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Roa, the squirrel and the rat

October 19, 2009
by the gentle author


I saw this handsome squirrel as I was walking down Redchurch St on my way to pick up some hummus from Teresa last week. It is ideally placed beside the old tree and I like the skillful way the aerosol has been used to create the effect of an ink drawing – it makes a perfectly seasonal image with the Autumn leaves beneath. As I continued on my way home down Brick Lane, I noticed a hungry rat (see below) drawn by the same hand, placed beneath the sign for Bacon St, his eyes gleaming in excitement as if he has caught a whiff of bacon.

Then, passing the Brick Lane Gallery, I saw a whole pile of rats painted on the gallery wall and in the basement I discovered a smaller version of the squirrel from Redchurch St. I learnt that these lively drawings of vermin were by the prolific Belgian street artist Roa who has painted menageries on derelict buildings in Brussels and Ghent, all inflected with an attractive dead-beat humour. In common with the drawings here, they are ambivalent creatures, charismatic yet sinister too and full of life.

I cannot conceal my personal admiration for these two particular vermin for their wily intelligence and tenacious hold on life. It was very perceptive of Roa to paint them as his response to the neighbourhood because we have them both in abundance here.

By the time you read this, the exhibition will be gone, but I hope Roa’s squirrel and the rat will stay with us for a long time to come. They look at home in the street, their natural element, rather than on a clean white gallery wall.


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