Graffiti vs street art

Street art and graffiti. Phenomena of the contemporary world. Manifestations that have become part of modern-day life. Yet it is difficult for many people to distinguish the difference between these forms of expression. That’s the reason why we’ll take a microscopical look at street art and graffiti.

Erick Hikups | Brussels 2011

Erick Hikups | Brussels 2011

Before revealing the story, I just want to emphasize that we all enjoy our well-deserved freedom of speech. By this I mean that you could disagree with my opinion, or that you may have a different view, meaning or thought when I say the words: street art and/or graffiti, or by viewing street art and/or graffiti.

Eyes-b | Tsunami Graffiti | Neerpede 2013

Eyes-b | Tsunami Graffiti | Neerpede 2013

Some of you perhaps won’t be so happy to hear this, but anything created with a spray can, made either on a wall, an electrical box, a train or on other surfaces in the public sphere, are pure forms of graffiti. Count in all images or texts made with ink, paint or paint markers, even scratched images or words are forms of graffiti. The notion ‘street art’ seems to provide much more comfort for many of us, but this form of expression can be seen as the flow which includes graffiti, paste-ups, stickers, yarn bombing and other similar forms of art.

Hium | Quê? | Lisbon Alcântara 2013

Hium | Quê? | Lisbon Alcântara 2013

The boundary between street art and graffiti is rather vague and they are too often confused with each other. If we approach graffiti in the classical point of view, we imagine the pseudonym of an artist (for instance tags or throw-ups) created by and for graffers. Some think that graffiti can only be associated with gangs, mobsters and vandalism and that the graffiti area is dangerous or unsafe. This misperception is created because these people don’t know what graffiti really represents. We cannot deny that old school graffiti has its own code and language aimed at graffers themselves. It consists of: tags, throw-ups, (master)pieces, blockbusters, wildstyle and the semi wild. But nowadays other forms of expression are part of graffiti such as: reverse graffiti, stencils and murals.

Jaune | Antwerp 2013

Jaune | Antwerp 2013

If we take the same approach for street art, street art would be a collection of different urban art disciplines and as expected including ‘the pretty graffiti’. These latter are entire walls where in many cases the illustrative style of the author (as opposed to typographic components) predominates. According to this classical approach street art aims a wider audience, clear and open to everyone.

FSTN | Brussels 2013

FSTN | Brussels 2013

If we romanticize, or better said, see these phenomena through rose (read modern) coloured spectacles, I think it would become clear that street art is an overarching concept of a global movement (including graffiti) in which artists create their art, with or without permission, in the public sphere. On the basis of this modern glance, we can assume that graffiti is no longer only hip-hop related. Graffiti is a way of expression, artists can exhibit who they are and what art can do or represent for them. Isn’t that what true art is ultimately about?

Soel | Rols Lisbon 2014

Soel | Rols Lisbon 2014

Then I ask myself why street art is perceived in a positive way and graffiti in a negative way… Graffiti is still too often confused with pubertal utterances mounted without any meaning on a wall, for instance drawings of intimate parts and genitals or phrases like “fuck the popo” (in other words “fuck the police”). Street art is being viewed as the beautiful art in the streetscape, maybe only singly derived from the actual name ‘street art’… Who knows? This misinterpretation misleads the public and creates a negative attitude towards graffiti.

Alex | Farm Prod | Antwerp 2013

Alex | Farm Prod | Antwerp 2013

So, next time you see graffiti, recall this article and know that graffiti is not as bad as it sounds/looks.

 

All images © Lorelay Parade

 


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