Saturday, 9 July 2016


I've always liked graffiti.  At one level it is a truly democratic art form. For the artist, you don't need to have been accepted by the "art world"; you don't need Saatchi behind you.  You can just rack up with some cans, spray and you've got a show.  For the art lover, you don't need to be told what is good, you don't need to have your art curated. You just have to go look, if you like it: great; if you don't, walk on.  Imagine walking through a subway and seeing a piece like this -

Lark 37, Avenue Subway, Southampton

or this

Samer, Avenue Subway, Southampton

Another reason I like graffiti is because it is a way of "sticking it to the man".

Occupy, Shoreditch

Which man? Well, this is where a lot of protest falls down.  Like the rock star who trashes a hotel room and imagines he is telling society to "Do one" but in reality is just creating extra work for a housekeeper on minimum wage and causing an increase in charges for other hotel users.  The graffiti that needs to be cleaned off by the local council is paid for by you and me through our taxes.

Weston, Southampton

I've always liked graffiti but it is only in the last couple of years that I have really paid a lot of attention.  And the more I learn the less I know.  The more I see the less certain I am about what is "good", the less certain I am what I like.  Let's digress.

When I wuz a punk

I remember 1977.  Punk happened.  Punk declared 1977 year zero.  Kicked out the jams and the guitar solos and Rick Wakeman on ice and the wimpy singer songwriters. A return to the democratic ideal of rocknroll: music of the people,for the people, by the people.  We're one chord wonders and we don't give a damn (as TV Smith of the Adverts declared).  Furthermore, don't trust anyone over 21.

Vic Scezesnowicz  changed his name to Vic Vomit and formed The Killermeters.

Of course as soon as it started it was over.  As a musical form Punk was quite limited.  The best music of the time - Talking Heads, XTC, Costello - had a punk sensibility but musically nothing in common with Slaughter & the Dogs or Generation X.  By the time the Pistols album came out we'd all moved on. It wasn't long before any bands that were a little bit different became known as New Wave.

Vic Vomit changed his name to Vic Vespa and the Killer Meters became a mod band.

Johnny Rotten became John Lydon and his public image was post-punk.

Still, if you were Punk then New Wave was the biggest insult you could throw at something.  It meant sell out.  It meant watering it down.  It meant pop.

Turville St, Shoreditch

The same thing happens with graffiti.  This is too good to be called graffiti.  This is art,  Art on the Street. Street Art.

But come on. That's the biggest insult you could throw. It means sell out.  It means watering it down.  It means pop. Pop, not punk.  And graffiti should be punk.

Jip Crem, Southampton

I can't put my finger on exactly why, or exactly where, graffiti and Street Art differ.  I guess if it would look good on a Boardroom wall then I don't like it.  Is that narrow minded?

This is my favourite wall.  This is graffiti.  This is punk.

This is another wall.  This is Street Art.  These days we can comment online on every news story, every status update, every instagram photo.  Apparently this extends into the real world too and a commentator has added his view to the picture.  Harsh, but . . .

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