Yardworks Festival returns to showcase international graffiti art in Glasgow

13 May 2019

SWG3 in Glasgow’s west end welcomed world class street artists for a two-day celebration with live painting, workshops, and music

Yardworks Festival, Scotland’s largest gathering of graffiti and street art, returned to Glasgow for its third edition on the 11 and 12 May.

During the weekend, more than 120 top artists from the UK, Europe, and the US, painted and created live, on a blank canvas, transforming 700 metres of SWG3‘s walls and railway arches into a colourful display of artwork and murals.

Balstroem, a 34-year-old artist from Denmark, who was painting with fellow artist Welin, said: “I often use [my art] to criticise society and do political stuff, but right now we’re just doing some fantasy animals. He wanted to do a ninja monkey and I wanted to do a samurai pig.”

“We are very different from everybody else, I think. We just freestyle most of it. We take some small references and we just go from there,” he added.

Balstroem got into graffiti when he was a teenager and now he makes a living from it, traveling all over the world to showcase his work. On being invited to Yardworks, he said: “The line-up for this festival is amazing. It means a lot to us to be here.”

Welin and Balstroem’s graffiti. Photograph: Balstroem

In contrast to most of those around him, Phil Blake was painting a portrait piece. He said: “I’ve always been into drawing and painting. I used to do letters, characters and then I started using photo reference. Females have always been my main source of inspiration, but recently I’ve been focusing on flowers and floral patterns.”

“For me, [graffiti] is the need to be doing something creative and be producing something. It’s a mixture of a hobby and a job to me,” he added.

Blake lamented the reception graffiti receives in the artworld. Despite its obvious appeal, graffiti art is still often derided as not a true artform. Blake said: “It is recognised as art by the people, but not by the art establishment. (…) Events like this help and, maybe, now it sort of is accepted as an art form.”

Phil Blake beginning his portrait. Photograph: Sofia Teixeira Santos

Unlike the more experienced artists, Balstroem and Blake, Michael Corr just started painting last year. He said that Yardworks Festival helped him professionally due to the community of artists at the festival: “This is all new to me. It’s good to be around really good artists, people can see your stuff and you get comments and feedback. It is good for the community as well. It brings everyone together.”

Corr thinks that graffiti could “always be more recognised as art.” He said: “This [festival] is definitely a step in the right direction.”

Michael Corr’s piece at the festival. Photograph: Sofia Teixeira Santos

Yardworks is fast becoming a staple of the summer festival circuit in Glasgow, it’s an international celebration of graffiti and street art that attracts all kinds of people. It’s a platform for artists to show off their work and introduce the artform to the next generation.

Mel Bestel, a 35-year-old filmmaker, was visiting the event for the first time. She said: “It’s really nice to see graffiti art getting promoted like this in a family friendly environment. I have a couple of kids with me and I think it is really nice to introduce them to this kind of culture.”

“I think graffiti is art. It is a method for people to express themselves. I think it’s brilliant,” she added.

Yardworks Festival space. Photograph: Sofia Teixeira Santos

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