Graffiti is just a frustrated creative lashing out. The common feeling toward tagging and graffiti in general, is that it is related to hoodies, drugs, crime and vandalism. But when I see it, I think there is someone out there being creative in a society which demands order. The image above I photographed in a storage shelter at Caesar’s Camp, near the Aldershot Tesco. Possibly the most unlikely location for something so poetic, and I think this is what’s important to realize: It is art, but it’s not where you would expect to see it.
Graffiti is just a frustrated creative lashing out
When I was at art school, I knew quite a few graffiti artists. Some had been arrested for tagging, others never caught but had created artworks you would probably recognize from certain, surprising locations. But there they were doing a degree in Fine Art. There are many other examples of graffitists crossing the line into the acceptable, most notably Banksy, whose work sells regularly for millions.
How different really are the two images below? One by Jackson Pollock, exhibited in the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, the other on the side of an industrial estate I visited in south-west London:
And what is the difference between someone tagging or drawing on a wall today, and the cave art below created 10,000+ years ago? In reality the only difference is time. Far from cleaning it off, the council would be promoting it as local heritage, and charging at the car park. The cave drawings, drawn in animal blood, chalk and mud, depict people themselves at the time hunting. These are people leaving their mark on the world around them. A fixed reference point in an ever-changing, dangerous world. A mark to say ‘I was here’, and after all, isn’t that the most human of statements, written on every toilet wall in the country? ‘Dave was here’
The reality is that graffiti is just a frustrated creative lashing out. They may not have the opportunity to be creative in their day to day, but creative self-expression should not be discouraged or dismissed. It is human nature to want to leave your mark. Some people do this by building houses, others create businesses. Some people have statues erected of themselves, and others fill the world with colour.
I don’t condone the spraying of private property without permission, but I am convinced that given a space to create, you probably would start off with simple tagging and scribbles. But as time goes on it will develop and grow into a work of art. It shouldn’t be discouraged, it should be encouraged.
Personally I like the idea of people adopting abandoned structures. A falling down shack, unused and unloved, painted bright colours by someone with creativity to spare can only be a good thing. It brightens up the world. In the same way we fill our desk at work with things that mark it as our own, some people create artwork in the world around them. Would you think the guy busking on a street corner was doing something anti-social (assuming he can sing) or does the music add to your experience of being there at that time?
I’m not saying you have to like graffiti, I don’t like Jazz, but that doesn’t mean I would discourage anyone who felt the compulsion to pick up a saxophone and express themselves. But give someone a chance to be creative, and you may be surprised what they could achieve. Bristol is world-famous for being full of original Banksys. There are tours and maps so you can find them. Imagine if someone had come a long with a bucket back in the 90’s and washed it all off. It would be as if Banksy was never here.