Thursday, 30 July 2009

Iberian Graffiti - Art out of a can.

By Richard Morley.

Many visitors to Spain come to visit the Prado or one of the many other galleries of which the country can be so proud. One genre of artwork that does very little credit is the Graffiti that adorns, or spoils, so many public areas. I am aware it is a global problem. I have even seen graffiti on a solitary, remote rock in the middle of the Sahara Desert. Libya once passed a law banning Spray paint aerosols in the country.

It seems that any vertical surface is some street artist’s canvass. Some Madrid shopkeepers became so incensed at having their shutters defaced that they paid the graffiti artists to replace the tags, (the artist’s stylised rendering of his name), and occasional obscene cartoon with something more tasteful in the hope that once decorated other “artists” would leave it alone. This actually does seem to work, but has led to their neighbours complaining that they were encouraging the miscreants. In fact I am sure it was more a matter of “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em”.

Left:My guetto is not dead
Right: Detail
The ayuntamiento of Madrid, in an ill-fated attempt to corral the desecration of vertical surfaces, provided a few virgin walls in public parks specifically for the aerosol artists, but it was never going to be enough.
And it has to be admitted, the ability to buy paint does not confer any artistic talent. Most graffiti is ugly and anti-social. Having said that, there are a few examples of even worse so-called “works of art” hanging up in the Reina Sofia. No one, to my knowledge has cut a groove in a concrete wall and called it art – so why should Joan Miro get away with it on canvass? But what do I know?

Conversely, I have seen a wonderful “Mona Lisa” in a multi-storey car park in York and Van Gogh’s “Sunflowers” on the side of a shopping centre in Rennes. And it would be impossible to write anything about Graffiti without mentioning the secretive Banksy whose works seem to crop up everywhere and are now considered “proper” artworks in their own right. He is quoted as saying, “When you go to an art gallery you are simply a tourist looking at the trophy cabinet of a few millionaires”. The standard of street art might be dubious, but at least it’s free and you don’t have to go through a security check before you are allowed to see it.
There's something Daliesque-ish about this.

Here in Madrid, and down in Seville, I have seen examples of this “public art” that got my attention. If it gets my attention, it gets photographed, and so I present to you the gallery of the street.
There are some talented graffiti artists out there. What I show here is only a small part of those I have recorded. Unfortunately, some of these examples deface areas of town that would be quite beautiful without these additions. (And several enlivened a dull walk!) Graffiti is in the end, an anti-social practise, but I don't suppose there is much society can do to stop it.
But then if Miro can get away with it .........
I am taking a break. I am off to look at another view. Have a good summer.
What do you think about graffiti? A disfigurement of our towns or public art? Have your say below.

1 comment:

  1. Where I lived in the US (Seattle) there is little in the way of grafitti so when I came to Valencia I felt practically assaulted by it. About 99.9% of it is ugly and simply the work of vandals. I also noted that vandals won't tag other vandals' work so if I had a shop I would have someone spray something vaguely decorative instead of waiting around to get defaced by a sociopath with a can of paint.

    I haven't seen anything in the way of a public outcry against grafitti. There are no pubic service announcements and nothing much in the press. I guess people just get used to it like I have.