I was more than a little bit chuffed when I saw The Contemporary were advertising a Graffiti Battle. I’d previously taken (and very much enjoyed) a class with Graffiti Dave there, and loved the idea of seeing two artists at work and against the clock.
My old London anxiety quickly set in when the event gathered steam on Facebook in the days proceeding. The guest list was generously open to all upon request, with plus ones. Having queued for but not actually made it into so many London events, I’ll probably never stop panicking about crowds and missing out, even though I’m back in the chilled North (in both senses).
However, like all the great things I’ve been to in Chester, where you can’t book in advance, the numbers were good but not suffocating, and the venue more than coped (breathe Gemma, breathe).
The Contemporary were very welcoming; the night was free, with a complimentary drink upon arrival (prosecco and a range of beers), then £2 for anything after that – clearly the focus was promoting the gallery and artists, and creating a quirky event for the community.
The battle kicked off shortly after 7pm. Both artists had an hour to wow the crowd, side by side. For the first ten minutes or so, they sketched out their designs on the wall – the equivalent of a pencil outline. The upbeat music created a subtle atmosphere but didn’t steal attention from the main event.
By the half way point, spectators filled the outdoor courtyard comfortably, switching between lively chat and checking out the art in motion. There was a mix of families and art aficionados (talking sagely about the wonderful use of negative space). The artists exchanged friendly banter, checking in occasionally on the competition, but were mostly absorbed in their work. They both laughed as they were counted down by the compare (and owner – John Shingfield), fifteen minutes, last five minutes guys. The crowd joined in announcing the final ten seconds, and the battle drew to a close.
John then asked the crowd to vote with their feet, and choose a side to stand on in support. The count was painfully close – 21 to 23 in favour of Graffiti Dave, who won £250. Both pieces demonstrated great skill, especially given the time constraints. Unfortunately the second artist Chek had been overly ambitious with his more abstract piece and was unable to finish – though almost half the audience was clearly impressed with the direction he was heading in.
The gallery stayed open for a further 45mins, giving people an opportunity to have a go with the paints, chat to the artists about their creations, and check out the other art inside.
I had a quick chat with John who was pleased with how the night panned out, and keen to put on similar events in the future. I hope you don’t mind Chester, but I told him we’d be delighted. Inspired? Get in touch with the gallery here to find out more about their Graffiti Workshops. Check out the next event at their Altrincham gallery – Mike Edwards Solo Show, here.