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What Is Graffiti? Really

I want to address this question because I feel that as graffiti is becoming more widely recognised its true core and meaning is becoming somewhat lost and ignored. I also find it increasingly frustrating to see so many commercial interests pick up on graffiti artists’ style while the true artists continue to be condemned by the majority of an ignorant society.

Consider this… Do you find it offensive and invasive when you are constantly bombarded with advertising and other commercial messages? They’re everywhere; on your favourite television shows, on the back of buses and taxis, in your favourite magazines, on the billboards that cover almost every inch of a city. These messages come into your home and are more often than not uninvited and unsolicited.

So how different is graffiti, really? There are many different forms of it some of which are rightly considered pure vandalism, while other forms are pure art but hardly recognised for it. The real value of graffiti art is in the artist’s ability to have a voice, to get their own message across in an otherwise superficial commercialised society (often representing the voice of otherwise unheard members of society – the young, the minorities, the poor).

How can we silence this voice while others use their style to capitalise on its ability to connect with a particular market? Shouldn’t the fact that commercial interest sees graffiti as a valid way of connecting to a particular group of people give the art and its artists some sort of validity of their own? Surely they must be on to something that a segment of society can relate to…

Modern graffiti as it is developing today takes a number of different forms, tagging, bombing, piecing, street art, slaps/stickers and even chalk and 3D art in the streets. Like many other disciplines in art, some of these styles have legitimate merit while others maybe a bit more subjective. Unfortunately as a lot of these forms of art are linked back to graffiti and they are immediately dismissed as illegal vandalism created by derelicts.

In saying all of this I understand that there is no way that I will be able to convince everyone that graffiti art has its merits. All I’m really looking for is the ability to capture a handful of people and make them stop and think about their perceptions and assumptions. Do you feel the way you do about graffiti because that is what society has taught you to believe? Have you ever really taken the time to consider where these artists are coming from, what they’re trying to express and why?

For many graffiti artists their work is a dedicated passion. They purchase their own materials (honestly who gets away with racking anything these days?), put in many hours of practice to hone their style and design their pieces and often get into obscure places to make the most impact. How many commercial artists do you find who are equally dedicated and passionate?

In this sense graffiti is one of the purest art forms around today. It is created solely from the artists passions, not for commercial or monetary gain. I don’t understand why more people don’t recognise and appreciate this. Perhaps then governments and police could take a more understanding and perceptive approach to the criminalisation of the art and its artists.