artist), juxtapose perfectly with Louise Masai’s elephants painted in 2016. The bright colours of the elephants only draw more attention to the dark message that 24000 elephants were murdered in 2015.

Taquen
Waterford Walls
Louise Masai

Monkey Bird, the name of both artist and mural, is one that cannot be missed. Featuring an intricate style, these French artists have obviously created their own distinct identity in their art. The monkey always represents realism, and the bird our dreams.

Mokey Bird
Monkey Bird
Waterford Walls
The underwater world by Beerens
Waterford Walls
Magda by Magda Karol just off Pembroke Lane

Sonny

Wandering by Magda above and another Shane Sutton, I finally found myself on Mary Street and the object of my online affections. Sonny, by the South African artist of the same name, features a white tiger walking alongside a girl, Eira in a feather headdress. Sonny has painted large scale murals the world over, and in particular likes to combine fantasy with the natural world. It most certainly did not disappoint; a real traffic stopper, and indeed one of the finest murals on the trail.

Sonny
Sonny
Waterford Walls
Right next to it is this painting by Arcy, a Connecticut artist. Anyone else see a resemblance to Patrick Stewart?

Final trail back to the city centre

With my legs tiring, I finally took O’Connell St back to the city centre, and an unrelated search for a coffee and a blaa (a local white bread roll). The street was a tactical choice, and also the ideal one to finish a tour on. The breathtaking Asian street scene by Dan Kitchener is a real standout in a city of glowing art. The street contains around seven murals including the huge Fintan Magee by Australian Fintan, and also the intriguing work by Yasja Leightlijn from Holland below. I was lucky enough to stumble upon two more in the city centre, with Mr Cenz abstract and unusual female face on the KCC bank, along with the woman suffering from the loss of a loved one to war, by the Portuguese artist Huariu.

Dan K
Dan Kitchener
Waterford Walls
Fintan Magee
Waterford Walls
Yasja Leightlijn
Waterford Walls
This one definitely resembles Angelina Jolie- Mr Cenz
Waterford Walls
Huariu

While I was invited to tour the Walls, I was under no obligation to write about it. All views expressed are my own, and quite frankly the art speaks for itself.

There’s more to Waterford Walls

This is by no means an exhaustive collection. More art lurks in those streets, especially to the east of the centre near Waterford Crystal, for those with the legs to search for them. And that’s before the 2020 festival gets in full swing. I for one will be returning to Waterford, and I recommend anyone contemplating an Irish trip (or a road trip for those already within), to give this south-east city a look.

If you are interested in finding out more about this year’s festival, or purchasing prints of the art from the shop, the Waterford Walls website has an abundance of info.

…and to Irish street art in general

Ireland’s development as a street art destination can also be seen in my hometown of Dublin. If you visit the capital, why not take one of my street art trails there, as detailed in my street art of Dublin blog. Longford is another town with a great scene, encouraged by the Cruthu Arts Festival there.

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