The Granite City is undergoing something of a colourful makeover. Chipped doorways are transformed into portals to another world while grey underpasses are given a new lease of life inspired by the sky, all with just a few thoughtful sprays from a paint can.

Street art in Aberdeen has surged in popularity in recent years, namely thanks to projects which have allowed artists armed with thick markers, dripping paint and spray cans the opportunity to express themselves in urban situations without being noted a nuisance.

The latest space to be transformed is Union Terrace Gardens, a sunken Victorian garden in the city centre which has hit the headlines in numerous ways, namely in regard to rows over how best to overhaul the space, if at all.

Its granite archways, bearing the weight of the streets above and looking out onto the grassy slopes and wildflower-strewn hills, will soon be awash with colour as part ofRelease the Pressure, a street art festival which aims to show the positive side of spray cans and markers.

Organised by Karl Porter, director of Northern Ireland-based arts collective UV Arts, the festival will join forces with Aberdeen Inspired and Aberdeen City Council to see local and international artists daub their unique designs on the archways as the public look on.

Keen to encourage the next generation of artists, free stencil making workshops will be held at MAKE Seventeen on Belmont Street during the festival while spray painting workshops will be held at the arches.

The Gray's School of Art graduate explains: "I have been painting graffiti or street art for more than 15 years, as a rebellious teenager growing up in Northern Ireland where the politics of space determine your geographical surroundings.

"As an artist I wanted to have a piece of art in every part of the city - graffiti allowed me to create collaborations across the religious divide and meet new people from different areas of the city."

Karl, who has held similar Release the Pressure events in Northern Ireland, explains that the not-for-profit festival aims to provide an outlet for young people to channel their energies in a positive and creative way.

He said: "This is a really exciting event which I'm privileged to have the opportunity to bring to Aberdeen.

"Having built up such a large network of artists and contacts throughout my time, and with my reputation within the scene, I launched our festival and aimed to create cultural connections between artists and cities, delivering an urban intervention, taking over derelict sites and challenging our use of space and place."

While projects to make to most of the arches in the sunken Victorian gardens have been successful in the past, the space has also been blighted by graffiti.

In 2014, a group of volunteers were left disappointed after a community-led project to paint the arches in time for a series of planned Easter activities was ruined, their efforts tagged with spray paint.

As volunteers returned to paint over the graffiti, Aberdeen Inspired who had led part of the project said it was keen to champion controlled street art in the city.

Since then, the business organisation has teamed up with numerous artists to promote street art and the skills it involves with positive initiatives. Tattoo parlour Owlcat was one of the first to become involved, painting a mural championing the city's industrial and harbour industries in Adelphi Lane, just off Union Street.

An underpass leading from the train station to Union Street has been given a Northern Lights-themed overhaul and abandoned doorways have led passer-bys down golden brick roads, past angular bears and stopping to take in dripping strawberry doughnuts as part of its latest scheme Painted Doors.

Adrian Watson, chief executive of Aberdeen Inspired, said: "It will be fantastic to see the arches in Union Terrace transformed into an outdoor gallery by such a talented group of street artists.

"This is a tremendous way to engage people while also reinvigorating the art scene and making it accessible to everyone."

Release the Pressure will take place in Aberdeen on August 27 and 28 at Union Terrace Gardens from 12pm until 6pm.

Source: STV News

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