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A primer on urban painting

  • 24th Mar, 2006 at 4:42 PM

I saw Next: a primer on urban painting at Cinema du Parc. It opens to a spray-paint factory and moves from city to city. Montréal, New York, Osaka, London, Madrid, Paris, Sao Paulo. Along the way, the filmmaker illustrates the style of graffiti in each city, but also lets the artists talk about their work.

Many of them talked about their own personal lives. How they wandered the streets and were inspired by the things they saw. Their own personal needs to make a mark. They name-dropped who they worked with and what they did together. We were shown to art galleries where they painted the walls, we were taken outside where they painted the asphalt.

There was an art collector who had graffiti in his home. That was pretty cool, this old fellow in a suit talking about kids painting New York subway trains. And we also get to see some suits in London commenting on a political message, stenciled on a wall. One of them said that he wouldn't like it on his wall, but that the composition was good. Another said that there was artistic merit, but that it should hang in a gallery. A third said that it resembled him.

Business people are odd.

What struck me most were the women who painted or wrote graffiti, because they always came at it from a different angle. They weren't just leaving a personal mark, they were about taking back public spaces and contributing to their communities. A girl from a Berlin artists collective was talking about the political messages they were painting. Another waxed philosophical about graffiti giving people permission to enjoy and use a public space.

It got me thinking about the parallels between graffiti and other forms of art. Here, public surfaces are the common spaces that people want to fence off and keep private. So what do painters do? They trespass. And they build a culture out of painting where they shouldn't. Their artwork is not meant to be timeless, it fades and changes and gets covered up or altered. But the excellent art doesn't get vandalised by other painters, there's a culture of respect.

There are a few parallels we can draw between the graffiti culture and the more respectable Creative Commons movement, I think.



( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
24th Mar, 2006 22:09 (UTC)
I used to drop bombs back in the day. Like a lot of graf artists, i started out by just tagging with a marker, then moved on to uni-colour and two-colour throw-ups, and finally on to larger collab murals and stuff.

For me, at least, it was about doing something that we weren't supposed to do, but that seemed like we should. We were creating art, beautifying spaces, and even though it seemed like we should be rewarded, the only reward was not getting arrested.

I dunno.. i gave it up when i became an adult, but i still have a black book that i go back to and doodle now and again. Good times...
26th Mar, 2006 15:13 (UTC)
I guess the natural progression, now that you and I are yuppies, is to provide space for people to create art upon. Graffiti-friendly zones, you know?

One of my favourite things about Montréal is that there's persistent graffiti and that people don't clean up the good stuff.
25th Mar, 2006 15:17 (UTC)
this post makes me want to go vandalize some software!
26th Mar, 2006 15:11 (UTC)
We don't vandalize around here, we re-mix. :)
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )