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  • Dave, Steel City Snapper

Phlegm Returns To Sheffield


No Name, photography by Steel City Snapper

Popular street artist Phlegm returned to Sheffield at the end of May to paint his second mural of the year in the city.

 

The new artwork can be found on the shutters of “No Name”, a modern bistro on Northfield Road in Crookes. The bistro is open Wednesday to Saturday 6-11pm, obviously if you visit between those times then the shutters will be up and you won’t be able to see the artwork! But you will be able to sample their extensive menu.

 

“No Name” was painted in a single day and is classic Phlegm, showing one of his unusual figures clearly in a state of great hunger! It nicely compliments his “Pandemic Diary” exhibition at the Millennium Gallery, and the mural he painted at the Eyewitness Works at the start of the year.

 

So who is the enigmatic Phlegm? He was born in North Wales, lived in Sheffield for many years, but is now based in London. He apparently took the name “Phlegm” from one of the four temperaments in Ancient Greek medicine: blood, yellow bile, black bile, and phlegm.


He first developed his illustrations in self-published comics, which are now highly sought after by his fans. However, he’s now more famous for his street art murals, and has painted everywhere from London to Tunisia, and Ibiza to New Zealand. In 2016 he painted what was billed as the world's tallest mural at that time (8 storeys!) in Toronto, Canada.

 

He has painted many murals in Sheffield over the years. Urban explorers will be familiar with his work from various empty and derelict buildings around the city. For many years his figures could be seen on the side of the Rutland Arms on Brown Street, but they were painted over in 2022. There was a popular large mural by Phlegm on Ecclesall Road, but that one was also painted over last year.


Phlegm mural on Brown Street, photography by Steel City Snapper

Some of Phlegm’s work can still be seen, though, including on the front and rear of the former Rare and Racy shop on Devonshire Street, a large mural nearby on Westfield Terrace (behind the Frog & Parrot pub), and on the side of The Riverside pub in Kelham Island.

 

Phlegm has also held a number of exhibitions over the years, his first solo show “The Bestiary” took place at the Howard Griffin Gallery in London in 2014. The aforementioned 2019 “Mausoleum of the Giants” exhibition at the former Taylor Eyewitness Works on Milton Street in Sheffield is undoubtedly his most successful. It ran from 6 March to 15 April 2019 during which time 12,801 people visited from as far afield as Sweden, Italy and New York, with queues of up to four hours long!

 

The “Mausoleum of the Giants” contained huge figures created in-situ by Phlegm from chicken wire and papier-mâché. At the end of the exhibition the largest figures had to be destroyed, but Sheffield Museums took possession of the smaller figures and it was good to see some of them again in the new “Pandemic Diary” exhibition. It is Phlegm’s hope that one day the Guardian figure will go on display in the Winter Gardens.

 

To mark the “Mausoleum of the Giants” exhibition, in March and April 2019 Phlegm painted a huge mural on the Headford Street side of the Eyewitness Works. At that time the building was awaiting redevelopment (subsequently delayed by the pandemic), in 2021 Capita Centric started the redevelopment and in 2023 Phlegm’s mural (which had been heavily graffitied by that point) was removed, to the disappointment of many.

 

However, in January 2024, with the building redevelopment complete, Phlegm was invited back to create a new mural on the same wall. Although it wasn’t originally planned to be the case, this coincided with the opening of the “Pandemic Diary” in the Millennium Gallery, creating something of a buzz in Sheffield!


Phlegm mural on Westfield Terrace, photography by Steel City Snapper

Phlegm explained how he was never completely satisfied with his original Eyewitness Works mural because he was exhausted after creating the “Mausoleum of the Giants” exhibition within the building (often in freezing temperatures), and he had to scale-down the mural on the outside. Having a second go at it allowed him to create something bigger, bolder and more detailed.

 

Over the course of a couple of weeks it was fascinating to watch Phlegm create the huge new mural, from a roughly drawn outline to the completed artwork. He uses standard Wickes masonry paint, using only black and white colours. This has become a signature style for him, but he says that it also helps to keep the costs down for his clients. It was quite amazing to see the level of detail he could create with a roller or a brush on the end of a long stick. He didn’t have a detailed plan in front of him, like some artists, rather the idea of what he wanted to achieve was in his head but not completely fixed so he could go with the flow on the day. It was so interesting!

 

Graciously, Phlegm was happy to talk to people as he worked, explaining how he likes hearing the different interpretations people have of his work - whether it’s positive or negative. Some find the figures benign and fun, while others find them creepy and scary. A few weeks later I was talking to a lady who loves Sheffield street art, but she doesn’t like Phlegm’s work. “I can see that he’s very talented and that what he does is very good, but I really don’t like his figures at all, they’re really creepy,” she explained. On the other hand, a friend of mine told me that they find Phlegm’s figures really cute!

 

And that brings us nicely back to the “Pandemic Diary” that has just concluded it's run, because everyone who sees the images has a slightly different interpretation of them. The exhibition was wonderful so if you didn't manage to catch it, you can read our summary here.

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