“I laugh at the way some people think graffiti is all selfish tagging and vandalism. Thoughtful street art is like good fiction – it speaks out on behalf of everyone, for us all to see.”
― Carla H. Krueger
What Is Street Art?
When we go around urban environments in a city or town and see unauthorised works of art blaring right back at us from places they do not belong, how do we feel?
Areas like the walls of our office buildings or the freshly painted walls of the new apartment buildings we pass by almost every other day.
Places like the dull walls, just right by the grocer’s store
The artistic details that include either bright bursts of colours or the play on monochrome tones, as well as the telling trails from the dry drip of paints used are always captivating.
Are we upset by the beautiful acts of vandalism, or are we drawn to the beauty and creativity of the public artwork? Some are so good that we wonder who the Picasso behind it is, while some are quite jarring, but ‘still beautiful in their own way’.
These beautiful, yet assaulting, drawings or paintings you see on the walls staring right back at you with brazen confidence are known as street art.
Message or Vandalism?
These days, most public surfaces have become canvases for street art artists to portray their views on pressing political, environmental and climate issues. Their messages are always distinct, and most times, a little bit too clear.
But then you wonder, why walls? Why unauthorised public spaces?
Is it to make sure that their messages are passed across to all while in defiance to the law? Or is it just to add a bit of character to an area with colourful designs?
If we wonder if this art form can change the world, the answer is probably the same as if social media can change the world or newspapers.
In the end, they are but mediums for artists to tell their stories.
A physical, non-social media for street artists which allows people to see, approve or dislike what is displayed.
“People say graffiti is ugly, irresponsible and childish… but that’s only if it’s done properly.”
Street Art Influencers
Banksy is a well-known anonymous England-based street artist with striking and humorous stencilled style street art.
Every now and then, his art, combined with slogans, preaches either anti-war, anti-establishment or anti-capitalism messages.
Not to mention the likes of Eduardo Kobra, Raphael Gindt, and Fintan Magee, Jade Rivera, Millo, Sasha Korban, Ella & Pitr and many other street artists with compelling art works and a massive following of their works on social media.
Commercialisation and Objectification
With all the recognition street artists have gained mainly through social media, it is not a surprise that their art is also incorporated into mainstream advertising.
These street artists are being contracted as graphic designers for many companies.
From fashion lines to music album covers, and as also political advertising.
Street art has also turned a lot of cities in Europe such as Berlin, London, Prague, Lisbon, Paris, Marcelles, Hamburg into ‘must-see’ tourist attractions.
Also, organisations like Alternative Paris and Berlin and Paris Street art, work directly with street artists while giving them adequate backing.
Music and Street Art
We can not deny the cohesive relationship between street art and hip-hop, and how skateboarders have pushed graffiti art towards rock music and even punk rock.
But when we see musically inclined graffiti and art, does it give us a better understanding of the genre of music and the music artist?
Or do we worry about its contribution to a rebellious society?
Examples of music artists, who have teamed with street artists for the design of their music album covers include:
Blur’s ‘Think Tank’ by Banksy, Drake’s ‘If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late’ by Jim Joe, Falz ‘Moral Instruction’ by Lemi Ghariokwu.
Irrespective of the message and the high level of creativity of street art, we cannot but wonder if they will be left standing, demolished or covered with fresh paint.
The next time you see good street art or graffiti, take a picture as it lasts longer.