Detail from RUN
Detail from RUN’s latest piece of street art in Lower Clapton

To be ubiquitous on the streets yet elusive in person are two of the unwritten rules of street art.

And Italian artist RUN ticks both boxes, his trademark hands and interlocking faces adorning walls everywhere from Shoreditch to the backstreets of Lower Clapton – yet he is known only by a pseudonym.

A third rule – to have a socially engaged or political message – is something RUN never used to concern himself with.
“The political statement is implicit in the act of painting on the street,” says the street artist.

But a commission to re-do a painting in Clapton Passage, on the side wall of what is now a veterinary practice, changed things for the artist.

RUN set out to paint some animals or something related to the natural world in the small passageway off Lower Clapton Road where his work has been visible for several years.

After making a start he returned five or six times, adding something new to the artwork each time.
Two days after the recent election, RUN was on his ladder finishing the piece off, when a member of the public seeing the artwork called up to him, shouting: “Ah-ha! It’s a banker! A banker on a lead!”

RUN describes the finished piece as a man with a chain around his neck “looking like a raging animal under anaesthetic and crawling like all the animals of the forest and the savanna.”

Airing political views in a public setting is breaking new ground for RUN, but instead of a feeling of release, the experience has brought with it some unfamiliar anxieties.

“The message is not very hidden. It is pretty clear and obvious. But what is not obvious is the fear I have that the piece will be censored or deleted after someone complains,” RUN says.

“This of course happens all the time and is not a big deal. But after this election I feel all the social places and artistic spaces that are made by people and not by associations or corporate brands will be soon taken away.”

There is no evidence to suggest the new government will crack down on street art. Graffiti removal is, after all, the responsibility of councils rather than central government.

But could a surprise by-product of the election be a flourishing of political art? For street artist RUN the writing – or the paint at least – is on the wall.

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