Street Art inspired by M.C. Escher appears above a Pizza Hotline

Phlegm painting work inspired by M.C.Escher organised by Dulwich Outdoor Gallery for Dulwich Picture Gallery  Did you see a man on a cherry picker spraypainting the wall above the takeaway pizza shop opposite the main Herne Hill entrance to Brockwell Park?  

To co-inside with the current exhibition at Dulwich Picture Gallery, 'The Amazing World of M.C. Escher', Dulwich Outdoor Gallery arranged for the internationally renouned street artist Phlegm to paint a wall inspired by one of the works in this exhibition.  Phlegm, whose monochrome and finely detailed style has an illustrative quality in tune with Escher's, chose 'Bond of Union' as a starting point.  Bond of Union by M.C. Escher c. The MC Escher Company.  The original piece was inspired by HG Wells's book The Invisible Man where the protagonist has to wrap himself in bandages in order to be seen. Phlegm's piece echoes Escher's motif of the surreal unravelling of a head into strands of ribbon.  But whereas Escher chose himself and his wife as the subject, Phlegm opts for a disturbing bird-like creature with piercing eyes, human teeth and forked tongue. 

Phlegm in progress. photo Tim Phealy

Phlegm painting work inspired by M.C.Escher organised by Dulwich Outdoor Gallery for Dulwich Picture Gallery

Phlegm's work based on M.C. Escher organised by Dulwich Outdoor Gallery for Dulwich Picture Gallery

'The Amazing World of M.C. Escher' at Dulwich Picture Gallery runs until 17 January 2016.

Dulwich Outdoor Gallery, created by Ingrid Beazley, has organised walls all over the area around Dulwich Picture Gallery, by some of the world's most famous street artists, all based on the Gallery's permanent collection of Old Masters.  

The art work on the wall of the Florence, in the alleyway, now sadly tagged a bit, is by David Shillinglaw.  It is based on Samson and Delilah by Van Dyck.  
'Samson and Delilah' by David Shillinglaw based on Van Dyck, part of Dulwich Outdoor Gallery

All the Dulwich Outdoor Gallery artworks are documented in a beautifully illustrated book, Street Art Fine Art, by Ingrid Beazley and available in Herne Hill Books.  


I'd just like to say upfront that I love the fact we're getting some great art on the mean streets of Herne Hill. However, the new snake face thing above Pizza Hotline is a little forboding and a part of me does wish we had something a little more colouful and that sends a positive message. A great example is the mother and child 'equality' piece in East Dulwich. Something around motherhood or the family would have been apt given the areas demographics. Maybe next time...

This throws up a lot of points about public art.  First, of course, you can't please everyone.  Pretty much everyone I have spoken to about this (locals) loves it.  They think it is quirky, interesting and very skilled.  It is by a very famous street artist, Phlegm, and is based on a very famous 20th century artist, M.C. Escher.   I was around most of the time it was going up and asked a great many people what they thought, so gained some sort of insight into its reception.  I also learned that the news of Phlegm's presence painting in Herne Hill attracted many, many of his fans, keen to see his new work.  The vast majority of these had never been to Herne Hill.  It is providing quite a tourist attraction.  Phlegm has put photos of the wall on his Instagram and had about 5,700 likes and 85 comments.

In the summer of 2013, after the street art festival, 'Baroque the Streets' in Dulwich, the local traders reported a 30% increase in footfall which they think was attributable to visitors from outside the area coming to see the street art and buying a sandwich etc.  They also poured into Dulwich Picture Gallery, which pleased them.  So well known street artists can really benefit an area.  The painted signs 'Herne Hill' and 'SE24' under the bridge are fine, but they don't attract people from outside.  

Its great that you like the idea of street art in general.  If you find me a wall, I can arrange it to be painted by someone who uses colour more.  I couldn't guarantee which painting in Dulwich Picture Gallery they would choose to interpret, but that is part of the surprise.  Below is a recent colourful wall based on a Van Dyck at the corner of Lordship Land and Barry Road.  

'Lady Venetia Digby' by Mad C based on Van Dyck