Hit the North murals put Belfast streets ahead with artwork
VIBRANT, quirky and cool - they could easily form part of a priceless art collection but instead they have been magnified and sprayed on to bare walls, transforming Belfast streets into an alfresco mural theatre.
People, pets, patterns and symbols all beam benevolently down from properties across the Cathedral quarter as part of this year's 'Hit the North' event featuring the work of some of the best street artists in Northern Ireland, the Republic, Britain and Europe.
Thirty walls were 'artified' by 30 artists in two days to coincide with Culture Night but although the fanfare may be over for another year, the artwork remains as a legacy of a festival which has brightened more than a few drab streets across the city.
The standard has been exceptionally high this year, according to curator Adam Turkington of Seedhead Arts and the reception from both property owners and the public "overwhelmingly positive".
Having matched up walls with artists for three years running he believes Belfast may now be the street art capital of Europe, with murals from previous years having evolved into prized landmarks.
"An artist from Madrid told me that in terms of street art, Belfast is now way ahead of other modern European cities so I think that is something to be proud of," he said.
"Streets have been completely transformed and the pieces look so good that people don't want them painted over.
"Businesses and property owners have been keen to get involved, with the colourful subject matter attracting a growing number of international artists and visitors.
"We have an eclectic mix of portraits, animals, abstract designs and cartoons - and with some measuring 60 metres and higher they definitely cannot be missed."
A generous budget of £20,000 from grants and sponsorship has helped create the outdoor gallery, with each body of work representing "excellent value for money", according to Mr Turkington.
"If you commissioned commercially any of these paintings, you could pay up to £15,000 each, so that's something to think about," he added. "We really do have a valuable outdoor art collection to be treasured."