The two final quarters of my Bachelor studies were done on contract in Europe. No classes, teachers or classmates; just me exploring a dream, soaking in all I possibly could. I wrote many papers, one of my finals being a 16-pager on “European Happiness: An Eastern Perspective on a Western World” where I focused on certain aspects of European culture that I observed contributing to their expression of identity and search for happiness. Some areas of studies were public art, graffiti and architecture. I have included pieces from my paper below on street art (don’t mind the citations) and pictures of pieces that I love from around the world.
In an age of such complex political systems governing over so many people, many are left feeling oppressed, unheard and hopeless in their individual voices. Although a crime in almost all areas of the world, graffiti is gaining serious respect as an art form and popularity as a powerful means of self-expression. It can be careless defacement, but at its heart exists as public expressions using pictures and words carrying artistic or political messages.
Painting on our surrounding environments has been fulfilling our need of expression for thousands of years. Graffiti comes from the Italian word “graffiato” which means “scratched” (Bingham, 2010). Forms of graffiti can be traced all the way back to ancient cave paintings, hieroglyphs, and even sayings, names and drawings of politicians found on building sides in the remains of Pompeii (Barbieri, 2008). It has since become one of the largest artistic movements of the 20th century.
3D street painting:
Many artists say it is not out of boredom or personal vendetta, rather a way for an individual or group of oppressed people to get their message to the masses in a way that cannot be ignored. Often intelligent, shocking, powerful and/or humorous pictures and slogans are used to gain attention and make people think. A famous example of this is the Berlin Wall in Germany. After its construction separating the West from communist East Berlin, the people of the West protested the Wall by defacing it in some of the most powerful, political and emotional graffiti of modern times (Bingham, 2010). The messages and styles within graffiti speak of the cultures they reflect at the time of creation.
This is Banksy… An unidentified British graffiti artist who has traveled the world leaving his famous marks behind, including on the Israeli West Bank barrier. Banksy is very popular and controversial. I recommend watching his film called, “Exit Through the Gift Shop”.
Do the times shape the artist, or does the artist shape the times?
When we take an art history course, or buy an art history book from a store, we are told about the same artists over and over and are directed to what is “good art” and what is worth our time and energy to focus on. I am not sure who made these determinations, but some may argue it is an opinion of a few that is being shoved down the throats of many (Howells, 2003). Regardless of their medium, graffiti artists are able to reach a certain depth of human emotion and experience, which is exactly what art at its best does. It makes you think and feel in real, powerful ways. It opens doors to release emotion and lets others know they are not alone in their human or political frustrations.
Definitely future posts to come on technique, artists and other pieces…