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Dublin: An Urban Canvas

Photograph by Marius van Zyl

After living in Dublin for 5 years, one of the standouts for me was the thriving street art culture. The various murals around the city act to brighten a cityscape that can be quite monotonous and devoid of colour. In this article I will share some of my favourite pieces of street art that I have encountered whilst living here. It also includes a documentary I did which features interviews with two local street artists.

Photograph by Marius van Zyl

When you mention street art, the immediate association is with graffiti.  Graffiti is written, painted or drawn on surfaces, usually walls, in public spaces for the population to view. It can range from simple lettering to detailed paintings. It is often done illegally. Normally the pieces done illegally are not very detailed and were done hastily to avoid detection from law enforcement. This has attached negative connotations to the artform.

Graffiti itself has a history dating back to ancient Egypt and ancient Greece. In those times, graffiti was a term that referred to inscriptions and figures that decorated the walls of ancient structures, such as sepulchre.

Graffiti began to gain popularity as an artform in the 1970’s and 80’s and has developed into an iconic artform that is associated with urban life and culture. The subway trains in New York became targets of graffiti artists to showcase their art on mobile canvases for the city to see.

Slowly the artform began to grow in popularity. Artists, such as Banksy, have helped this once frowned upon artform develop into a recognized and popular method of visual communication. For example, his ‘Achoo’ piece he painted on a house in Bristol skyrocketed its value.

Photograph by Marius van Zyl

Across Dublin their are various locations that showcase this art. The photo above was taken in Liberty Lane. The walls of this alleyway are adorned with street art. It is legal for street artists to paint here, so new pieces go up regularly. It is not uncommon to stroll down this alley and see an artist working on their latest piece.

Camden Street is vibrant and busy street in Dublin. Besides the popular clubs and restaurants that can be found along this trendy stretch, it showcases some impressive artwork.

Photograph by Marius van Zyl

Tivoli Car Park, located on 139 Francis St in Dublin 8, is another location tucked away in the city that boasts some truly impressive artwork. This is another area which allows artists to legally showcase their work to an admiring public.
Photograph by Marius van Zyl

Back in 2019, I filmed a documentary about street art in Dublin. I interviewed two street artists, one who paints illegally, and a commercial street artist, Shane Ha, who makes a living from doing pieces for commercial clients.

The filming was done over 5 days and features various locations across Dublin, including The Bernard Shaw bar, Railway Street in Dublin 1, and Wing It in Dublin 2.

You can view this documentary below:

I met both artists through a friend. Looking back, this was one of my most enjoyable projects I made during my years in college. ‘Cyder One’ requested to remain anonymous, whilst Shane Ha was very open an eager to speak about his profession.

Cyder One was drawn to the artform by his interest in urban culture and the excitement of doing something artistic yet less than legal. Shane Ha always had a passion for art so he naturally gravitated towards the medium of street art. He speaks about the thriving street art culture in Dublin and about the profession itself.

There are so many awe inspiring pieces dotted around the city it would be difficult to include them all. If I’ve missed any great spots, feel free to comment.

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