Street art in Bahrain

We hit the streets of Adliya to create a tag and our street art style

Street art in Bahrain

It was back in Year Nine when I first expressed a desire to take my art studies further. My teacher literally laughed at me. Since that moment, I’ve had to simply accept that being an artist is just not on the cards for me. Even today, ask anyone in the Time Out offices and they’ll tell you – my talents do not lie in artistry. (Just ask them about the sand snowman incident...)

None of it stops me from at least trying to creatively express myself through a range of mediums, however, whether it’s through sand sculptures or spray paint (no matter how much it probably should). This is how I end up, one sunny afternoon, with two extremely talented graffiti artists, trying my hand at (legally) tagging the walls of Adliya.

I’ve roped Mahmood (AKA HuviL) and Jamie (AKA EKS016) – two part-time street artists who have worked together to create some amazing pieces across Bahrain’s billboards, gyms and malls (to name a few) – into an afternoon of practising graffiti. Hadeel Eltayeb, the curator of Al Riwaq Art Space, is also with us, having kindly organised a public space where we can legally produce our work.

First, we all watch, mesmerised, as HuviL creates an incredible, exclusive piece of work for our cover feature (page 12) in just over two hours. And then it’s my turn to learn the art of tagging from the experts. How hard can it be, I think. It’s basically just writing your signature on a wall with spray paint, right? Wrong.

Despite the fact that even my bank had to call me back three times to repeat my signature, which wildly differed every time I scribbled it, I am foolishly optimistic about my career as a street artist. Your tag, I’m told, should be between three and five letters long and reflect who you are as an artist. These letters can be ones that just look good to you or have some sort of meaning and special significance in your life. So, with the help of Jamie, I carefully create my alter ego – Kty. I know. Pure genius.

“It takes years for graffiti artists to perfect their tag,” Jamie tells me. “It’s all about muscle memory.” And as we don’t have years until this magazine gets published, we decide he’ll design something off-the-cuff and I’ll attempt to copy it. What could go wrong?

He quickly sprays the wall and, within moments, there it is, my very own tag (which I personally feel really gets to the core of who I am as an artist…).

Then he puts a can in my hand...

“You need to hold it close to the wall,” he advises. “Don’t move your wrist,” he instructs. “You need to be at eye level with where you’re painting,” he explains. It’s all a bit too much information in one go and so I just start spraying haphazardly.

I admit, my very first attempt at being a graffiti artist is a complete and utter failure. I look across at HuviL’s piece (which passers-by have now started taking selfies beside) and I feel rather inadequate.

Not one to quit so easily, however (I never gave up on that sand snowman, I’ll have you know), I grab another colour and start spraying.

My second tag might actually be worse than the first.

The problem is, I’m told, that I’m holding the can too far away from the wall and moving my wrist too much. I try again. I fail again. So Jamie gives me a different, glossier brand of paint and a smaller nozzle and I literally trace his original tag. Success! There it is. In bright red, shiny paint, my “other” name stands proud, vibrantly emblazoned on a poster board in a back alley of Adliya. It’s definitely up there on my list of Proudest Life Moments.

I then manage one more half-decent tag (again by tracing) before quickly reverting back to complete illegibility.

“To be fair, I’d be pretty worried if you got it within ten minutes,” says Jamie, encouragingly. He doesn’t need to make me feel better, though, as I’m pretty chuffed with my attempt (whether I should be or not is another matter entirely…). I take a quick snap and decide I’m going to track down my Year Nine art teacher. (Look at all that potential he stamped out with a mere snigger!) Or, on second thoughts, I might just send it to my mum. At least she won’t laugh... Right?
Follow the real artists on Instagram: @EKS016er and @huvil.

Four to try
Ways to practise art

Ez Art Studio
This independent studio in Jannusan is a great place to learn the arts of pottery and mosaic. Head over and get messy in the open studio or in one of the classes, which are available for both kids and adults.
Prices and timings vary. GPZ Compound, Jannusan, www.ezartpottery.com (17 591 585).

L'atelier Art Lounge
Sure, this place has a lot going on for kids, but that doesn't mean they don't cater to adults as well. Throughout the week there are classes in scrapbooking, drawing, mosaic and collage, plus more.
Prices and timings vary. Seef Mall, Seef, www.latelier-artlounge.com (17 551 144).

Studio Ceramics
Whenever the fancy strikes, pop into this home-grown Seef shop, choose a piece of pottery and then paint it using the resources available. The team will then glaze and fire it and, in less than a week, you can take home your very own masterpiece to display proudly (or not).
Prices vary. Open daily 10am-10pm. Seef Mall, Seef, www.studioceramics.me (17 002 911).

Things-to-do
More of a do-it-yourself-and-at-home artist? Then check out the art supplies selection at local store Things-To-Do. Its two branches in Budaiya and Riffa have almost anything any artist could want or need.
Open Sat-Thu 8am-12.30pm, 3.30pm-7pm. Budaiya Highway (17 590 409). Other location: Mashtan Avenue, Riffa.

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