Street art, a mural or graffiti?
If a wall has been painted on, is that street art, a mural or graffiti? Living in Bristol we have lots of examples of all three but who decides which is which?
Walking down the famous Gloucester Road you see a huge variety of life – cafes, antique shops, holistic healers, a large school previously private but now joined the state system, new apartments. It is a busy road with its own bus and cycle lanes. It also has a vast selection of ‘painted walls’.
Some of it is absolutely stunning with really vibrant colours bringing a sense of art to the community. Then there are those trying to communicate with the public (not sure of the message though!). Finally there were those walls that had been scribbled on! Well, to me, it was scribble, a complete eye-sore!
Graffiti has been around (according to my Wikipedia research) for a long time – right back to ancient Greece & Rome. It has always had a dual identity either considered a public nuisance or hailed as an art form using the environment. Bristol City Council has had many battles with its graffiti artists, consistently sending a man with a bucket of whitewash to remove them from the public’s sight. This is quite embarrassing for the council given that Bristol local, Banksy, has become such a cult figure, raising thousands of pounds for the city with a free exhibition. In recent years however, it has supported street art and graffitti festivals.
Art has always created tensions raising extreme emotions in some, whether it be a picture, a sculpture or a building (Coventry Cathedral is a good example of all three). Where though does graffiti come into this arena? When I think back to my time as a Headteacher and remember some of the pictures I was shown by youngsters who were so proud of their achievements to the untrained eye they might have been described as scribble. I still praised them as much for the effort as the finished product. If you are a parents you may have some of these works of art on your fridge door.
On our recent visit to Philadelphia we saw what embracing street art really looks like. Immense murals depicting the most astonishing stories is car parks and along side walks. The city’s Mural Arts Program was introduced to rid the city of what I would class as scribble and to encourage artists to feel pride in showcasing their work.
So, what’s the difference? Do I need lessons in graffiti appreciation so that my eye can be trained in this different medium? Is it all about the language that is used – street art, a mural or graffitti?