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Interview: Street Artists Irony & Boe

irony and boe interview

An elusive pair of London-based street artists, Irony and Boe often work together, painting mainly local animals on walls in the East End of this city they know so well. Like many who share their creativity on the streets, they choose to remain anonymous, but were happy to answer a few questions for us about their latest piece – a massive chihuahua, why they choose to remain anonymous and their favourite London discovery.

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Photo: Irony and Boe squirrel on Portland Road

LO: What’s it like living in London? 
I&B: London is a great place to live if you’re a street artist, or a rat. Plenty of drainpipes to climb.

LO: Do you remember the first piece of street you ever created together? 
I&B: Our first piece in this project was a fox we painted in Tottenham. But before we started working on the Street Life pieces it was all pretty silly.

broadway_market_pigeon_by_whoam_irony-d5yzc0q
Photo: Irony and Boe pigeon in Broadway Market

LO: Your London work that I’ve seen is all about animals: squirrels, ravens, foxes, pigeons. Have you always painted animals local to an area where you work? What is their significance and the larger message you hope to communicate?
I&B: So much of what makes street art work, or not, is its location. We wanted to push that idea as far as we could. Not just art in London, but art of London. The animals are one part of that.

In a lot of folk stories and fables, they use local animals in place of people. Like the cunning fox, for example. I guess we wanted to do the same thing with these pieces.

We share London with the animals as much as with each other and some of the relationships between us are scarily similar. Pigeon spikes and homeless spikes serve pretty much the same purpose.

Chihuahua_Chrisp_St_E14_72DPI_MG_7883Photo: New chihuahua piece on Chrisp Street, curated and photographed by Garry Hunter for fitzrovianoir.com

LO: What can you tell us about the gigantic piece you’ve just finished in East London? What inspired this one?
I&B: It’s an 8-story Chihuahua of gentrification, like a middle-class Godzilla unknowingly destroying all in its path. I’d like to say it’s a warning but really, it’s more of a warning shot… from a starter pistol. Just knowing what gentrification is pretty much makes you part of the problem.

People who actually live in “unique”, “diverse” areas have more pressing things to deal with than how independent their coffee is. But street art is the harbinger of gentrification and painting a street art piece about gentrification, that’s doubly ridiculous. The piece tries to live up to that ridiculousness.

All Saints, where the piece is located, is probably not quite the right place for that kind of tongue-in-cheek, knowingly-ironic meta comment to sit right now… but give it five years.

Chihuahua_Chrisp_St_E14_72DPI_MG_7907
Photo: New chihuahua piece on Chrisp Street, curated and photographed by Garry Hunter for fitzrovianoir.com

LO: Talk about your decision to remain anonymous in a world that’s increasingly accepting and enamoured of street artists. Why is anonymity important to you and your work?
I&B: I don’t think anyone’s that accepting of street artists really. Undercover police still try to investigate you. Press still ask “is it art or vandalism”, you still do your fair share of legging it over fences when people catch you at it. It’s just that now, once the guy is out of breath from chasing you, he’s more likely to ring his mate who works in a gallery to see if you’ve left him a Banksy to auction.

magpie_by_whoam_irony-d6giyeoPhoto: Irony and Boe magpie in East London

LO: Do you work independently of one another or is it always together? If separate, how do your styles or subjects differ?
I&B: We both have our own stuff. We also paint together and separately under a variety of names.

LO: What’s your morning routine like? How do you wind down in the evenings?
I&B: I (Irony) personally think the the on-the-go lifestyle of your modern street artist simply cannot be sustained with out a steady diet of low rent prostitution and class A drugs.

turnpike_ln_fox_by_whoam_irony-d5xkk4kPhoto: Irony and Boe fox on Waldegrave Road, N8

LO: What’s your favourite London discovery? What’s special about it?
I&B: All the rooftops. How can you not love a roof?

LO: Why is street art important?
I&B: Street art is not important. If it was important it wouldn’t be so much fun.

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Photo: Irony and Boe crow in Hackney

Thanks Irony & Boe!

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