As you might know, back in April I attended The Crystal Ship street art festival in the Belgian coastal city of Ostend.
It was my first time there and I made a point to catch up with all the excellent public art works that have been produced since 2016 in Ostend, a city that is definitely standing out thanks to an enticing programme of contemporary and urban art events.
Disclaimer: in this Ostend street art guide, I’m showing you the murals that were painted for the street art festival The Crystal Ship only. My guide doesn’t include the street art you can generally find around the city. However, besides these legal large-scale murals, tagging and other forms of street art aren’t so popular around Ostend. If I’m going back next year, I’ll report on that as well ☺
Where to Find Street Art in Ostend > From the Hippodroom to Mariakerke Station
Disorderline Crew (2017)
Koningin Astridlaan 1
On the side of a modern building from the 1970s which houses a swimming pool, the Disorderline Crew painted a dynamic mural in shades of brown and turquoise-blue. As shadows and lights change during the day, this fourdimensional mural looks different and yet more dynamism comes from the different points from which you can view it around the square.
Robert Montgomery (2016)
When in Ostend, make sure you catch the work of Robert Montgomery, the contemporary installation artist well known for his billboard poems focused on ecology and ecological crisis. His conceptual pieces aim to bring poetry to text art, which he prefers as a way to stand out in a world crowded with images and visual inputs.
Henrik Uldalen (2017)
Henrik Uldalen’s artworks focus on atmospheres rather than on narratives and realistic details. In Ostend, the Norwegian oil painter realised an emotive mural depicting a ghostly female character struggling with alienation and numbness. Yet one more of his vulnerable characters floating in a dreamlike setting and disappearing into the void.
>> Read my interview with Henrik Uldalen
Sebas Velasco (2017)
Inspired by the nearby soccer stadium, this mural depicts the artist’s friend Pastel wearing the t-shirt of Ostend’s soccer club. The mural shows Velasco’s hyper-realistic style portraying the main character, who stands out from one of the artist’s typical night cityscapes.
Siegfried Vynck (2016)
Local artist Siegfried Vynck is the grandson of another well-known visual artist from Ostend: the expressionist painter Piet Van den Buys. The first of the three murals of this triptych was inspired by Ostend and the sea and depicts a fish.
Ostend Street Art Guide > the Stene area
Nelio & Sebas Velasco (2017)
After painting their ‘main’ walls, the French artist Nelio and the Spanish artist Sebas Velasco joined forces to paint this smaller yet mesmerising mural. This collaborative piece showcases the best from both artists: Nelio’s abstract art and Velasco’s hyper-realism.
Siegfried Vynck (2016)
Here is the second mural of the modern triptych painted by this Ostend-born artist for The Crystal Ship. Siegfried Vynck’s art is inspired by baroque, surrealism, pop art and manga, along with personal themes like salvation and redemption.
Fintan Magee (2016)
Mixing realistic characters and dreamlike scenarios, this large-scale mural by the Australian Fintan Magee depicts a young woman from Ostend named Laura Maes and her mirrored reflection, which is scattered around the bottom of this 40-meter wall.
Ricky Lee Gordon (2017)
This large-scale mural by the South African street artist Ricky Lee Gordon was inspired by an old photo he found inside an apartment of the building on which he was going to paint. This mural is made of two parts. On the upper level we found the sea, while the bottom part is a tribute to the unknown people that we encounter in life. The text over it is about the role of art as a “collective memory”.
Milu Correch > The Crystal Ship 2018
The Argentinian artist Milu Correch painted one of her iconic crashed and rusty cars with masked characters on it, which are the protagonists of her series of murals “Among Ashes”. The series features masked characters intended to inspire curiosity and mystery and rusty cars reminding that time flies.
Where to find street art in Ostend > Around Vlaams Plein
Smates & Locatelli (2016)
This Belgian duo gets their inspiration from the hunt between animals. The owner of the building specifically asked for a mural depicting her beloved African animals and the artists painted the relationship between the predators and the prey with their iconic graphic brushstrokes.
Telmo & Miel > The Crystal Ship 2018
This double piece on the surrounding wall of the hippodrome was painted by Miel only. The two matching walls are different, yet aim to show the same mood, which is contained in the title of the piece: “Welcome”. They both depict a girl with an umbrella and a monkey, with different colour shades since one girl is under the rain while the other girl is under the sun.
Zio Ziegler (2016)
The work of the American artist Zio Ziegler is inspired by the art and architecture of the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance, mixed with African and tribal elements, the latter being predominant in this piece painted in Ostend. This mural depicts one of his iconic irregular and zoomorphic figures, made of hyper-detailed, monochromatic textures.
This mural is inspired by the work of the Ostend artist James Ensor (from the late 19th and early 20th centuries) and features some of James Ensor’s recurring themes such as masks, skulls, horses and God. The Argentinian muralist Franco Fasoli aka Jaz mixed these references with his own universe.
Wasp Elder > The Crystal Ship 2018
Wasp Elder painted a portrait of Loire La Fontaine, a Belgian pioneer feminist whose story of international feminism and struggle immediately came to mind when he was invited to paint a wall at the renowned Belgian festival. Loire La Fontaine was also a member of the women’s international league for peace and freedom.
A Squid Called Sebastian > The Crystal Ship 2018
With this mural, A Squid Called Sebastian addresses desolation, tackling the enormous number of empty buildings in Ostend. Through the depiction of a fisherman looking out to a sea of empty boats, the artist wants to highlight the reconversion of Ostend’s harbour, where historic buildings are now luxury condos.
Matthew Dawn > The Crystal Ship 2018
Generaal Jungbluthlaan 4
This mural is part of Matthew Dawn’s “paper crown” series, which is all about the ego and fleeting fame. In this series, the main characters, which are all depicted in self-portrait format, are ‘blinded’ by success, although their fame is trivial, hence the crown is made of paper and the chair-throne is fallen down.
Agostino Iacurci (2016)
The Italian artist Agostino Iacurci painted a giant colourful vase that is divided into different pieces. Each is painted in a different colour and with a different pattern based on stylised plants or different ornaments. Titled “Coincidences”, this mural plays with symbols and geometry by intertwining visual tales.
Colectivo Licuado > The Crystal Ship 2018
In the coastal city of Ostend, the artistic duo from Uruguay painted one of their hyper-realistic yet poetic murals. Titled “El Equilibrio”, this artwork is about the balance between the calm and the storm of the sea, the coexistence of different personalities within us and the coexistence of human beings in the world.
Titled “Crazy Keyboard”, the mural painted by the Spanish artist is exactly that: random characters on a wall. The piece plays with what people expect art to be, suggesting that there is no need to constantly look for meanings behind every mural or artwork through a playful re-appropriation of urban elements.
Sainer > The Crystal Ship 2018
This mural was painted by Sainer of the Polish duo Etam Cru. It is quite different from their usual artworks and it depicts a natural landscape from the Polish rural region of Podkarpacie, which is also the title of this unusually realistic piece.
Ostend Street Art Guide > Before Vindictivelaan
Edith Cavellstraat 70
Behind the aesthetically pleasant and technically perfect murals by the Los-Angeles duo Cyrcle there is always some deep and difficult theme. This piece in Ostend was inspired by the terrorist attacks in Bruxelles and is a tribute to the victims. It is so well executed that it looks as though it was made with actual marble: the final effect is mesmerizing!
Faith 47 (2016)
Peter Benoitstraat 77
This subtle mural by the South African artist Faith47 depicts an intimate moment between two women, one of which is wearing a wedding ring. It was painted as part of the 1,83 MHZ Frequency’s series, which is the frequency of the inaudible atmospheric heartbeats of the Earth. This project is about the overall reverberation of our collective actions as human beings and is made up of moments of raw intimacy on walls and instants of connection between us, such as this sensual moment.
This abstract piece by the French artist Nelio is painted using a colour palette inspired by the surrounding area. The artist uses his iconic style, which mixes abstract shapes with cubism and an effect of depth obtained through the expert use of colours.
Prinses Stefanieplein 63
Through his iconic optic illusions made from concentric, bright-coloured layers, the Poland-born and Germany-based artist creates illusionary depths that are gates to other worlds. His abstract murals play with perspective and the final result is a mesmerizing 3D effect.
Jeps & Jucte (2016)
Besides owning an impressive collection of public art, Ostend is also a musical city: several musicians spent their lives there, including the soul legend Marvin Gaye and rock singer Arno. This mural by the Belgian duo Jeps & Jucte pays homage to the music legends who lived in Ostend.
Hell’O Collective (2017)
This bright-coloured mural was painted by Jerome from the Bruxelles-based duo. It features the iconic monsters and abstract shapes of their imaginary fantasy world and it is one of the largest murals in the city, developing on different surfaces along the same street.
Leopold III laan 1
The Argentinian artist painted a work that adresses the heavy legacy of the past, about how societies live with the consequences of those that came before and how they build their current reality to be better. The mural depicts a black man from Ostend and aims at criticising the actions of King Leopold II, who exploited rubber production in the former colony of Congo. However, thanks to the bright colours in the upper part of the mural, this piece is also a tribute to the rich cultural diversity of Ostend and the always brighter future towards which the protagonist is looking.
Where to find street art in Ostend > At the other side of the harbour
Guido Van Helten (2016)
Hendrik Baelskaai 40
In Ostend, the Australian artist painted yet one more of his hyper-realistic murals, which portrays the local fisherman Norbert De Smit. This giant portrait is made magnificent by the wrinkles detailing the countenance, the expressive eyes and the nostalgic feeling that it conveys.
Zoer & Velvet (2018)
Dokter E. Moreauxlaan 1a
This long mural was painted before the latest edition of the festival. Zoer & Velvet is an artistic duo from France, well-known for its collage style of painting, often incorporating the automobile with lush colours. For this piece in Ostend, the artists once again depicted common objects (chairs) into an unusual setting in order to transform reality and make it surreal.
Yet another headless woman painted by this Argentinian artist. In this mural, the protagonist is caught in a fragile moment (while repairing a broken vase) that shows both fragility and strength, two opposite yet complementary traits of women, who are Hyuro’s favourite subject. However, fragility is also a trait of Belgium, where the integration of the Flemish and Walloon cultures has always been difficult.
Joachim > The Crystal Ship 2018
The long mural painted by the Belgian artist Joachim is inspired by a former sailor he once met on a tram in Ostend. This old man stopped going out into the open seas once he retired; when he became a “prisoner on land.” These specific words stuck in Joachim’s head and when he was invited to The Crystal Ship he immediately knew what he was going to paint.
Axel Void (2017)
This mural is inspired by an old photo of a lady who lives in the building on which Axel Void painted. This photo depicts the moment when she said goodbye to her godmother, who died not long after the picture was taken. The text written on it, “Leven”, is the Belgian word for life. With this mural, Axel Void wants to highlight all those little moments that make life special.
>> Read my interview with Axel Void
Siegfried Vynck (2016)
Sergeant De Bruynestraat 32
Here is the last mural of the modern triptych painted by Siegfried Vynck. This mural is painted on the Mayor’s house, which is a big recognition for a local artist’s work.
Chiara Daneels > The Crystal Ship 2018
Chiara is the young talent who won this year’s competition held by The Crystal Ship, winning the chance to paint her first mural within the frame of this excellent street art festival. Although she is only 19 years old, Chiara’s design and skills are outstanding.
E. Moreauxlaan 293
Buck is the name of the crew whose members were the Belgian artists Bué, Chase and Zenith, who now all work separately. However, they reunited after 20 years only on the occasion of the second edition of The Crystal Ship festival, painting this colourful and funny mural.
Ella & Pitr (2016)
The French duo, well known for their ‘sleeping giants’ lying down on the streets all around the world, painted a woman in bikini who represents the sunbathing people in Ostend. She is also wearing a mask that is a reference to local artist Ensor.
The English artist painted yet one more of his iconic black-and-white murals, with crazy details that made it look like it was drawn with a pen. In Ostend, Phlegm painted an excerpt of his comic stories, bringing on a larger scale his iconic characters and their dreamlike world full of fantasy.
Ostend Street Art Guide > In the Pedestrian Area
Strook’s artworks are made of recycled wood and for The Crystal Ship the Belgian artist wanted to use only wood from Ostend. To make this piece, which is hanging above the tourist office, he used different kinds of wood, including wood from a ship that sank, causing the death of two local fishermen.
In Ostend, the Argentinian street artist Pastel painted one of his iconic pieces inspired by nature. Working with flora, fauna and natural landscapes as social symbols, Pastel aims at starting a dialogue about the nature of men and his surroundings and the confrontation between industry and the natural world.
During the latest edition of The Crystal Ship festival, the American street artist Gaia painted a large-scale piece depicting a lifevest with red poppies and carnations hovering above the North Sea. Blinking at the nearby sculpture “Seamen’s Memorial” by Willy Kreitz, this artwork should make us think about contemporary issues such as migration.
Ben Slow > The Crystal Ship 2018
The piece painted by the London-based artist Ben Slow is without a doubt one of the best artworks of the latest edition of The Crystal Ship festival. This large-scale, black and white mural depicts Jean and Jeanette, a local couple that have been married for 53 years. A sweet yet powerful homage to true, everlasting love.
The iconic monochrome, highly detailed creatures of this artist from Ghent are painted on walls all around the world. Everywhere he goes, ROA paints animals that reflect the community and the city where he is working. In the Belgian city of Ostend, he painted a pyramid of sleeping rodents including a rabbit, a squirrel, a chipmunk, a hedgehog, a mole and a mouse.
In Ostend, the Argentinian artist painted the negative image of a woman, which requires a filter on the camera to be decrypted. It wasn’t the first time that Francisco Bosoletti used this ultraviolet technique, which makes the mural standing out from the negative surroundings and demands the active participation of the viewer. Bosoletti’s series of negative images is also an invitation to see reality through different lens and to look at things in a positive way, getting rid of the black ‘filters’ imposed on us by society and the media. The lady portrayed in this large-scale mural is one of the ‘Children of War’, who came to Oostende to escape the Spanish Civil War, leaving behind her family, who she never saw again. Through his negative technique, Bosoletti wanted to highlight a story that has marked the history of the city yet it is hidden from everyday view.
Opposite Bosoletti’s mural, the Argentinian artist Elian Chali created one of his signature abstract minimalist pieces. Painted on a corner, this composition is anamorphic: you are supposed to look at it from a specific point in the middle of the square. Standing on that point, you will see Elian’s bright coloured geometric figures (a circle, a square and a triangle) as if they were aligned on the same level, an optic illusion that changes your perception of the building. The aim of the artist is to start a dialogue between the viewers and the urban space surrounding them.
Alexis Diaz (2017)
Inspired by what he saw at the Ostend’s city museum and more specifically by a picture of Ostend’s old coat of arms and the story of the three keys that he read in one of the books in the museum, the Puerto Rican artist Alexis Diaz painted this mural. It was created in his signature style, which is made of meticulous, freehand tiny brush strokes, often monochromatic. With his iconic technique, Alexis Diaz paints imaginative drawings full of details, obtaining realistic images of phantasmagorical animals and chimeric creatures. Here in Ostend, the artist imagined a new coat of arms for the city, in which he drew mermaids, seagulls and whales.
Dourone > The Crystal Ship 2018
The Dourone art project began in 1999, as the pseudonym of the Spanish street artist Fabio Lopez Gonzalo. It became a duo in 2012, when his girlfriend and artistic partner Elodiellol joined the project. Their work is colourful and figurative, often depicting a female portrait. The portrait painted in Ostend was inspired by the peculiar structure of the wall, which is characterised by many blind windows.
Pixel Pancho (2016)
Adolf Buylstraat 15
A specialist in painting surreal robotic characters, the Italian street artist depicted two portraits of medieval farmers, the image of a typical Flemish couple in historic costumes with Pixel Pancho’s iconic machine wheels in view.
Where to find street art in Ostend > various locations around the city
OakOak > The Crystal Ship 2018
During the latest edition of the festival, the French artist OakOak created different humorous pieces cleverly playing with mundane objects in the streets of Ostend, some of which are references to Street Fighter, The Simpsons and Classic NES video games, while other were created in collaboration with his fellow artist Jaune.
Jaune (2016), (2017) and The Crystal Ship 2018
The Belgian stencil artist Jaune has attended The Crystal Ship festival since its first edition, therefore his iconic little garbage men can be found in different locations around the city. Wandering around Ostend it’s quite easy to witness the evolution of Jaune’s work: from the time when he was setting a background scene to his latest pieces, which aim at telling a story with just a few characters. His workers are famous for doing anything but working and his compositions often play with elements of the surface on which he is painting.
The renowned stencil artist Christian Guemy aka C215 left several artworks scattered around the city of Ostend, among which his iconic vibrant portraits and the ubiquitous cats. All of his stencils are multi-layered and very detailed, which makes him one of the most appreciated stencil artists in the world.
Julien de Casabianca’s mission is to take historical artworks out of their context and place them in public spaces to make art accessible to everybody, as he did for the beautiful classical Belgian paintings he scattered around the city of Ostend during The Crystal Ship festival.
>> Read about my week at The Crystal Ship 2018!
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