I've decided to make a topic after reading the comments in the photothread. Since most of us appreciate urban places I'd love to hear everyone's opinions on graffiti.
I've become good friends with a few graffiti artists since moving into my building, and I'm finally wrapping my head around the graffiti community. The problem with graffiti is that all of the good pieces generally wouldn't exist without the terrible tags and vandalism. Tagging all over the city is a way for young artists to learn can control, practice their styles and discover the community. In many cases these are kids in their early adolescent years, and are not thinking about the consequences of their actions. Eventually some of these kids will get bored with tagging and move on, but others will stick with it and start developing real artistic talent. They'll start to respect other artists and think more about how their work will affect other people. For example, most adult graffiti artists won't bomb the front of a beautiful historic building. Instead they'll spend five hours creating something truly impressive under a bridge somewhere.
A lot of people (and police) view graffiti in black and white, and that makes it really difficult for a true community to develop. That's when legal walls, murals and other outlets such as indoor wall art take over. Unfortunately, there have been a few cases in London where legitimate commissioned murals have been buffed by the city (authorities deciding what's art?). Cities need to start accepting graffiti and instead start channeling it into appropriate areas. Let people go wild at skateparks and make it legal for kids to paint under bridges. Provide legal art walls in parks and public areas and encourage building owners to have graffiti murals done. The city should always fight against taggers and vandals, but a tremendous amount of talent is being wasted by treating the experienced artists like criminals as well. These artists aren't just good at writing their name, most of them can also work together to cover an entire building in an amazing mural. As is the case with the back of my building, the Boys' and Girls' Club and many other buildings around our city.
Parents who see their kid showing an interest in graffiti should encourage it. However, instead of letting little Johnny head out each night with a backpack full of rattling paint cans they should be setting them on the path of practicing in notebook and in the backyard on a sheet of plywood. After gaining experience at home, these kids will naturally gravitate towards legal outlets offered by the city. In the end we'll have a more colourful city and likely save money on the way.
I'd imagine there's a reason Montreal has such high quality graffiti in abundance, and I doubt it's strictly a talent thing. Here's a few off the top of my head:
- They have such a massive community that the authorities can't keep up with the pieces and basically prioritize their buffs/cleaning
- Its citizens appreciate the graffiti a little more, so good pieces stick around longer and begin to build up
- Laws are a little more lax so people feel more comfortable doing it
London definitely has its share of problem taggers, too. With the most recent outbreak downtown being "elle." This person has been all over the core, and has hit some really new areas down by the river (in some cases on decorative stonework). Now this is the type of graffiti I hate. This person doesn't care about graffiti art, he's strictly vandalizing property and encouraging more of its kind. In one spot they even wrote "elle. do you love me yet?"
The world of graffiti is really more complicated than people realize. There are many different facets and people, so it really shouldn't be painted with such a broad brush.