This article was originally published in March 2020.
This is the title of a Stereophonics song, but it also evokes yet another trend which Europe has sleepwalked into adopting from the US. Why, those subway trains covered from track to roof in graffiti have become synonymous with any self-respecting American movie, and a I read that a subway car was literally sprayed from end to end only this month in New York. Logistically at least, quite clever.
Those fascinating differences and values which once defined our continents have now brought about some curious homogeneity. Mindlessly or intelligently painting stuff is ubiquitous.
I look at graffiti and tattoos as the opposite end of the same spectrum: one is applied anonymously to property which doesn’t belong to us, and the other we have done to ourselves with full permission.
Both are very difficult to remove, and if I was asked today which would be a successful future business I would suggest tattoo removal as I can only see this being a huge future industry. Vogue is the prevailing fashion of the time and therefore by definition temporary!
Enough about tattoos; it’s graffiti I wanted to explore and try to understand its general acceptance.
Its origins are from the mid 19th century Italian, ‘graffio’ – ‘a scratch’ and was first manifested in the inscriptions found on rocks and walls in the ancient civilisations of southern Europe, north Africa and the middle-east.
Then it was used as a form of messaging and, although some of it apparently was often rude or offensive, we have chosen consider it charming over time – more through lack of understanding than anything else I imagine.
Graffiti’s current-day definition is: “….writing or drawings made on a wall or other surface, usually as a form of artistic expression, without permission and within public view”. I suppose the ‘public view’ part is crucial, or why bother doing it?