by JC

In art, graffiti is a generalised term for that which is formed on urban sites, instead of self-provided structures such as canvases, which art is familiar with. Whether or not the use of existing structures is acceptable is left to the individual to deliberate. A conservative mind may struggle to understand the positive influence of graffiti, whereas others believe graffiti has an important role in the joining of cultures and worthwhile statements, relating to an expansive audience.


Placing labels of extreme subjective judgements upon matters, differentiating between the absolutes of worthy and unworthy, or good and bad, is an activity that stretches much past the realms of art. The most common way of feeling as though one is overcoming a problem is to diagnose the symptoms of one’s attitudes in order to better one’s self, but all the while the actual object or issue remains unaltered by such thinking. With this in mind, branding an artist who works within urban structures as a graffiti artist is a way of tarnishing some exceptional and immensely relevant art, as it becomes definitively separated from ‘high art’ forms. It is often overlooked that graffiti contains powerful statements relating to society;

much of it is created by artists seeking to question or communicate. Despite this, the media and disregarders seek to discuss or promote this art as offensive words and ghastly abbreviations, created by those seeking to cause irritation. Breaking down the word graffiti into categories of good or bad, allows forms of high art to be perceived with favour and superiority, increasing the distinction between apparent cultural statuses. To have an impartial view on graffiti, one has to understand it, being sure of whether something is worth reading, seeing or comprehending.


When the nucleus of the issue is visible, the substance of what is being addressed in the piece of art has to hold more importance than the structure upon which it is fixed. If it is fixed on a house, the landowner holds an obvious right to be irritated. Equally, however, the owner shouldn’t use the art as an opportunity to utilise emotions which are abused in society, being dramatically offended by things which generally hold no such exaggerated concern to the individual. The misunderstanding or disagreement surrounding what is offensive is a way to protect the integrity of the individual, which is often not under threat at all.

A humanist view may reveal that artworks are revered not only for their skill, but also for their ability to promote messages or emotions which move or stir something within us. Both the concept and production of an artwork is the drive and power behind its possibility for communication; the difference in appreciation or ‘success’ of this communication seems to differentiate, in this case, upon the presentation. An artist’s gallery success inevitably brings a certain amount of vanity and egotism to the being, which works for and against the artist in many respects, as they are promoted as acceptable figureheads of creativity to be valued above others (usually with the accompaniment of a price-tag). The graffiti artist however, although possessing similar motives for creating work as traditional or conventional artists, can achieve this in anonymity, without the baggage of vanity or the underlying need for appraisal, thereby defying art’s ever-present hierarchical structure.


A graffiti artist holds an important role in modern society, calling not for appraisal, but instead working undetected without the handicap of an ego, or under the restrictions of an elitist, money-driven, so-called ‘high-art’.