“I want to live in a world created by art, not just decorated by it.” – Banksy
The Baltic Triangle is home to well in excess of a hundred separate pieces of street art: Some are humorous, some are vibrant, some are crude, some are politically inclined and, tucked away in the New Bird Street Warehouse there even lives a 12-foot masterpiece of Chicago soul legend, Loleatta Holloway. Large or small, commissioned or independent, all are integral to the aesthetic DNA of the neighbourhood, and provide a vivid welcome to anybody entering the area for the first time.
Home to a forward-thinking community of independent businesses, venue spaces and artist studios, the Baltic Triangle’s makeshift identity has provided impetus to an ecosystem of ‘do-it-yourself’ enterprise. This culture, one that the Baltic undeniably exudes, is perfectly encapsulated in Banksy’s famous disposition: A once dilapidated area, resurrected from the ashes of disrepair by the artistic vision of a community committed to expressive innovation: the Baltic Triangle is a world created by art.
Cultivated in spaces such as 24 Kitchen Street, New Bird Street Warehouse, the Botanical Gin Garden, Constellations and most of all by new kids on the block, Ghetto Golf, street art and graffiti are thriving in the Baltic Triangle. Characterised by warehouses and street-based pop ups, the area is, in many ways, a blank canvas for artists. Awakening lifeless brickwork with everything from spray can to sculpture, the visual landscape of the area is one of unrelenting evolution. You need only to look at Jamaica Street’s skatepark to understand this concept. As if like clockwork, the artwork embellished on these walls is repainted, renewed and refreshed with new messages, characters and tags. Championed by Zap Graffiti, Liverpool’s “Free Walls” scheme has provided street artists with legal canvasses across the city, with the Baltic Triangle undoubtedly benefiting from the initiative. Jamaica Street, Grafton Street and Mann Street have all become more vibrant as a result of legal walls, with everything from socially conscious messages to humorous renditions of Mr Men characters adorning the bricks that line these streets.
The recent opening of Stanhope Street’s, Ghetto Golf, has also provided a safe haven for graffiti artists to practice their craft. Housing everything from a 15-foot Minion character from the movie, Despicable Me, to the curious nine-eyed figures of local artist, “Resin”, the mini-golf course, housed inside the old Cains Brewery, has become a hotbed of artistic expression. With each stop around the 18-hole course featuring a different artist’s work and a different theme for golfers to wrap their heads around, the enormity of their undertaking and celebration of graffiti culture is astounding.
The artwork found in the Baltic Triangle is also not without its political edge. Music venue, 24 Kitchen Street houses a piece by the infamously elusive, guerilla-style artist, Tomo. An incredibly apt statement on the unrelenting march of gentrification, Tomo’s work issues passers by with a motif for reflection on an increasingly palpable topic in the area. Similarly, perched high upon the New Bird Street Warehouse, lies a mosaic-style portrait of a woman, whose message on climate change is clear: “Run, Walk, Skate, Cycle – Have a Car Free Day.” Like-minded messages can be found throughout the area courtesy of the underground “Sine-Mission” campaign. Living inside the Constellations Garden, Martin Luther King Jr. reminds us that: “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”
The Greenland Street venue’s garden is also home to two little blue men, both of whom are incredibly famous in the street art world. In 2013, the city was fortunate enough to have been visited by acclaimed Brazillian street artist, “Cranio.” Always placed in funny and curious situations, the characters are created to provoke the observer to think about contemporary issues like consumerism, identity, corruption and the environment. In the case of those living in the Constellations Garden, this is hard to see, but they do keep a watchful eye over the courtyard nonetheless.
As we all know, the street art world is not without its secrets. Attempting to trace the source of many pieces proves near-impossible at the best of times: “There seems to be a great interest in the artwork, but often we know very little about who painted these pieces,” a team member at the Botanical Gin Garden tells us. “Most of these pieces were here before we were! But people do seem to really enjoy the energy they bring to the space.” With a 4-metre rat atop their wall, the Gin Garden team will be the first to tell you about their love of street art. Created entirely from 200 plastic milk bottles, artist Faith Bebbington’s rat overlooked Jamaica Street long past its decommission date of May 2016. Supported by the Baltic Creative, Warp Liverpool and the open-air Jordan Street venue, the sculpture served as a comment on the curious position the animal maintains within our society.
The beauty of street art lies in its accessibility. Whilst Warhol’s work is locked away in a stuffy gallery, street art is free for all. At times, it even imposes itself upon us, forcing us to reflect on the messages it carries. Graffiti artist “Mobstr” said it best: “Expression is natural, concrete is not.” Just as the creative community in the Baltic Triangle will continue to thrive, so should its street art community. Often working under a veil of secrecy, this micro-society of rogue artists asks nothing in return other than that a passer by heeds the messages behind their work, at least stopping for a laugh when necessary.