February 17, 2012

The Banksy of public poetry


On days when the unending visual onslaught of urban life begins to feel overwhelming, some of us (we are probably all artists or designers) bemoan the state of our culture or wish to live in a place like São Paulo, where nearly all public signage and advertising was banned a few years ago. Others among us choose to take matters into their own hands.

That’s just what the Scottish street artist Robert Montgomery has done in a series of pieces which replace advertising billboards with poetry. He calls the project “Words in the City at Night,” and as he explained in a recent interview with The Independent, nobody seems to mind vandalism when it comes in the form of free verse:

How does it work when you’re doing the pieces without permission?

We are literally dashing around at night. Often, there are only two of us. People respond to it really well.  Lots of people pass by. Ordinary people just really like to see billboards covered up with poetry. They find it really refreshing I think. So, we’ve never really got into any trouble.

Have the police ever come up and asked you what you’re up to?

Actually, no. They have driven past quite slowly but they’ve never actually come up to me.

[. . .] What do people do to show their appreciation?

Anything from smiles to hugs. I’ve been hugged in the street several times [Laughs]. It’s really nice. I meet a huge cross section of people.

Montgomery’s first solo gallery show, It Turned Out This Way Cos You Dreamed It This Way, is currently installed at KK Outlet in London. A more complete collection of Montgomery’s work is available to view at his website.

Christopher King is the Art Director of Melville House.