14 March 2007

Graffiti

Let me tell you - I abhor, loathe and detest nearly all graffiti. I hate it when it is on bus shelters. I hate it when it is on lavatory walls. I hate big examples of graffiti and I hate tiny examples of it. As far as I am concerned, the vast majority of graffiti is absolute rubbish and has no artistic merit whatsoever. I scorn those mugs and liberal pseudo-intellectuals who make out that graffiti is an art form. This is utter balderdash. Most graffiti makers are spotty, socially incompetent teenage boys who know as much about art as I know about astrophysics.

Here in South Yorkshire, a graffiti vandal called Simon Sunderland was imprisoned a few years ago for blighting the region with his ugly trademark "Fista" scrawl. He was deemed to be a victim of misunderstanding and prejudice and recently even had an exhibition of his masturbatory graffiti in a local art gallery. I went to see it. It was, as I had expected, pure crap. And it made me angry to think that this moron, whose ugly spray painting can still be found on motorway bridges and industrial walls has been placed on a pedestal by some misguided do-gooders and called an "artist". He is not an artist, He is a criminal who cared not one jot that he was spoiling the landscape of South Yorkshire for other inhabitants.

I hate the self-indulgence of these shadowy graffiti makers. If they were writing something of a political nature - something that was meant to make you think, change things, then my annoyance would surely soften. You know what I mean - "Give Peace A Chance!" or "Stop The War in Iraq!" - stuff like that. But what these vandals are usually doing is glorifying themselves and selfishly spoiling the urban environment with meaningless sprayed patterns and words that mean nothing to the majority of onlookers.

If caught, I think it should be standard that those responsible for graffiti should be equipped with overalls, goggles and powerful cleaning fluid sprays to remove their handiwork. This would also apply to the hyped up Banksy who has been gaining urban kudos he doesn't deserve for his banal stencilled graffiti around London, Bristol etc..

But having said all of this, I must admit that I have an urge to make some graffiti myself. There is an ugly motorway bridge between the M18 and the M1 in South Yorkshire, just east of Sheffield. For twenty years I regularly drove under this bridge and these words in whitewash paint told me that I was nearly home - "I Love Janice". A couple of years ago the Motorway Maintenance authorities must have decided to clean away this graffiti. You can still see the ghost words but what I now want to paint in whitewash on that concrete is "I Still Love Janice", whoever she might be... I don't suppose I will ever do it but if I did, you can bet your life that a police car would cruise beneath the underpass just as I was painting the word "Love"...

23 comments:

  1. Anonymous2:32 pm

    I have never Grafitied.....but had the same urge to express.

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  2. craig1:09 am

    I agree with almost all you say on this subject. Where I live the grafiti is everywhere and the penalties for the ones who are caught are laughable. A few weeks ago we had a couple of blokes down from sydney who were caught in the act of grafitiing some of our trains late at night and they were released on suspended sentences. They had caused thousands of dollars damage and it is us taxpayers who will be paying for the cleanup of those trains

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  3. I remember driving under a bridge on which someone had painted, many years ago I would think, happy 30th birthday sue, or some such message. I was glad I wasn't sue and had had to drive under that message every day for the last 20 years

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  4. Unfortunately, I beg to differ in some respects on this subject.

    Firstly, there are two types of graffiti in my eyes.

    The first type, si "tagging" and that's just the art of getting your name out and about - pretty much "Fista" style. It's lowest common denominator.

    The second, and in my humble opinion, more worthy, is what we might call art.

    Might I just draw attention to the fact that cave paintings have been used for thousands of years, and many civilisations have used them to illustrate their struggles and lives.

    The other thing to bear in mind here, is whether you consider modern art to be art or not?

    Is a pile of bricks in the Tate actually worth anything? Does it compare to Van Gogh's Starry Night?

    Of course, modern art is a very touchy subject. Just because something doesn't appeal to some people doesn't make it any less a viable piece.

    Personally, I am a big fan of Banksy's stuff. The guy's got a great sense of humour. His "art" is talented, and he is using his "elevated" position as a recognised artist to promote his beliefs.

    The work Banksy did on the West Bank Wall, in my opinion, is one of the most poignant pieces I have seen in a good many years.

    Just my two penneth.

    FoX

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  5. I'm guessing that the cave painters were painting on walls that were okay to paint on. If someone had painted on a cave wall, and then someone else had come around uninvited and scrawled the equivalent of "Cro-Magnons Rule, Neanderthals Suck," it'd be a different story.

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  6. Lizzie7:28 am

    Dear Y.P

    You could plan your holidays in pursuit of 'The worst graffiti destinations in the world' & then publish a book.

    May I recommend Melbourne as a starting point?

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  7. I am not normally one to post a follow up comment, for fear of hijacking YP's blog... it's just not fair.

    However, I've been goaded into it by the very fact that someone seems to imagine that cave paintings were valid because they were painted "on walls that were ok to paint on".

    Suffice to say, we still have Roman and Egyptian graffiti on monuments, rocks, and walls that definitely weren't "ok to paint on" and these are important social records.

    Apologies.... not wishing to start a war.

    It's definitely a controversial subject though - kudos to YP for taking it on.

    FoX

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  8. I wrote some great witty replies to all you respondents but the system said "Your request could not be processed2. Arctic Fox you should be grateful because in my reply to you I expertly dismantled your arguments. Shame you won't be reading it!

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  9. if these graffiti people were the 'artists' that they and arctic fox claim them to be then they would do their art in a gallery and people would pay to look at it, with it being so insightful and everything and an important social record, instead of making people have to put up with it whether they like it or not, and making the place look run down, neglected, dirty, poor, generally given up on, lawless and intimidating in the process.

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  10. Pecisely Arthur! You took words right from my mouth!

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  11. Arctic Fox: No worries! Your points are valid, and I hadn't thought about the Roman and Egyptian graffiti. I was coming at it from strictly a 20th/21st century viewpoint. Touche.

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  12. Addendum: In reading over my earlier comment, I realize I left out something key: I was thinking about graffiti painted over existing art and such. I think of our bus-shelter that had children's art painted on it. Someone came along and tagged it. Then, the bus company came along and painted over it. Now we have a blank wall on our bus shelter.

    By the way, when I think of Roman graffiti, I always go back to that scene in "The Life of Brian" where the Roman soldier gives the graffit artist an excruciating lesson in Latin.

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  13. honestly, I didn't want to stir up a hornet's nest.... I'm not a bad chap.... truthfully.

    I accept that peoples' tastes differ. I also realise when I am heavily outnumbered and out gunned.

    Can you honestly say that every piece found at banksy.co.uk is not worthy of some respect? Even the owners of the properties that have been Banksy'ed have battled to keep them there.

    What I DO concede, is that 99.9% of graffiti is mindless destructive pap! I would probably say that same figure for modern art though.

    Personally, I'm more offended by reams of advertising hoardings trying to sell me products.

    Perhaps this picture (taken on a train in Ireland) encapsulates what I like most about graffiti?

    http://www.flickr.com/photo_zoom.gne?id=396744247&context=set-72157594546783896&size=l

    Sorry YP, I've hijacked your comments again... with virtual graffiti.... pass me a mop and the delete key, and I'll clean it up

    ;)

    FoX

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  14. On a motorway bridge in the outskirts of Brussels a graffiti artist (sic) asks the following question: "Will you marry me?". Every time I drive past there, I realise that for years I have been plagued by the same unanswered questions: "Who is asking whom?" "Is the answer yes or no?".
    A few kilometers on, there !is another graffiti: "Do you still love me?" Again "What is the answer?"
    Should motorists not concentrate on road signs rather than worry about issues relating to love and marriage?

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  15. EURODOG... Perhaps those words were always meant for you! In your dog training days you may have encountered a passionate Belgian dog owner (If Belgians are capable of being passionate!) who has pined like a puppy for you all these years.
    ARCTIC FOX... Don't be surprised if midnight bloggers in balaclavas descend on the Arctic Fox's den and spray "Here he is Foxhunters! Tally ho!"

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  16. ArcticFox: Your comments got me into a lot of trouble! You are a bad, bad chap...and coming from me, that's a compliment of the highest order. Because of you, I took my Latin students on a field trip to partake in art-as-graffiti... with disastrous legal consequences. My blog post today reveals all.

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  17. Just wandered over from the Arctic Fox's blog for a gander. I like it here.

    I think you missed your chance to make the ultimate artistic statement at the graffiti artist's art show. You should have sprayed your own message over his exhibits. That would have been art - and I don't see how he could have justified any complaint about you doing it.

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  18. The main problem with the one percent that could possibly pass as "artwork," -- and I don't argue against an admirable and highly skilled use of a palette of spray paints -- is that it is unsolicited and damaging to another person's artwork. Notwithstanding the fact that it may only be industrial architecture, that form of art has its own integrity and SHOULD NOT be regarded as a post for another dog to pee on.

    The effect of most graffiti, if you stand back and look at it objectively, is similar to the appearance of mold and mildew growing up the walls of a shower stall. No matter how clean and colorful and artistic... it just looks dirty.

    BUT, there is so much more graffiti in the world of a different kind. Beyond the visual, there is the audible: loud music in cars with the windows rolled down; boom boxes; cell phone conversations -- all a form of "I- am- the- most- important- person- in- the- universe" syndrome. It is the visceral need to cover another's scent with your own and hints at an underlying pathological fear of non-existence.

    At least my pity for them has allowed me to bear the expression of their fear.

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  19. Anonymous10:38 pm

    i think if there was more 'legal' graffiti walls that there wouldnt be 'scribbles' on bus stops or w/e, but i guess it's gettin ure name up thats the inportant thing in the graffiti game! give a graffiti artist a chance to create a gd 'piece' and a message that means somethink, but take away or not give that option and there gonna keep scribbling on walls, but in other words they wont stop painting walls, i think it's more of the rush u get from painting a wall and how notorious u can be!

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  20. Anonymous8:26 am

    You will never stop people writing, i hope that someone does YP's car just because he deserves it. His big fat head would make for a nice stencil!

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  21. Anonymous6:12 am

    Big Up 2 Fista, Essan, TSA, Rail, Take One and all the otha graff artists keeping it real. Without graff the world would be a sad, ugly place. Granted some tags are ugly, but man, some of the PIECES that are/were around, (I now live in the Big Smoke, but woz born n raised in Donny)are phenomenal! A few ov ma spars are writers and have eventually took it on as a career and are smashin it. The fact is, if it werent for graff, most of these kids would probably have been involved in gangs, drugs and would of been getting into Proper Bovver. Graff is the only thing some of these kids can do. Face it, If your family aint rich(I come from a family of miners, so for years we had shit, no $£s, nowt to do, but get in grief. What is there for kids to do, who cant get $ to go swimming @ the Dome, go 2 W.B to watch a film or ice skating, boxing or martial arts ect. I have some good spars who have never been in trouble, WHY? coz they were too busy writing. Me on the other hand, I ended up using hard drugs and went to prison a couple of times followed by a stint in rehab. I excelled at art, but woz told 'its no good, youll never make anything of ya self drawing, by ma old man ect. He couldnt wait to inflict the hard life he'd had on to me. Now nearly 20 yrs later I'm a succesful airbrush artist, wish I'd carried on writing, maybe it would have kept me on the str8 too. What would you people rather have? A bit of graff or a gang of wanna be gang bangers robbing ya house or mugging ya Nan? Maybe thats a bit extreme, but maybe not. I say give these kids somewhere to express their selves LEGALLY! Art is BEAUTIFUL! We also have the freedom of speech and expression in this country, so let em use it, in a POSITIVE WAY. What harm will it do? It will keep many youngsters out of trouble, allow them to express themselves and give them something positive!
    It costs around £650 a week (i'm told) to keep a cat D prisoner locked up for a week,(cant this money be used more positively)? How many of these people come from disadvantaged backgrounds? How many would have stayed on the str8 if theyd had something positive and a means of expression? Doncaster is still a poor town(I mean, there are still a lot of families who have nowt and all activities cost money)! Instead of trying to rehabillitate, we should be looking after r youths now, and preventing the worst, not waiting till its too late, when they're lost to gangs and drugs. Writers do have their crews but its mainly bout art(safety in numbers and the best together and all that). Instea of fighting they battle on walls, whos got the dopest letters, who can throw up the best, biggest & brightest murals. Most murals take more than 1 writer, TEAM WORK!
    There are plenty of places in S.Yorks where these yoots could spray without bothering anybody. There are programs elsewhere doing the same thing. Kids can graff on the boards around the old Kodak tower in H.H, Herts. Watford has a skate park where writers can get down and show off their latest techniques. All supervised, Give R kids a chance to bloom positively, nurture their talents, not cut them off and leave them feeling more oppressed, lonely, unable to express themselves,isolated,angry & dejected. GIVE THEM THEIR ART(its all some have) Have organised competitions with prizes, I dont know the options are endless. How about exhibitions for charity, the charity being some sort of board that can provide free activities for disadvantaged kids, money raised by the sale of their own art. It can be done, look at banksy(a graf artist from LOndon) someone has just sold their garden wall in London with one of his pieces on it for just shy of £210,000, yep, thats right 210k. If we dont act soon R babies will be lost to this American hip hop gang culture that is already destroying our kids and is a plague on our society. Stop the killings, SPRAY.
    Make ART not war.
    PEACE out.
    CHAKA

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  22. Anonymous11:59 pm

    in my eyes graffiti is more than "mindless destruction" for me it is a way of life my friends all do it I do it. In Nottingham the majority is legal

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