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Graffiti: The rebellious art

Trisha Bhattacharya, Aug 4, 2013, DHNS: 20:00 IST

On the walls

Creativity unlimited: The art of graffiti in Barcelona.
Panoramic, picturesque and running wildly across solid dimensions, graffiti isn’t your usual painting effort. It is non-conformist in its expression of the road-less-travelled; a raw display of talent rather than the refinement that comes from a painter’s brush. This rawness ultimately swells into fine-tuned reflections and manifestations, spoken out loud like an individual making a statement.

The originating idea behind graffiti was finding platforms to express freely, be rebellious, and paint whenever and wherever one pleased. This led to it being interpreted as vandalism. Over time, it has gone beyond its label as ‘plain mischief’ on the streets, and emerged as a form of art. Art it is, as it gives vent to creativity within the artist. Whether an artist is famous or not, their careful work makes graffiti worthwhile to them and to the admirer.

The streets of Barcelona give vent to such artists who have turned the city’s lanes and by-lanes into art galleries. Street-artists bring forth emotions and feelings through their compositions that are moulded by a mix of their sensibilities, temperaments and ideas.

Some artists airbrush street-walls without permission, and some with it. Legal walls or shopfronts, though, are always preferred, so that property owners and artists can co-exist in harmony and enjoy the fruits of creative labour. City laws, however, consider even the spraying of legal walls and shop-shutters unlawful, and therefore, disallow it. As a result, formal exhibitions are held to facilitate its growing popularity. Some art galleries around the city host urban art from artists such as Pez (popularly known for his laughing fish signature), B-Toy, Uriginal, Kenor, Zosen, and others.

Culture-specific art

Uriginal, an artist from Barcelona, shares, “In our culture, graffiti is different. We have specific traditions regarding the colours and shapes we choose. I generally use spray paint, acrylic paint and brushes for my art. Fortunately, there are no graffiti police (style police asking you not to paint with acrylic paints since that is not graffiti). The challenge in the city now is to save yourself, because laws with respect to graffiti, even if we paint something very pretty and nice, are super-restrictive. Usually, it is the normal police who don’t allow us to paint where we want. No graffiti artist should get caught in the act of painting surfaces though. Anyway, it is part of graffiti itself to be against established laws, so I don’t think it is that bad.”

Perfect platform

This art form, hence, dichotomously alludes to the free-spirited life of the city in spite of the restricted framework within which it seems to thrive. Splashing various colours, artists also infuse a sense of festive enthusiasm and presence to the city. Sometimes even trains are spray-canned. Therefore, what was once a simple wall, door, shop-shutter, or even the interior of a church (with proper religious graffiti), turns into a work of art. Locations, which were not eye-catching to people walking by everyday, have now become a centre of attraction for travellers.

Various forms and shapes, some completely immersed in objectivity, and some inchoate and subjective, are all part of this art form. At times, disconnected with the surfaces on which they find dwelling, and sometimes merging with the vertical (or otherwise) platforms on which they are painted, these figurines of people, animals, places and abstractions perform in stillness. Faces, flowers, a torso, a man holding a gun, city-life, geometric patterns, aliens, odd works, and several other impressions come through and end up artistically empowering the streets.

This unrest and commotion of bubbling images, visuals and thoughts is undoubtedly art. Not just practised in Barcelona, but throughout the world, graffiti holds within itself the ability to add artistic and aesthetic attributes to whatever space it may occupy.

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