Alternative walking tours of Wapping

You may be aware that Jack the Ripper tours are retro, photography walks passé and architecture trips antiquated. The real money is being made on trendy graffiti tours. So to supplement my income I started leading some graffiti walks around Shoreditch.

I had always assumed that folks in those parts are laid back and welcoming to strangers in joining their bohemian lifestyle. However, I underestimated how keenly competitive upper middle class wastrels (hipsters) can be when the trust fund runs out. So, my brief career of leading Japanese groups around the stencils and spray paint, ended abruptly after being violently assaulted with a pair of skinny rolled up jeans and horn-rimmed glasses.

I have decided therefore to start a new venture in a less saturated market and one closer to home that avoids getting the Overground into zone 1.

I’ve spoken to Tower Hamlets tourism department and they were keen to try and spread the foreigners around the borough to try and prevent the overcrowding of foreigners and have given me a seed money of £27.14 to get my new business up and running.

Unfortunately I headed to Waitrose and  bought a box of tea bags, two bottles of beer, some strawberries, a bottle of Cillit Bang and a copy of Good Housekeeping and squandered my resources. So here and now, devoid of any cash, I launch my new venture: Walking tours of Wapping – Vol. 1 – Average to mediocre graffiti.

A lot of people don’t realise how rich a seam of mediocre graffiti there
is on the E1W peninsular and for the reasonable price of £40 a person I’ll be leading groups around Wapping. So to whet your appetites I share with you a sample of the mediocre graffiti of Wapping that you’ll see on the tour.


Along the side of Shadwell Basin, you find a low wall with this orange daubing. A certain amount of effort on the typeface of ‘YOU GOT’ shows a certain amount of promise, and the anarchist circumscribed ‘A’ and use of an exclamation mark instead of an ‘I’ suggests some consideration of style. Unfortunately, even an anarchist’s message is diminished when the spelling of ‘licence’ is corrupted a generous interpretation would be that the artist is challenging us to find fault with his work, just as passers-by do with his fly casting technique.

A good start that trails off into mediocrity.

Exhibit 2: Pinky GLOBAL

Seemingly inspired by ‘Pinky’, one of the ghosts Namco’s Pac-Man, this work, again on the basin benefits from two colours of paint. However, Pinky’s message of ‘Global!!’ isn’t clear, reducing the potential for this fun artwork to achieve any significance.

Exhibit 3: DANG!NG

Seemingly by the same artist as Exhibit 1, both from the use of the exclamation mark and the bizarre spelling. I’m not sure if this is supposed to say ‘DANCING’ or ‘DANGLING’ or maybe intended to be a play on ‘angling’. Mediocre from its pointlessness.

Exhibit 4: MINER

Nice spacing of letters on the segments of the rolling bascule bridge on Glamis Road. Uneven paint application and variable sizing of the letters makes this something to admire.

Exhibit 5: ojoLA

A random tag – I’m not sure what it’s meant to say, which indicates poor penmanship, the middle ‘O’ could be an 8 or a theta, and there’s an ill placed vanity dot. Unless you’re Prince, having an unintelligible tag isn’t that great for developing street cred. My 14 years of training at the Vienna Institute of Graphology  tell me that this person has too much time on their hands but insufficient willpower to develop their tag.

Exhibit 6: Cluttered

Established Wapping artist Jakey Boi shows how to get ahead in the dog-eat-dog world of graffiti. He chooses a bolder, brighter palette before spraying his name. You’ll notice however at this point, that this is on the Garnet Street Bridge, and Jake’s tagging requires either height, a boost or leaning from the old dock wall. The closeness to the wall, indicates an early tag in his career, requiring the security of having something to lean against. Compare to the less well developed, but more assured work just to the left of Jake’s, though the angle of the text suggests the artist was at full stretch and finding the limits of their abilities.

With regard to the issue of content, the disjunctive perturbation of the spatial relationships brings within the realm of discourse the distinctive formal juxtapositions.

Overall, the cluster of tags shows the denouement of the second wave of Wapping graffiti.

Exhibit 7&8: Mediocrity in Blue

At the Walsall and Dudley School of Street art, this style of metaphysical graffiti is de rigeur. Its close proximity to the ground indicates a provincial nervousness, and lack of confidence, which one can see all too readily in Constable’s The Haywain. Post-Freudians would see this as clear evidence of the artist spending too much time at the father’s breast.

Exhibit 9: ‘Sad pinky’

The depiction of the sad ghost, is a reflection of all our feelings of being locked out – for it can be no mistake that the artist chose the positioning deliberately. We follow Pinky’s eyes to the padlock, and Pinky challenges us to ask ‘Noel, open the box?’.

Exhibit 10: Crowed

Although I am not a painter, I think that the reductive quality of the purity of line visually and conceptually activates the substructure of critical thinking. Perhaps significantly, this work reiterates the ascendancy of ASA1, with bold black line work but a delicate feminacy that belies the artist’s actual identity – Christopher Hughes from Eggheads (1947-?)


Exhibit 11: Jakey Boi

Underneath the Garnet Street Bridge, we see a more playful Jakey Boi. The vanity dot on the ‘i’ playing up to his pretentions of being a diamond in the rough.

Exhibit 12: Exhibit 12

For me, this playful doodle is one of the key works in our present epoch. This is very much a post Art-Attack work, as it contrasts delicately, and may I possibly suggest playfully with the cascading efflorescence of the brick work. The symmetry of the blossoming salts of the bricks and the blossoming of a promising, but unknown artist are shadowed only by the coincidence of it being labelled exhibit 12.

Exhibit 13: I M 2

The simplicity of the message I M 2 (I am too), reflects on suffering in the surrounding area (this is of course immediately by 21 Wapping Lane, which represents the penetration of tranquillity.

A beautiful work, buzzing with linearity.

Exhibit 14: Simon Templar is the Saint

This work questions who really owns art. Leslie Charteris’ Simon Templar left a calling card for his victims with a stick figure with halo, and here top graffiti artist Charles the Gaul, leaves his calling card sans halo. Exquisite perspective on the shadow. A less mature artist would have include cock and balls.

Exhibit 15: DOORSTOP

Such a work of stunning stencilling by French sandal designer Philippe Fillóp speaks for itself.

Exhibit 15: Even the Saint buys flat pack furniture

This follow-up work by Charles the Gaul, makes us think about the ubiquity of flatpack. Even international men of mystery must follow the standard route through Ikea.

Exhibit 16: Quatre Couleurs

On this work I’m troubled by how the aura of the figurative-narrative line-space matrix threatens to penetrate the accessibility of the work. The vertiginous dashed lines remind us we are persistently, even if not constantly being watched.


Exhibit 17: OI OI Saveloy

This work of this artist on the underside of the bridge on Wapping Lane by the artist saveloy (name after his raw sausage coloured paint) is an early example and we will see his tag develop in a structuralist fashion.

Exhibit 18: Let’s talk about sex

The respected Welsh Water-colourist Deidra Muriel Roper realised her oeuvre was not going to facilitate her entry in high-art circles and was certainly never going to win the Turner Prize. In an attempt to rival the YBAs, Roper developed a persona as DJ Spinderella and sought controversy. Joining Salt-n-Peppa, she hoped to achieve acclaim with the controversial song ‘Let’s talk about sex’ unfortunately the single only reached number 2 in September 1991, held off by (Everything I do) I do it for you by Bryan Adams. Roper went off the wall and focused on alternative media and showing daring, focused on cement and concrete (something Rachel Whiteread would later rip off). Her writings are commonly found on freshly laid concrete. Lately she has become a recluse, using her royalties to pay council works departments to tip her off about new concrete.

Exhibits 19-23: The Vandals

The prolific ‘Ghost vandal’ has shown on going development of their tag in the Garnet Street area, starting off as ‘Ghost EID’, though occasionally ‘Ghost Sid’. However, Ghost has failed to establish their tag because of this fluidity in execution. The halo has remained constant, but an inconsistent number and style of underlinings and the interchangeability and location of asterisks an speech marks has meant Ghost has never reached the dizzying heights of graffiti fame.


In one tragic last attempt at fame, Ghost even tried to abandon the old persona with just ‘Vandal’ (note the near cursive and distinctive ANDA formation).

Exhibit 24: Oi [?]

We see on the tour how Saveloy developed his work onto a much grander scale on Prusom Street and added a mysterious rune.


Exhibit 24: Escape

We end the tour with this actually accomplished stencil work based on the film poster for Escape from Alcatraz.



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