Freedom is a word closely associated with all forms of graffiti, urban and street art. Painting in the street offers a place to create away from the restraints of the studio and the gallery, a place where an artist can freely express their imagery and feelings. The street is a breeding ground for creative energies to emerge, whether it is for purely imaginative artworks or for the freedom of speech, as can be found in 10 Favourite Politically Charged Art Expressions of 2014. Of course, this freedom shouldn’t be taken for granted, many street artists have had their freedom of expression taken away at some point by the hands of the law, just check out the recent Rebels to the Core: 10 Memorable Street Art Arrests! But getting back to freedom and there is one type of creature that regularly makes appearances in street art around the globe, our feathered friend the bird. In all their wonderful shapes and guises, birds are a constant and popular theme to appear in murals. Perhaps street artists just happen to like birds a lot, or perhaps it comes back to this idea of freedom again. Who hasn’t watched a bird take to the air and wondered just how it would feel? To have that freedom to see the world from a different viewpoint, to cross borders and continents with no restrictions is something us humans can only dream of, which is perhaps the reason they are so common in the area of street art. Of course birds represent many things in many cultures, from death to birth and from the spiritual to witchcraft, but here we celebrate the bird as a sign of freedom within street art. So take to the air and enjoy our selection in Flying to Freedom: 10 Street Artists Who Love to Paint Birds.
Belgian street artist Dzia has become a Widewalls favourite with his menagerie of colourful animal murals. Covering everything from pigs to rats, Dzia has also been known to produce images of our feathered friends from time to time. Who can forget his wonderful Chickens on a Stick, the three blue creatures peering out from a wall in Herentals, Belgium? Painted with the third chicken falling off the stick, it also displays a great sense of humour and was a subject we discussed in his Widewalls Podcast Interview. Dzia has also painted a number of other species of birds and we are certain that more will fly in over the coming months.
Chickens photo via street art news
Bird image via this is colossal
When it comes to street artists combining birds with strong messages, then Croatian artist Lonac is an expert. Earlier this year he created the spectacular Ambush in his hometown of Zagreb, a beautiful photo-realistic black crow portrayed with a gun as a head, complete with a beautiful humming bird staring down the barrel of a gun. In 2014 Lonac painted the equally impressive They Were Flying Higher than the Rest of Us…So We Shot Them Down, also in Zagreb. The wonderful mural featured four of his gun birds with two smaller dead birds lying at their feet, a perfect combination of bird imagery with a strong message.
Ambush photo via street art news
Flying Higher photo via street I am
Phlegm is perhaps better known for his fantastic characters and weird creatures than for images of birds, but the Sheffield based artist has incorporated a few into some of his works. One such example very much portrays the idea of freedom, a mural painted in Sri Lanka in 2012, the stunning artwork featuring two of his amazing characters carrying a selection of caged exotic birds. The second example again features caged exotic birds, but this time they are seen flying to freedom via The Songbird Pipe Organ. The spectacular and beautiful mural was painted in 2014 at the Dunedin Urban Art Festival in New Zealand.
Sri Lanka image via street art news
New Zealand image by Katherine Ruiz Halkett via digerible
British artist Xenz has become well known for his very beautiful imaginary landscapes, which often include birds in the compositions. His use of birds in his artworks was one of many topics discussed in his recent Widewalls Podcast Interview; it is definitely worth taking a listen to discover more about this enthusiastic artist. Included here are just two examples of his many birds, the brilliant image of The Satin Bower Bird and the magical Enchanted Forest mosaic which is full of birds and butterflies, very much a place to escape from the realities of the modern world.
Images courtesy of Xenz
The master of political street art, Banksy, has also turned to birds to help get his message across. This particular piece was created in Clacton-on-Sea in the UK, during 2014. The artwork was a very clever piece of satire based on some of the strong feelings prevalent in the UK about migrants and appeared during a local by-election. Obviously the attack on racism was a bit too clever for some members of the public, who misunderstood the artwork and reported it for being offensive. The result was that the local council destroyed the artwork, which was very much about freedom and illustrated perfectly by Banksy with the use of birds.
Image - Universal News And Sport Europe via The Guardian
Belgian graffiti artist ROA is recognised for his wonderful use of wildlife imagery in his street art. His dramatic black and white creatures are usually inspired by the local environment, where he spends time soaking up the atmosphere before painting. His work is very much about the absurdity of human attitudes towards animals and the two works here involving birds reflect that. One features the images of Swallows painted in Katowice, Poland, once again very much portraying ideas of freedom, with the two birds perched on barbed wire. The beautiful image portrays the Swallow in its natural state and also in its dissected form, revealing the inner workings of the bird. The second mural was painted in Richmond, Virginia and features a giant Eagle lying on its back, impaled by an arrow, another monumental statement about freedom, with the Eagle often used to represent justice, courage, strength and being considered the king of the skies and messenger of the highest Gods.
Swallows image by Marek Ślusarczyk.
Eagle image via Fried Green Design
Chinese street artist DALeast has regularly produced imagery of birds in his spectacular street art. Most recently he created an impressive eagle being struck by lightning for a street art festival in Tahiti, more of which you can read about in our recent Street Update #76. Earlier this year DALeast painted a mural for the St+Art Delhi project in India, this time moving away from his usual style of creating one creature. The dynamic mural featured a dramatic flock of birds flying towards the archway in the building creating a wonderful spectacle. The second image here is a piece entitled Defoliation, painted in Dunedin, New Zealand and portraying the now extinct Haast Eagle, which was the largest eagle to have existed and was only found on the South Island of New Zealand.
Image of Haast Eagle via Dunedin Street Art
Flock image via Arrested Motion
Brazilian street artist L7m is the master of birds when it comes to street art and murals. The artist has created numerous street works portraying the feathered creatures in many shapes and forms. The colourful artworks created by L7m combine wonderfully realistic elements, usually the head of the bird, which is surrounded by wild gestures and abstraction in an attempt to capture the movements of the birds. So we find the wonderful little Hummingbird, surrounded by geometric circles to describe the movements of the wings, creating a vibrant display and a magnificent bird painted in Venezuela earlier this year. The giant bird appears to have the head of a crow, with the body dissolving in an array of abstract patterns and glorious colours. L7m truly captures the beauty and mystery of birds in his captivating street art.
Hummingbird image via street art news
Venezuela bird via the vandalist
Birmingham, UK, based contemporary artist Lucy McLauchlan is recognised for her strong images which are usually produced in black and white. The artist, who is a member of the Beat 13! Collective, often has recurring themes, including birds and faces. The strong design element to the work of Lucy McLauchlan makes them really stand out when placed in urban environments, as can be seen with the wonderful birds she created on the brutalist architecture of the central library in Birmingham. The other work featured here was created on a building in Lisbon and once again, demonstrates her simple but effective style of working which leaves impressive images.
Birmingham image via wharferj.wordpress
Lisbon image via Lucy McLauchlan
Italian street artist Eron caught our eye a few months ago when we included his stunning art in one of the weekly street updates. The mural in question was painted by Eron in Riccione and featured a Heron in various stages of taking flight, all captured in the highly realistic 3D rendering technique of the Italian. The mural captures the Heron breaking free from the wall, emerging as a simple embossed shape, before transforming into a fully formed Heron about to fly to freedom away from the wall. The second mural included here was painted in Bologna, Italy and features, if I am not mistaken, Cranes attacking and destroying a man-made crane, which is a perfect point to end this look at street artists who love birds and freedom.
Heron images via Gorgo
Crane image via This is Bologna
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