Is graffiti really such a crime?

Street art has been a growing trend in the UK for some time, but why is it seen to beautify the city after it was initially seen as criminal?

Independent artists invest time into murals, full and small-scale projects to bring eccentricity to the city, especially in urban areas.

Artist Joe Smith, 19, based in Bristol, uses his tag ‘AVOID’ with aspirations of having the “most tags and pieces in the most places across the world.”

However, there is a subtle division in street art regarding conforming to social etiquette.

Joe Smith’s “AVOID” tag (Credits: Joe Smith)

Joe said: “Graffiti in neighbourhoods is seen as making it look like a ‘ghetto’.

“The media portrays those areas with a lot of tagging as having high rates of antisocial behaviour and crime.

“On the other hand, if Banksy paints your wall, your house has gone up by minimum 100 thousand [pounds].”

Emily Catherine, 38, a freelance illustrator from Nottingham said: “I think it is this disconnect between not understanding where graffiti came from and its importance and realising street art is graffiti.

“It’s just evolved and there needs to be a much broader and accepting discussion about that and how you can be respectful to that art in general and the people involved.”

Emily Catherine and her piece “Posh Emojis” at Surface Gallery Street Art Festival Block Part event in Sneinton market (Credits: Emily Catherine)

But recently, the perception of street art has changed.

“Graffiti is an art of protest but it’s also not mindless vandalism, it’s a way of originally communicating the different artistic communities”, an idea that evolved in the 1980s, said Catherine.

By 2017, a survey showed that 44 per cent of UK property owners would increase a home-related investment with Banksy works.

The fame of the name Banksy is an obvious attraction, although, art is subjective.

“It’s all subjective, some areas I see with kids tags everywhere is generally an eyesore.

“It can add colour, yes, but if it’s nice, colourful, well-painted pieces of art, it can really make it a nice area,” added Joe.

So, should street art be protected – especially if adding value?

“I feel that some aspects of the art should be.

“But overall, no – graffiti being cleaned off is part of the game, it opens up fresh walls and spots,” said Joe.

The desire for “the fame – working hard to be the best” inspires Mr Smith’s dedication after being influenced by “old school writers, mainly Nema, Eine, Mist, Kona, and a few new school writers like Catneil, 10 foot and many others”.

“I don’t think it should be protected because when you’re an artist you know it’s going to be painted over because that is traditionally what you do.

“So, you deliberately choose subjects and ways of painting that are very mediate and spontaneous.

“People know that things don’t stay up for a very long time so if you have an important message in a piece of art, for example, you know to take a photograph of it or remember it in your mind’s eye.”

Catherine said: “That’s the whole point – it’s ever-changing and evolving.”

Avoiding gentrification is pivotal to prolonging the culture to give communities the opportunity for self-expression.

Feature image: Craig McGovern

This is an opinion piece and the author’s views do not necessarily reflect the views of Platform Magazine.

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