Friday, 3 July 2009

Signs o' past times?

From Kings Cross to Upper Clapton, from Stoke Newington to Willesden Green... is it me or are there more and more of those archaic painted advertising slogans popping into view these days?

Is it the sunny weather that is exposing these long-redundant hoardings for Sunlight Soap, Weighing Scale Repairs, Boots the Chemist and British-made pipes and brollies? Is new building development revealing their delights to a new generation of passers-by? Have they always been there for all to see, I wonder, and I've just been too engrossed in something far more important to notice them? Or could they be just crawling out of the sludge of their history now?

I presume these often beautiful advertising designs, faded but still vibrant enough to read, are protected from planning interference? If not, they should be. What better testament to forgotten times than a cartoon sketch of a man pumping up a Michelin tyre on his trusty Woleseley? And what better juxtaposition than one of these artworks, high on a London wall in the midst of a terrace of plastic'n'chrome mobile shops? It's like rummaging through a newsagent's copies of Next, OK, Celebrity Death Weekly and Nuts - and coming across an 1892 edition of Punch. Whatever... these pre-war paintings rather put last year's hot potato, Banksy, in the shade, eh?

I'll be keeping an eye out for more of these things, but even more interesting will be to see how the ones I have already clocked fare through the rest of the summer. The 'weighing scales' wall near Kings Cross was looking particularly vibrant the other day. Perhaps it's blazing into life, in the sunshine, before the heat blasts it into obscurity again like some doomed comet?

Or perhaps something rather more surreal is going on and, like the matching numbers phenomenon ("Hey, anyone notice it's 02.02 on the second of February?!" etc etc) these signs serve to illuminate some upcoming shift in paradigm? Are they a metaphor for something? Woah. Heavy.

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