Posted by Andy Jones 07 Sep 2015

The changing perception of graffiti

For decades now, graffiti has been a contentious issue. Throughout recent history it’s seen as a sign of urban decay, of kids gone feral and committing wanton acts of vandalism. The fact is however, that such a view has been seen somewhat short-sighted for quite a while now.

We pretty much accept now that there are two types of graffiti, the artistic and the childish scribbles that school kids use their sharpies and their dad’s spray to paint their moniker on a bridge.

 Artistic graffiti is itself easily broken down into further categories, mostly between the work of passionate independent artists who see the world as their blank canvas and that which has been commissioned by businesses and councils. The second group is interesting because, in a world of conformity and patterns, it shows that graffiti style can still stand out and make people take notice.

On the other hand however, there is tagging. We’ve all seen it on roadsides and public transport routes, random phrases and pseudonyms hastily drawn across walls, buildings and structures in an act of ownership and civil defiance these sketches and signatures arguably gave graffiti the bad name it has endured to this day. Over the last twenty years however, something has changed in both our perception and how artists express themselves, with a lot of the impetus coming from the still-mysterious Banksy.

Banksy’s biting socio-political commentary, particular his earlier works before he went mainstream and somewhat embraced the capitalism some believe he stands against, created a buzz around genuine, guerrilla graffiti that helped to dispel the bad taste of tagging.

He may be busying himself with attention grabbing installations like Dismaland these days but Banksy undoubtedly starting something with his politically conscious style, bringing the possibilities of untidy graffiti to the masses.  Alongside a blossoming of a more urban style of acceptable art, graffiti is finally getting the respect it deserves.

Of course there is still a world of difference between urban, or vandalistic, art and baser self-expression, but the fact that we are more willing to differentiate between the two is a great step forward.