Graffiti - Creativity or Chaos?

It seems a private act and it’s rare to witness the actual creation of this art form in public places. As a rule, most of us do not make a habit of frequenting dark alleys, abandoned buildings, construction sites, railway tunnels, and other spooky places at three or four in the morning. It is quite evident that some do and in the safe light of day, you can visit where these acts have occurred.

Over night, virgin vinyl siding, blank brick, concrete and any other public canvas has been transformed by encrypted tagging and sometimes, more elaborate works.

Some call it art, some call it outright vandalism. But, as in any form of creative expression, you can’t please everyone, especially if it ends up on your property.

Webster describes the word graffito/graffiti as: a scratching,… a rude inscription,.. drawing and the like, found on rocks or walls, etc.

In  fifteenth century Rome, graffiti was a decorative form of painting similar to stencilling; around doors, windows and ceiling borders. Paint colors mixed with plaster were applied over designs cut as masks. The Greeks and Egyptians preceded this process centuries earlier. Before spray paint cans appeared, large circular brushes were used to apply mostly red and black paint by hand.

Graffiti today is seen in its purest form as tole  painting or stencilling. Graffiti, which many have come to detest, as a word and deed, is readily associated with  protest and rebellion. A means of spreading propaganda and satirical comment.

In North America “street art” grew out of the Hippie culture. First, during the Viet Nam war in the US and then to the flower power, psychedelic era of the sixties and early seventies. At this time some of the greatest street art ever produced was created. Carrying on to album cover design and commercial advertising.

Today, street art is still alive. No matter how one views the results, most people see even the exceptional works as vandalism. I agree, “tagging” a wall with a magic marker to denote some territorial turf is not art. But, amongst all the bad stuff some exceptional creative work is happening. I keep asking myself, “ why aren’t these artists putting this on canvas?”

I personally know a few street artists who tell me they get off on the excitement, the thrill of making art with the threat of being caught. It’s not the act it’s getting away with it. “Graffiti without the threat is just plain old art”, one girl told me. “I’m an artist she adds, I see no point in taking a number and lining up to show my portfolio. It takes years to get a show in a gallery? I can paint all night and have a showing in the morning. I don’t get paid but most artists in galleries aren‘t much better off, after commissions. The way it should be is; the galleries should line up at the artist studio and take a number.”

I believe there is more to the why graffiti is created. It boils down to the basic need to be creative. In the graffiti culture, artists have their heroes, their icons and mentors, those they aspire to emulate.

This art, as in any form, is produced, for the sheer love of it. It has to be love. The artist cannot sell, sign, copy write or move it to a gallery. The ultimate artists, artists without egos.

I suggest you seek out some hidden places, they’re not hard to find. Take a close look at what’s there, hidden under a train bridge. Find some treasures and closely study them

See beyond those conditioned ideas about graffiti…“we look with our eyes but see with our emotions” goes the old adage. The Sistine Chapel ceiling was a space no one noticed until a great graffiti artist liberated it.