Is there such a thing as bad graffiti?
If all human expression is valid, it follows that there’s no such
thing as bad graffiti. As Pearce says, “If time and effort has been
put into making it a beautiful or abstract or a fascinating piece of
art then it is an art form. Whether it’s good or bad, that comes down
to the viewer who makes that decision, but anything is art if it has a
meaning to you.”
Kulman agrees: “No, there is no bad graffiti, just graffiti, as a
personal visual expression any graffiti is a valid gesture,” he says.
“People may argue that the choice of space or surface could be
ill-considered or antisocial but the fact it exists suggests someone
had an intent to create the marks. Aesthetically we can all determine
what we consider an accomplished piece of graffiti but we risk
attaching our preconceived idea of Western art values into something
that might be defying cultural significance.”
The writing isn’t on the wall
The main takeaway from the artists and academics is that it’s vital
to preserve graffiti and street art as credible, valuable forms of
expression. The vandalism question will always come up when discussing
graffiti, but in reality, it’s rare to see graffiti that doesn’t add
something to its environment. For street artists who rise to the top
of the paint-splattered ladder, it’s all about social conscience,
commentary, criticism, humour, talent and thoughtfulness.
Most of us could think of dozens of eyesores in our localities that
have been paid for or approved by local government – ugly billboard
constructions; thoughtless housing projects; sprawling road systems
that are no-go areas for pedestrians. Yet somehow they are
begrudgingly accepted. The hostility towards the expression of
graffiti can start to look like something culturally more troubling.
If graffiti encroaches into criminal damage, that’s a matter for the
law. But when it makes a statement, vents emotions and looks as
vibrant and exciting as the best art can, critics shouldn’t confuse “I
don’t like it” with “It’s vandalism”.
Some artists to look out for
So which artists are currently producing the most interesting work?
Who better to ask than Alex, Andrew and Dan?
Davenport (Ketones6000) – Without being biased because he’s my
business partner, he’s genuinely the artist I respect the most and is
well respected in a lot of circles. His work never fails to amaze me
and the meaning behind his work is always well thought out and makes a
positive difference to the communities that get to see his work.
Just for everything he’s achieved on such a worldwide scale. One of
the biggest and most respected artists in the world right now.
Vhils – Such a
unique style, well respected globally
Artista – He facilitates community-based art projects around the
world which explore social topics and engage with youth to promote
positive social change.
PichiAvo – A
well respected artist duo from Spain.
Woods – One of our own and in my opinion one of the top female artists.
Acne and Phlegm – I like the work of these Sheffield graffiti artists.
Space Invader 👾 –
I enjoy coming across this artist, who uses mosaic [in their work].
Ben Eine – I am a huge fan of
Ben. He is one of the most successful letterform artists in the world
and is regarded as a pioneer in the exploration of contemporary
typography art. He painted a mural so large that it can be seen from space.
Sen2 – From the
golden age of graffiti during the 1980s, he was one of the founders of
Mad Crew. He’s now moved from classical New York graffiti writing to a
combination of graphic lettering styles with 3D elements, imagery of
pop art, and abstract art techniques. He was recently commissioned to
paint the tennis courts for the US Open.
Fairey – He has painted huge murals in most major cities and has
always been open about controversial social and political topics. He
often donates and creates artwork in order to promote awareness to
social issues and equality.
One – A London-based graffiti artist who has developed a distinct
painting technique combining both illustrative images with elements of
graffiti. (I am currently collaborating with Opake One on artworks for
an upcoming joint exhibition at Artisan Gallery on 7th December, 1–5pm.)