This article explores the history of graffiti and brings forward the question of what graffiti really is. Words by Mistery
Graffiti - Art or
Probably the most
prevalent graffiti form is that of the "hip-hop" style, and that is the school
we are particularly going to focus on.
Centred around the
pseudonym the graffiti writer endeavours to get his name the most exposure
possible. "Taki 183" the alias used by a Greek kid from Manhattan in the late
60's was the first to be noticed by the general public. The notoriety created by
such publicity helped fuel each writers fame and give birth to hundreds of new
graffiti writers. With more writers tagging, different styles and techniques had
to be developed to make a persons work stand out from the rest. The 70's is when
the styles of lettering increased in its evolution - 3D, drop shadows, intricate
colour, fill ins, readable straight letters, illegible wildstyle letters,
backgrounds and characters pushed previous boundaries.
Arrival in Australia
at around a similar time we received movies such as "Beat Street"; thus the Hip
Hop phenomenon was born in Australia. Early graffiti writers in Australia were
generally made from breakdancers. In Sydney, graffiti crews such as Cosmic Crew,
Digit Dance Team, United Break Team and others such as Zu'lu Artists, Crime in
Style, International Bomb Squad, Rock City Funk, Tour do Future and Future Art
Beat (Fab-4) were all at the cutting edge of the Sydney scene. Styles are
developing at a rapid rate and writers are travelling abroad with the sole
purpose of painting in another country. Graffiti writers, as well as painting
walls and trains, are also getting into the fields of fine arts and graphic
design - whether this waters down the title of graffiti in their work is a
matter of contention. Some writers are also opting to concentrate on purely
legal work; does this mean it is still called graffiti, is the crime element the
reason why areas of the establishment cannot call it just art.
describes graffiti as "a class rude scribblings or figures on the walls of the
cata comps, etc..." dating from ancient Roman times and the Microsoft Encarta
Encyclopaedia states in reference to graffiti, "technique of producing a design
by incising or cutting through a surface layer of paint to ' reveal a
contrasting undercoat". The term is derived from an Italian word meaning
"scratched". If graffiti means to scratch doesn't it sound closer to defining a
hip-hop dee-jay than defining a hip-hop visual artist? Perhaps the emphasis on
the letter form and in particular wildstyle legibility distances from the public
perception of what art is. The fact that graffiti artists are generally writing
their name cause people to conclude that writers are ego-tripping.
Writing one word
thousands of times on public property has people up in arms, but when the
motives are different and the writer is an old man, society crowns him an
eccentric hero. Arthur Stace who wrote "Eternity" all over Sydney in the early
50's, has a plaque in his honour. People as notable as Martin Sharp have
commented on how this man's graffiti has influenced their lives.
||During the Sydney 2000 New Years
Eve celebrations, the Eternity tag appeared on the Harbour Bridge in front
of a live crowd of 1 million people.
Click on the image to read
more about Eternity
Australia has one of
the oldest histories in wall painting - with the indigenous Australians having
work dating back many thousands of years and from this we learn much of their
history. In fact archeologists have learned a great deal by study of a country's
graffiti - I wonder what their conclusion would be if they discovered us
thousands years down the track. Graffiti has changed quite a bit and travelled
in numerous directions - graffiti is a world phenomenon. Perhaps in our distant
modern society it is an instant art form. Perhaps it's lack of censorship makes
it attractive or maybe it is a by product created by our advertising TV
generation mind sets. Whatever the reason for graffiti's increase, it appears -
judging from history - that in some form or other graffiti is here to stay.
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