Mahima Kaur Deep Dives the Art of Graffiti
Deemed criminal, unethical, unlawful and illegal since the beginning, the art form of graffiti gradually became synonymous with the millennial places and spaces, the narrow lanes of the modern city – New York, London, Berlin etc, and the defining element of the hip and electric areas of the young.
Literally meaning ‘scratching’- from the word ‘graffiato’- an Italian genesis, graffiti, though seemingly modern, with a 21st century vibe can be traced back to ancient Rome and Greece, when scratching, painting and drawing on the walls were the art form, the means of expression for the people of that age. The walls and the inscriptions, now treasured, preserved and protected are nothing by ancestral versions of the present-day art form thriving in the by-lanes of the developed city. The graffiti is viewed like any other present day kid; as the spirited spoilt descendent, forgetful of the history, ‘etiquette’ and culture, rebellious in its loud colours and fonts, transgressive in its bold statements and opinions and unacceptable in its unwavering stance.
From the fine figure of Salvadore Dali (Zabou) to the disheveled hair of Albert Einstein, from the cat on the street to a woman in a Kimono (Dan Kitchener), from a dog painted in neon (David Speed UK) to a statement of protest, graffiti is perhaps the only form of art that has allowed seamless movement of interpretations and opinions about people, places, animals, cartoons, gender, race, political issues and nothingness among others. Impressionism and Expressionism at the same time, and at their best, the graffiti is probably the most underrated form of art to have ever existed, with their artists given almost no worthy space in the high brow form of acceptable art and artistic movements.
An art form that is broad, encapsulating and all inclusive, graffiti is the means of representing the dire human condition of the modern man, whose life is wrought with the perils and evils of sexism, racism, homophobia, plague and intolerance among others.
A bright pink painted ‘I Can’t Breathe’, in front of the Shoreditch High street station in London is an answer, a reflection and a statement of what happened thousands of miles away in the USA, by a man living in London is an example of how significant, widespread, multi-cultural and far reaching this form of art is. The inter-cultural, all encompassing possibilities of graffiti can be best explained by the artwork of a Japanese Woman, walking through a street in Japan, shining brightly on a sunny London Morning when streams of varied and diverse people are walking around and soaking in the first rays of summer. Graffiti is probably the only art form that has such a reach, that goes far and beyond, that one cannot help but admit, acknowledge and welcome the soft brushes with other cultures, people and countries.
The art of graffiti, pervasive and abundant, in the corners and the nooks, is the only art form that remains available, accessible and contemplatable to anyone and everyone, regardless of their skin colour, the weight of their pennies or the soles of their shoes. Sometimes a bed backside for the homeless, graffiti is that form of art that is free and requires no ticketing or administration and no ques and qualifications to be seen, admired and criticized.
One may beg to differ that this rugged, spontaneous form of ‘art’ lacks the finesse, the ‘refine-ness’ and the ‘cultured-ness’, of a Van Gogh painting, soothing and calming to the senses and hence deserves the ignorant treatment that has been bestowed upon it since ages. However is not true that today’s world, the ‘post-post-modern’ society that flourishes on the mass media channels of TikTok and Facebook, that consumes Frida Kahlo bags solely for their colourful, hipster appeal, who can hardly differ between a Picasso and a Chagall, will find it hard to express themselves with the refinery of the traditional ‘arts’. The human of the present day, flooded with anxiety and conflicting emotions, can perhaps express and emote themselves through the beautiful spray paints on the walls that they pass by and through on their everyday walks to cafes and concerts, spaces where they can encounter, react and maybe even click the art that they most relate to, the art that is capable of best representing them.
Graffiti is not an infringement upon public walls, it is that form of art, that has existed and thrived for decades and centuries, refusing to mindlessly obey the structured rules of the people in power, refusing to conform to the standards of the art school, breaching and fracturing accepted notions of falsehood, embodying and personifying the voices of protest and the voices of the common man-otherwise unheard and unheeded, incompliant and defiant of the dominant narrative and conceivably that is why termed wayward and unlawful.
Graffiti is the form of art that epitomizes the dilemma of the modern man, one who is struggling to breathe and survive, the art form that is long due its worth and credit, the art form that in a parallel and an idyllic world may just be respectfully called the museum on the street.
Mahima Kaur | LSD Magazine Contributor
A Literature Major and an ardent Art lover, Mahima is always on the lookout to uncover new knowledge or old- in a new way. Her passion to discover and grow has led her on many paths, none of which she regrets. She has a passion for discovering new cultures and unearthing forgotten histories. You can either find her reading in a quiet and quaint coffee shop or taking a solitary walk on the mountains.