The characters and concepts that emerge from the shared imagination of artists Ella & Pitr are unlike any you’ve seen before – unless that is, you also inhabit that secret world of Maurice Sendak’s, “Where the wild things are”, where “the walls become the world all around” and where we “let the rumpus start !”, only in this case it’s not just the walls that become host to a fantastical and rich family of characters, but also rooftops, tower blocks, open fields and …canvasses.
Much like their street work, the impeccably drafted characters that inhabit these canvasses can barely be contained within the frame, bursting with life and love and purpose, turn your back for a moment and they will undoubtedly free themselves from the limits imposed by the artists and animatedly take their leave through the nearest exit. No doubt leaving a trail of paste and paper and ink behind them as they go. In one fundamental sense, this freeing art from the canvas (and gallery) is why street art exists, and without being too philosophical, why Ella & Pitr exist too.
These characters are not as first may seem, sleeping giants, to be coldly studied like characters trapped in a moribund art history, but those rare and mischievous aunts and uncles resting after too much port wine and a wild adventure. Street Art (and the characters it contains) has freed itself from art history and no amount of critical theorising can drag it back again. This art is now striding purposely across the globe creating incredible narratives for anyone who cares to engage with it, and in many cases, with those who had no initial wish to engage with it at all.
Ella & Pitr understand one important thing about Street Art that is rarely noted in the sea of derivative pop art murals and the rush to monetize them, and that’s our intrinsic need for stories, for narratives that help us to make sense of the world and our place in it. Ella and Pitr’s work helps to create and sustain communities, they link the artist to the viewer, the storyteller to the listener and the viewers to each other, both online in their framed and oversized works, (both which need to be seen and interacted with), and in the real world through their family of wheatepasted characters. The power of these stories is even more potent when artist and viewer share the same space. In this case, the street.
When people discover and share the same story, whether the same TV show, the same book or have visited the same places, they share a piece of history, making each other less strange, less threatening, less the “other”. These common experiences create a bond and it’s these bonds, based on narrative, that create strong communities. Everyone knows that for a good story, you need strong personalities, these are what Ella & Pitr excel at creating. It is characters like these and the stories they inspire when we come face to face with them, that is the driving force behind this incredible movement we’re experiencing in visual culture. This is why this movement and Ella & Pitr’s family of larger than life characters resonate so deeply with an ever-growing global audience.
Whimsical, innocent, hopeful, poignant, playful, funny, free and infectious are just a few of the adjectives ascribed to the characters that inhabit the world of Ella & Pitr, but there’s also danger in this story. The danger of being fooled by captivating stories designed to deceive and manipulate, the danger of being crushed under the weight of advertisers demands, or mortgage payment worries and insurance scams. The inherent danger of growing UP instead of old. Picasso once said “Youth has no age” a statement that if printed could be illustrated by the family of characters that Ella & Pitr have given birth to.
Whether mind bending anamorphic frames that explode the boundaries of the possible, or monumental gentle giants asleep atop rooftops dreaming the viewers into life, whether playful online interactions or children riding down the street on monsters created by that most joyous of tools in a street artists kit, the fire extinguisher, Ella and Pitr invite us to explore the world through the eyes of one untainted by the drudgery of a 9-5 life.
They invite us to become lovers, lovers of our streets and communities, of stories, of the underdog’s small victories, of each other and ultimately, of life. They celebrate our ability to be free from the constraints that contemporary society places upon us, they show us that the frame, the boundaries, the politics and advertisements, the expectations and limitations placed upon us are as false as the materialistic gods we’re encouraged to worship.
Ella & Pitr’s work is a call to arms, a reminder that freedom comes from within and that it’s never wise to “grow up” in spite of our growing old.
If “genius is the recovery of childhood at will”, as both Rimbaud and Baudelaire believed, then ladies and gentlemen…we must presume that we are in the presence of genius.
]Text by Martyn Reed from Nuart Festival]