It’s a simple word – and one to be found in abundance through the centre of Plymouth. In portrait format, the word “HOPE” printed on vinyl strips – black on white, is stuck on lamp-posts, underpass walls, bins and telecoms junction boxes.
The stickers immediately recall for me, the famous sticker art, poster and meme produced by Shepard Fairey for Obama’s 2008 election campaign. The design started off as ‘Progress’ when Fairey decided to put his weight behind the campaign as both private individual and artist. It proved so popular that he adapted it for the official campaign. ‘Hope’ became a thing. One million stickers and 500,000 posters were produced, endless copies made and shared online.
I digress about Obama – because in the days of steam powered internet (1998 to be precise) – I first became aware online of Fairey and his guerrilla stickers and poster art utilising an image of Andre the Giant, and the accompanying ‘Obey’ message. I fell in love with sticker art both as background visual imagery in an urban setting and as little acts of rebellion. It appeals to the ageing punk in me; annoys the hell out of local authorities.
In Plymouth sticker art is not really a big thing. It has small eruptions from time to time – but they don’t last long – that’s the nature of it. Sometimes you really have to search. Inspired by HOPE, I went to see what’s currently on offer.
It’s an eclectic range – from straight advertising, through graffiti style tags, political and personal messaging and on to highly individual little artworks.
Where will I find Lucianino’s Barbershop? Promoting themselves with barely concealed machismo - bearded man flanked by two open cut-throat razors; they have ‘a crew’. Another group who seen quite prolific on the lamp-posts of Plymouth are the ones who proudly proclaim “We fuck goats” – with a silhouette / rock-carving graphic showing the act. (Thanks for sharing)
At the top end of Union Street – clubland of old and once the scene of off-duty military antics the Royal Dutch Navy are competing for space with British submariners. The submariners win. A skull and crossbones with headphones announces – “You’ve been pillaged by The Scallywags”. The Dutch Navy are just very understated and laid back. As you would expect.
The repeated names, DJ stickers and casual drug references are an expected nod to club culture and – if you are looking, as I was – they become a repeated mantra…found poems.
Bomberman – Black Sheep - Nomad Life
Beat Bandit - Mr Skillmatic
Haacht – Jesper - Boo
At the end of my admittedly short quest I come upon my personal highlight. A screaming face in black and white, photocopied, cut out and stuck on a junction box. No words – just an image (with a graffiti tag afterthought) . Redolent of Berlin Dada – it brings my search to a nice conclusion.
‘Hope’ started a small journey from Obama through to the ‘here and now’ of Trumpworld, a frozen forlorn scream of despair- in inkjet and wheat-paste.