Points of view

The Street Art Inquisition

13.03.2019 | By TINTIN ALASSAN

“I laugh at the way some people think graffiti is all selfish tagging and vandalism. Thoughtful street art is like good fiction – it speaks out on behalf of everyone, for us all to see.”
― Carla H. Krueger

What is street art

Going around urban environments in a city or town, sometimes we see some surprising works of art staring back at us from places they do not belong.

Places like the outer walls of our office buildings, the freshly painted walls of the new apartment building we pass by almost every other day or on the walls just by the grocery store.

How do we feel as we take in the artistic details, the bright bursts of colours or the play on monochrome tones, and not to mention the telling trails from the dry drip of paints used?

 

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Are we upset by what seems an act of vandalism and the desecration of an aesthetically mundane surrounding or are we drawn to the beauty and creativity of the sight we see?

While some are so good that we ponder on who the Picasso behind it is, others are quite jarring but still beautiful in their own way.

 

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The drawings, paintings or graffiti you see on walls and sometimes on floors and generic public property, that gaze back at you with their brazen confidence rooted in their uniqueness, originality and awesomeness, that is street art.

Message or vandalism?

Since most public surfaces have now become canvases for street art artists to express their views on pressing political, environmental and climate issues, you can not help but wonder, why the use of unauthorised public space?

Are they mediums street artists use to force-project their distinct messages which are most times, a little bit too clear? Or is it simply the urge for street artists to add creativity character to our surroundings?

 

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Then we also wonder if street art can change the world. The answers we get are probably the same we get when we wonder if social media or newspapers can change the world and are the future.

The fact is that public surfaces are but mediums for street artists to tell and share their stories. A physical, non-virtual social medium for street artists, that gives people the opportunity to see, approve or dislike what is displayed. And these mediums now projected to the world via social media.

The real street art influencers

“People say graffiti is ugly, irresponsible and childish… but that’s only if it’s done properly.”
― Banksy

There are so many original street artists who have influenced the world of street art. For example, Banksy is a famous but anonymous England-based street artist with a distinct stencilled style street art. Majority of his street art preaches anti-war, anti-establishment and anti-capitalism messages and a lot have also been commercialized and he has a huge fan base.

We also have the likes of Eduardo Kobra, Raphael Gindt, Osa Seven, Fintan Magee, Jade Rivera, Millo, Sasha Korban, Ella & Pitr.  All with their unique style and a huge following on social media.

 

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The commercialisation and objectification

With all the international recognition most street artists gain for their works, especially at this peak period for social media, it is, therefore, no surprise that street art has gained general acceptance and has been injected into mainstream advertising and branding. Most street artists are contracted as graphic designers for brands.
Brands from fashion, music, industrial design to political advertising brands.

Street art has also turned a lot of cities like Berlin, London, Prague, Lisbon, Paris, Marcelles, Hamburg and much more in Europe into ‘must visit’ tourist attractions.

A lot of street arts are also backed by organisations like Alternative Paris, Berlin and Paris Street art.
These organisations work directly with street artists.

Other cities around the world that are famous for their street art include Los Angeles, Buenos Aires, Sao Paulo, Chile, New York City, Melbourne, Cape Town, Valparaiso and more.

 

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Now, regarding music, we can not deny the cohesive relationship between street art and hip-hop, rock and punk rock.

Street art has comfortably built a niche and is part of the culture of these music genres. Not to mention, a number of music artists from these genres sometimes team up with street artists to design the covers of their music albums.

Some of these relationships can be seen on music album covers like ‘The Velvet Underground and Nico’ with Andy Warhol, Blur’s ‘Think Tank’ with Banksy, Drake’s ‘If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late’ with Jim Joe and  The Smashing Pumpkins’ ‘Zeitgeist’ with Shepard Fairey.

 

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And when we think about it further, does musically inclined street art give us a better understanding of the genre of music and the music artist, while adding to the overall vibe of the music genre? Or do we shake our heads in silent worry, as all we see is street art’s contribution to a rebellious society?

 

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At the end of the day, irrespective of the message, the beauty and the high level of creativity behind street art, we cannot help but wonder if these mediums of art will be left standing, demolished or covered up with fresh paint.