Graffiti on a wall

Graffiti Art

The origin

Graffiti has always been a dirty word for a dirty art form that blights our city’s walls and trains. Night after night, indecipherable tags and secret codes are scrawled on railway sidings and pedestrian bridges, while dripping silver spray paint smears every other high-street shopfront. Most passers-by are immune to its messages; others are confused or angered by the visual intrusion into their daily commute.
Yet, all of a sudden, the newspapers are full of stories – seemingly from a parallel universe – in which anger is vented at ignorant councils who whitewash over treasured illegal murals and masterpieces painted by hooded men under the cover of darkness. The media frenzy has, so far, centred on the graffiti world’s very own Scarlet Pimpernel – who may or may not once have been a bit pimply himself – the bearded Bristolian thirtysomething called Robert Banks, or just Banksy. He could also, like Spartacus, be tall/short, fat/skinny and black/Asian, depending on whom you believe.


Banksy’s signature stencils of kissing coppers, flower-chucking terrorists and mischievous rats found on doorways and side streets have become so sought-after that they are being chipped out of walls and sold for ludicrous sums, exactly mirroring the early ’80s phenomenon of Brooklyn-born graffiti kid SAMO (better known as troubled painter Jean-Michel Basquiat). Like New York in graffiti’s heyday, London is now embracing its disenfranchised plein air daubers, except that they are no longer derided as criminals or vandals but lauded as ‘street artists’.
This newly acceptable form of graffiti is currently storming the traditional bastions of high culture. On Tuesday, venerable old Bonhams is holding the capital’s first dedicated auction of ‘urban art’ in Bond Street (not exactly its natural habitat), and Tate Modern will be dedicating a weekend to the arrival of the street art genre in May. With such establishment credentials come big money opportunities, but also huge contradictions. How can you call yourself a street artist when your work is hanging in a gallery or depicted in an auction catalogue or emblazoned on a promotional T-shirt? When ad agencies are employing graffiti artists to make their products look cool, doesn’t your raison d’être as an illegal, guerrilla artist implode?


Already, Banksy’s pseudo-anonymity has come to seem less of a necessity to avoid prosecution for his years of paint-inflicted property damage and more a ploy to maintain his aura as international man of mystery. It may also backfire on him, as fraudulent Bansky prints have been peddled on eBay and any number of unscrupulous art dealers continue to sell secondhand Banksies as though they’re his official agents, when in fact he has only one (gallery owner Steve Lazarides). In spite of the circling wannabes, a whole street art industry is forming around young galleries and artists selling prints and unique pieces. So, while the current boom may have begun with Banksy, his witty one-liners won’t be the last word in street art.

It all began in the mid-1980s as London’s hip hop scene – also imported from New York – began to grow, especially in inner-city areas such as Brixton and Westbourne Grove. Small brigades of writers began tagging their names all over town, with pseudonyms like Robbo and Drax (taken from James Bond’s enemy in ‘Moonraker’) seemingly ubiquitous on every tube line. The most famous was Mode 2, who set up the first renowned graffiti crew, the Chrome Angelz. Soon, designated graffiti ‘halls of fame’ sprang up in housing estates and train yards from Hammersmith to Neasden. By 1987 the British Transport Police (the dreaded BTP) had launched a fully fledged graf squad to keep pace with the rampant crews, whose burgeoning membership meant they were capable of producing huge full-colour ‘pieces’ (short for masterpieces) or mural-sized ‘productions’. As in-fighting between London’s graffiti kings escalated from merely ‘lining’ through or ‘dogging’ rival pieces to all-out violence and eventual arrest, famous crews like World Domination (WD), the Subway Saints (SBS) and Drop the Bomb (DTB) began to fracture and splinter. Many of those London pioneers went on to paint legal commissions and are at the heart of today’s scene, although the average street artist may be too young to have paid serious dues as an illegal ‘bomber’.
Although this history suggests that there will always be a steady stream of teenage boys who feel compelled to spray their immature artistic seed across any available vertical surface, it doesn’t explain why graffiti has now reached such dizzying heights of popularity and acceptance. Perhaps it’s because the emerging generation of artists is less concerned with painting illicit and illegible pieces for the benefit of their tiny community than with attaining wider fame and bigger audiences. Perhaps it’s because they are no longer constrained by the medium of spray paint on walls and are now incorporating all kinds of street furniture – from signs to statuary – into ad hoc installations, impulsive public interventions and increasingly political statements. Either way, the widening of the term graffiti to encompass street art, urban art and any other vaguely yoof-ful combination of art and adjective you can think of has led to an avid market for these previously unobtainable works.

As contemporary art is experiencing such unprecedented prices, it’s natural that street art is gaining value, especially among a generation of people who have grown up viewing it as art rather than vandalism. Luckily for the budding enthusiast, most collecting revolves around relatively cheap limited editions of bold, graphic images that can cost as little as £50. However, buyers should beware: the business side is still under-developed, so print editions are often too numerous to be likely ever to attain much value.

If history really is repeating itself, then the London graffiti scene will crash and burn as the New York one did after the ’80s art boom. In which case, it’s possible that only a few devotees will continue to make serious work and street art will go back underground, but the sophistication of today’s artists makes it more likely they will be around for years, perhaps even crossing over into the respectability of museum collections and art history books. Maybe journalists can finally stop looking for Banksy and start searching out the next unsung urban pariah-turned-poet. Check out our names to watch.

Mouldy Art – Beauty where you wouldn’t expect

There’s usually one word that comes to mind when I think of mold: loathsome. We hate the sight of the hideous growth so much that most of us can’t bring ourselves to look at it more than once. Because of this, we rarely take the time to actually observe it. If we did, we’d notice that it sometimes produces designs and textures that are rather exquisite; reminding us that nature is a true design genius. Some mold produces vibrant colors and patterns.


Here are six different artists who are inspired by mold. There’s something powerful about this kind of artwork. It challenges us into questioning how something so repulsive can be seen as beautiful. How do you feel when you look at something you usually regard as vile and see it through an artist’s eyes?

Klaus Pichler

Klaus Pichler makes rotting food look majestic. So much so, it looks like it should belong on Miss Havisham’s dining table. The work titled One Third comments on global food waste, highlighting that roughly ⅓ of all food is wasted. Pichler wants to remind us that there’s over 925 million people in the world who are threatened with starvation.

Antoine Bridier-Nahmias

Images coutesy the artist

By changing the levels of oxygen, light, and temperature, Antoine Bridier-Nahmias grows beautiful arrays of micro-organisms due to random contamination. His project titled: Magical Contamination archives photos of bacteria and yeast in Petri dishes to wondrous surprise.

Johanna Mårtensson

Images coutesy the artist

The world as we know it is perishable. Johanna Mårtensson builds moldy bread into cities of abandon. The project speaks to the world abandoned by humans and left to rot without humanity’s maintenance. Mårtensson describes her project as, “Another picture of what might happen when the show is over.” It’s a chilling portrayal of what might happen if humankind suddenly vanished.

Elin Thomas

Images coutesy the artist

Elin Thomas crochets and sews mold patterns into fabric and they look as though they’ve come straight from the lab. Every detail of the layers and textures are depicted, and her pieces capture the characteristics of fungus and bacteria brilliantly while making Petri dishes look cute.

Daniele Del Nero

Images coutesy the artist

Constructing his fairy-tale building with black paper, flour, and mold, Daniele Del Nerocreates what looks like haunted houses or city blocks in ruin. These pieces create a chilling story; making us question the environments in which we live, and the memories that the buildings we reside in hold.

Gemma Schiebe

Using an array of strange mediums including sugar, cotton and wool, Gemma Schiebemakes mixed media sculptures but also video and photographs of decay in process. She says, “There is a strange juxtaposition going on between the perfectly formed fruit and the fake decay moldy looking exterior.” Also, some artists warn that using mold as art can be dangerous in the sense that it could lead to dangerous mold growth in ones office, or place of residence. Please note if one is suspecting that grow of this organism then please call your local mold experts. Also if you are living in the Alberta province check out this guide to find some of the most qualified entities and search for Edmonton mould removal (or your specific locality).

Also you can check this video out!