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Behind the street art at the Liberties’ heart

Just one of FiNK’s striking and elaborate murals displayed outside The Lark Inn on Meath Street, Dublin //FiNK Flickr

Passing through the Liberties, it’s impossible to miss the range of vivid street art snaking throughout the walls of its various active and derelict buildings.

While the National College of Art and Design has definitely contributed to that, there have also been many street artists  bringing their own distinctive visual style to the working class heart of Dublin over the past few years.

One the most prominent street artists operating in the Liberties is FiNK. In the time between doing commissions for businesses, he likes to do various works on buildings across the length and breadth of the Liberties.

His work kit is simple: a couple of cans of spray-paint, some masking tape, and a step ladder; and his work space is out on the street, among the colourful characters of the Liberties.

Even spending time at a mural in progress you notice many locals stopping and commenting on the work. It’s something that FiNK enjoys: “It’s fantastic. One person said ‘I’d love you to do a tattoo’ and I don’t even do tattoo art. It’s not my chosen medium. But it just shows you the trust.

“It’s great feedback. I’ve never got any bad feedback, really. That makes sense, when you think about it, I’m here to entertain, visually entertain, that’s my job, which I love doing. It’s the feedback to being entertained, visually. It’s always a great response,” he says.

 

The future of street art and graffiti, however, isn’t necessarily rosy. There have been a range of high profile corporate acquisitions throughout the Liberties, with many older buildings – a natural haven for street art – earmarked for renovation and development.

“The biggest graffiti spot in the country, Tivoli car park on Francis Street, is being knocked now as well,” Fink says, “There goes the biggest spot for graffiti and street art in the country, and they’re not going to replace that with anything, because the Government, and Dublin City Council are backward, let’s face it.

FiNK working on his latest project on the corner of Francis Street //Jenny Murphy Byrne

“We’re 10 to 15 years behind. In everything. Compared to other countries, we’re way behind. Look at Lisbon, capital of Portugal. Their main street, the equivalent of our O’Connell Street, has at least 15 high rise murals. We’re 15 years behind, culturally, artistically – that’s my objective, bring us up to scratch, hopefully,” he says.

Other countries make a concerted effort to foster and develop their street art. This is what FiNK sees as the main issue with street art in Dublin, and Ireland in general. “We’ve got a lot of catching up to do. I can’t even think of one six-storey building [with street art], apart from maybe James Earley’s beautiful work on Bloom’s Hotel, but that’s commercial, and it’s more like three or four storeys.

“Every other country would has these massive creations which makes the difference. People travel the world to see different countries’ street art. We should be providing more,” he says.

Some of FiNK’s most popular works have been displayed on the corner of Francis Street, a building which has recently been sold to developers. And while it hasn’t been revealed what will be replacing the old pub which has played host to his work, he believes there’s a strong likelihood that it will be developed into an apartment block.

While the building redevelopments around the Liberties are limiting spaces for new work, overall, FiNK thinks street art is in a positive place: “I mean, 10 years ago, the elderly generation would frown upon graffiti and street art.

“Nowadays, I’ve had people come past here complementing the work from that generation. Whereas 10 years ago they would have been practically cursing it,” he says.

While NCAD has stimulated the art scene in the Liberties, according to FiNK, that isn’t a wholly good thing. He believes some of the work stemming from there is “a bit too contrived compared to natural street art, and the quality isn’t great either,” he says.

 

“Art institutions in this country are backward – they won’t accept spray-paint as a medium, like the Royal Hiberian Academy at their annual exhibition. And wherever else, other modern art galleries in Ireland, they’re still behind, they haven’t got their ear to the ground, let alone their eyes to the ground, or their walls. So that can only get better, but it might get worse,” he continues.

But while FiNK believes that many of the institutions that affect art are backwards, and the spaces for creative work in the Liberties are shrinking, he believes street art has a positive future: “You can’t stop the power, or the influence, of positive creativity,” he says.

“Some of the most phenomenal art worldwide is street art, but not in Ireland, hopefully in about 20 years it’ll be better. It’s just a lack of education.”

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