Thursday, 7 May 2009

BLOG: "Graffiti: time to wave a white flag?"

Published: 'Art City' Blog, MANCHESTER EVENING NEWS, May 2009 (no longer online)

"Graffiti: time to wave a white flag?"

The other day I found myself staring, perturbed, at the Manchester Police website. Not being particularly paranoid about local crime, I was unfamiliar with their crime busting updates, which proudly announced that the police are “winning the fight against graffiti”.
Now not only is it slightly ridiculous that this was the ‘big news’ from Greater Manchester’s police force, capturing a dastardly drug dealer would have been more impressive, but it also highlights the public sector’s continually negative response to Graffiti.
The refusal of local councils and the government to curb their repressive policies on street art confounds me. Of course some antisocial ‘tagging’, (merely writing a signature on any available public property), is not particularly aesthetic. But when Graffiti is well executed it can be thought provoking and beautiful. The results can provide our streets with bursts of colour and inspiration.
Inspector Mark Davis’s remark: “There is nothing artistic about the daubing of graffiti. It is pure vandalism and has a negative impact on the lives of nearby residents” is, in many cases, simply not true.
I wonder what Inspector Davis would have to say about ‘The Arrival, Contemporary Urban Art’, the new show at The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery in Stoke on Trent. Featuring internationally acclaimed street artists such as Banksy, Adam Neale and Candice Tripp, it is the perfect case study for Graffiti as a respected art form.
Banksy’s once controversial, now coffee table, images are sold for thousands and are displayed in galleries across the globe. Apparently even Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt have acquired one, surely showing consumer appeal.
Examples of the talent present in Manchester was showcased last year by the Upper Space Gallery, and can be seen on many a Northern Quarter corner. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but then what art is?
Expressing creativity in public spaces is something art is no stranger too. Continually commissioned, public art is actively endorsed as producing positive effects upon a community; promoting pride within inhabitants and economy via visitors.
Graffiti is a crime because it is unlicensed public art. If this changed, the creative ability of many would be encouraged, and their talent given a purpose.
Berlin is famous for it. America’s welfare policy in the 1930’s paid painters to decorate airports and libraries. Diego Riviera’s murals cover Mexico City, and are one of its biggest attractions. While in India adverts are hand painted on houses and walls, filling the streets with a mass of vibrant images.
That we are complacently bombarded with visual imagery does not need to be said, billboards, posters and huge TV screens fill Piccadilly already. I would rather see a mural than a printed advert for soap any day.
Street art should be utilized not penalized and given artistic recognition. Even the police force could find use for it…
For example Candice Tripp’s work ‘The Arrival’, part of the Stoke on Trent exhibition, depicts a young girl peeling herself off a white outline of her body. It would be a very efficient advert for road safety. Covering the side of a building with the ominous warning to not drink and drive, it would provide a vivid reminder of those being put at risk.

'The Arrival' Contemporary Urban Art
7 February 09 - 10 May 09
The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery
Bethesda Street, Cultural Quarter,
Stoke-on-Trent, ST1 3DW
Monday to Saturday 10.00am - 5.00pm, Sunday 2.00pm - 5.00pm

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