Graffiti:street art or trash?

In an attempt to get rid of a bad head that had been with me for a couple of days, OH & I walked into the centre of the city. As retired folk, it’s something we try to do each week as part of our ‘we’re not going to become couch potatoes’ programme.

The road we walked showed 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 graffiti. As we were walking I pondered on this. Why here? Why this particular road? Some of it was absolutely stunning. Really vibrant colours bringing a sense of art to the community. Then there were 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 recent free exhibition.

Art has always created tensions I suppose 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 in this arena? I think back to my time as a Headteacher & the pictures I was shown by youngsters who were so proud of their achievements. To the untrained eye they may be described as scribble. I still praised them as much for the effort as the finished product. Parents do it all the time.

 So, what’s the difference? Do I need lessons in graffiti appreciation so that my eye can be trained in this different medium? Should my council tax be spent on removing graffiti or certainly the bits I don’t like? Who would make that decision?

When we got to our destination, we were faced with yet another subject for consideration – a living statue! Now is this art or……?!

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