‘The past beats inside me like a second heart’ – The Sea, John Banville
‘Who sees the interiors like young Willem once did? – Song for Willem De Kooning, Manic Street Preachers
I recently took this photograph of a piece of street art by Phlegm, a Sheffield based artist. If you look carefully enough – and if you know where to look – you can see a number of pieces of his artwork around Sheffield. I think I first noticed his work when cycling into the city centre, via Kelham Island – here is a photo I took of a mural below the Riverside pub:
Here is a slightly less prominent example – a distant salmon tail, viewable on the Five Weir’s Walk:
I have made it an open-ended Summer Mission to visit and photograph as many of Phlegm’s pieces as I can, so I may collate these here, at a later date. My most sought after piece, however, is called ‘Isolated Together’ – a comment on how technology has the capacity to bring people together in some ways, whilst simultaneously isolating us in others. After initially struggling to locate it, I was – appropriately enough – alerted to its whereabouts by a friendly Instagram user, who nudged me in the right direction. It turns out that I had travelled past this hidden location on the way to work almost every day for the last eight years, and so – equipped with this new knowledge, gained online from a virtual stranger – I managed to grab this photo on a minor (slightly nervous) diversion from my regular running route this morning:
Like the serpentine image at the top of this post, this piece is located within a couple of km of my house, yet it is almost entirely hidden from public view in an otherwise derelict and neglected site.
I have been interested in Urban Exploration (Urbex) from a safe, online distance for quite a while. Urbex is essentially the exploration of abandoned buildings. It is often an attempt to catalogue or preserve, through photography, the history of hidden interiors before they become derelict and disappear. It makes the unseen seen.
I think there’s something very special about Phlegm’s work that – in common with that of some other ‘street artists’ – manages to transcend the initial antisocial connotations of graffiti.
And viewing this work in person – against the backdrop of these neglected buildings from Sheffield’s decaying industrial history – standing in the same space inhabited by the artist at the point of creation, adds a particular poignancy that you wouldn’t find if viewing the image on the wall of a gallery, the page of a magazine or, particularly, on a glowing screen of an iPad.
Phlegm’s Blog: http://phlegmcomicnews.blogspot.co.uk/
28 Days Later (Sheffield Urbex Locations): http://www.28dayslater.co.uk/forums/tags/sheffield.html
Five Weirs Walk Map: https://www.sheffield.gov.uk/dms/scc/management/corporate-communications/documents/transport/walking-cycling/Lower-Don-Valley/Five-Weirs-Walk–pdf–2-32MB-/Five%20Weirs%20Walk.pdf