Democracy Outside – street performances and activism

Words by Clare Cochrane

ART-PIE - Democracy OutsideDemocracy outside or street performance that blurs the boundaries of art and activism, and makes social movement real

A group of people show up in a public space with a banner, placards, leaflets, and a loudhailer. Two people each take a placard and stand a few feet apart, stretching the banner between them. The group stand between the placards, and one person calls out a question about a current political issue through the loudhailer. The huddled people look at each other, and start to move, some towards one placard, marked ‘No’, some towards the other, marked ‘Yes’. The loudhailer is passed around and people take turns explaining their point of view. As the dialogue progresses, people move about, shifting their positions. Slowly passers by gather and join in, and the space for re-imagining democratic exchange grows, as we open our imaginations in response to one another’s questions and reflections, and play at politics together.

ART-PIE - Democracy outside

Opening up public space is right now more urgent than it has been for some time. As the journalist Anna Minton has documented, we have seen an increasing and increasingly rapid privatisation of public space over the last decade or so, – it as as though we are witnessing a 21st century wave of enclosures. In Oxford, where Democracy Outside was first developed and performed, Bonn Square  in the city centre has been declared a ‘licensed venue‘ , so that spontaneous public art and political protests are no longer legal there. The irony is strong: Bonn Square, the traditional site for political gatherings in the city, was named for democracy after the capital of the new West Germany when the two cities were twinned in the early cold war; it hosts the city’s war memorial listing men who died in the first world war too young to vote when the franchise stood at 21; and today it’s the preferred ‘hanging out’ location for excluded, disenfranchised youth who feel unheard and ignored.

Street art has long had a vital role to play in opening up public space. Yes, it brightens up a dull place, but it also demonstrates that it is possible to think beyond what is presented by the authorities. Engaged performance can go further – breathing life into an anaesthetised space. Participatory performance, involving the spectators as performers, as actors, goes another step further still. So much public space has been etherised, deadened, and depoliticised – whether through privatisation or, as in Oxford, through deliberate attempts to stifle and ultimately mute spontaneous expression. People using such spaces become numb, paralysed, stupefied.

Democracy Outside shows a way to change this – in Democracy Outside the spectator / participants break the stupefying spell, activate their imaginations and themselves, and with their voices break the silence. It opens up the public space and invites the public in to experience the possibilities for open democratic dialogue – and to feel how it it is to literally change one’s point of view – to break free of the old back and forth, black vs white of prescribed political exchange.

The artist Shelley Sacks has offered a redefinition of ‘aesthetic‘ as meaning ‘enlivened being’. The challenge is to create, in our anaesthetic public realm of commodified communication, de-politicised debate, and deadened senses, a place where people can be in this (beautiful) state of awareness and connectedness.

James Baldwin said “artists are here to disturb the peace”: if peace means the peace and quiet of deactivated, desensitised space, then this has possibly never been more necessary than it is at this moment in time. Artists and creators – we have a job to do! Let’s do Democracy Outside!

Democracy Outside is touring England in June and July – for more details and to join the dialogue online go to

Gordon Cheung at Room: multi media artist

I always find fascinating when an artist can juggle between medias or techniques, when artists can be as varied as Gordon Cheung is. It is definitely a sign of open mindedness and in this case also talent.

Pyrographics, spray paint, oil, acrylics, sculpture, animation… Gordon Cheung seems to explore everything in is art. THE JOURNEY (ink, acrylic gel and spray paint on canvas), BEAR and BULL (both being acrylic gel and spray on canvases) are definitely my favorite pieces. Acrylic gel is superb to get incredible texture and relief. Continue reading Gordon Cheung at Room: multi media artist

Three of the best painting apps available today

For a long time, artists have had to rely on their desktops and laptops to do work. Even with the dawn of smartphones, which are now as powerful as some PCs that were released over a decade ago, people still preferred working with their traditional computing devices. That all changed, however, when tablets were popularized by Apple. Now, professional artists can work in the comfort of their own home as well as on trains or buses when they need to do some work en route to the office.

If you’re in the business of producing art for a living, and are a tablet user, here are three apps that you might want to consider using.

Tayasui Sketches
Let’s start with the one of the most basic apps out there. If you don’t need a lot of advanced tools for drawing on your tablet, TayasuiSketches can be a good app for you. It is very easy to get used to, with over 8 essential brushes for users to choose from including watercolors, charcoals, and pencils. It’s free but those who are willing to pay for its premium fee get two extra brushes. It’s also a great tool for creating quick sketches and portraits.

We included a few examples of what can be achieved with the app

Tayasui sketches | Art-Piescreen322x572Tayasui sketches | Art-Pie


ArtFlow is being marketed as a tool for kids but with over 70 paint brushes to choose from, it can easily become a professional’s best friend. It even has support for pressure-sensitive pens to help artists turn their tablet into a proper digital canvass.

What’s great about ArtFlow is that it supports high-resolution digital canvasses for up to 4096×4096. If you’re planning to use this resolution, however, make sure to keep an eye on your battery life. The last thing you want is to loose unsaved work. Alchemy Bet, an associate of the software company that runs Spin Genie Slots, suggests that people should check for apps that are running in the background and close them to save battery life. If possible, artists should only rely on WiFi and not data to save on juice since most tablets have short battery lives especially Apple products.

We included screenshots of the app

Art Flow | Art-PieArt Flow | Art-PieArt Flow | Art-Pie


Now this is for the seasoned veterans out there. Procreate is a fine app from world-renowned app maker Savage Interactive that allows people to create quick and accurate drawings of highly-detailed and striking artworks. It has advanced features such as GPU accelerated filters, and even a 64-bit support for high-end tablets. Check out the artworks that you can create with Procreate and see just how amazing this app is for work and leisure.

We included screenshots of the app

ProCreate | Art-PieProCreate | Art-PieProCreate | Art-Pie

Do you have a favorite painting or drawing app that you use for work? Share them with us in the comments section below.

Dale Grimshaw at WellHung gallery – win a signed poster

Dale Grimshaw's Pride & Prejudice at WellHung gallery | Art-Pie
Click to enlarge

We are looking forward to Pride & Prejudice, the new show from Dale Grimshaw at WellHung gallery and guess what? We have two signed posters of the flyer show (see left) to give away to two of our readers so get involved and refer to panel on the right.


Private View: Thursday 23 MARCH 6-9pm

Well Hung are delighted to announce Dale Grimshaw’s first solo show at Well Hung Gallery. Pride and Prejudice brings together a body of work based on a ‘two worlds’ theme that Dale has been developing over the last few years. The work contains a strong political message, depicting portraits of threatened indigenous people, mostly from Papua New Guinea, which collide with familiar symbols of the privileged western world, producing a jarring effect that emphasises their powerlessness.

More recently, Dale has become involved with the political struggle to free West Papua from Indonesian occupation. This bitter and hard fought struggle is rarely reported in the West and through his work, Dale has been supporting Benny Wenda, the campaigns leader and long term champion Peter Tatchell, in raising awareness in the UK.

Due to Dale’s involvement with this Campaign his latest work is moving towards a subtler and more emotively lead approach to painting. Contrasting with the earlier, more graphic representations of Western culture, Dale has begun to incorporate softer references to his cultural identity, for example graffiti interspersed with decorative wallpaper motifs. This makes the figures themselves more personal and touching, reflecting his increased interest in the plight of individuals and the intensity of their cultural identity, which is so at risk.     

Dale’s work has always been boldly figurative and has been inspired by his strongly held humanitarian beliefs. However, this political message is always achieved by an emphasis on powerful direct emotions and a deep empathy for his subjects. 

Dale Grimshaw street art | Art-Pie
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Dale Grimshaw was born in Lancashire, in the North of England. During a difficult childhood, his drawing and painting became extremely important to him. He developed his skills at college, firstly with an Art Foundation course at Blackburn College and later to Degree Level, studying Fine Art at Middlesex University.

Dale Grimshaw has a successful gallery career, having exhibited extensively both nationally and internationally, including five solo exhibitions with Signal Gallery, London. His exhibitions have been widely recognised in the press and online, articles have been published in The Independent, Juztapoz, Art of England Magazine and Widewalls. His works are collected internationally, alongside celebrities including Adam Ant and The Prodigy. 

Dale Grimshaw street art on Chalk Farm London | Art-Pie
Click to enlarge

More recently Dale has been invited to festivals nationally and internationally as well as painting many iconic walls across London, where he lives.

Private view from 6pm until 9.30pm is on Thursday 23rd March. Music and refreshments will be provided, the event is open to all but please do email to confirm attendance.  Admission is, as always, free.

Snow circles by Sonja Hinrichsen

There are many ways of enjoying snow, some would get strapped on their snowboard and speed down the slopes whilst other may just look at it falling down. Sonja Hinrichsen thought otherwise, radically so even.

She gathered five people and warned them they will be needed for a few hours, 3 to be precise. To do what? Snow circles. Filmed from the air and the whole thing acquires another dimension, majestic and surreal. Video and pictures below.

> View another drawing from Sonja
> Full photoset for “snow circles”



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