Each week we solve one of London’s great mysteries (as submitted by you, the reader). This week Charlotte Ross of Haggerson asks: ‘While travelling on the 48 bus to Hackney, I saw what looked like a potato with matchsticks poking out of it – a spudnik? – perched on the roof of a bus shelter. I have since seen several others like it at bus stops on the 48 and 55 bus routes. Is this the beginning of an alien invasion or are these things ‘art’?‘
We have had other reports of these strange objects (pictured above), Charlotte, and many have speculated about their purpose and origin. Rumours circulating online have suggested that they could be monitors to track buses or devices to discourage pigeons. However, we can tell you that they are indisputably potato-based; were created by the artist known as No Nose; and were featured in the 2008 Tate Media documentary ‘Street Art – Painting the City: London, Paris, Madrid’.
No Nose explained to us how, in 2004, he began creating his art by painting dots on potatoes. He then started spray painting the spuds in fluorescent hues and covering them in spines, to make them as noticeable as possible. In some cases the protuberances are cocktail sticks; in other cases, matches, cotton buds or nails.
By carefully launching his creations on to bus shelters, No Nose says that he has ‘a clear strip of flat roof allowing the small and relatively insignificant potato a place to inhabit’. He intended to explore the fear surrounding unattended, suspect devices brought on by his ‘objection to the war in Iraq’. The significance of the potato is to do with his fascination for creating objects that ‘have their own natural lifespan’.
But who is this mysterious No Nose? Like other notorious London street artists such as Sweet Toof and Pure Evil, we know very little about him personally. He exhibited at the Red Gallery in 2011 and will be showing work in the inaugural exhibition of the Herrick Gallery in late June. However, the Street Art London blog prefers to refer to him as a ‘concept’. ‘He will always be an idea, an expression of creativity,’ said Griff from the blog. ‘I think it is best to keep No Nose a mystery.’ Josie Gurney-Read
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