In this article I would like to talk to you about street art. An art that I personally believe is one of the most interesting forms of art, because it is directly confronted with its audience, sometimes hidden among it.
Of course it would be normal to start by giving a real definition of street art, unfortunately this is impossible, because street art is far too complex to be put in a category, it is its very purpose, to get out of the scene, to be outside the norms.
The same goes for its history, street art itself is impossible to date, in the past we have bear shows, jugglers, fire spitters, street theaters, clowns etc, all this can be considered as street art, and it goes back as far as the age of the pyramids.
But today we will talk about the most popular Street art movement these days, graffiti.
(Because yes we will see later that there are many different street art movements)
First, the term “graffiti” is of Italian origin, meaning “engraved drawing”, which from the 19th century on means informal drawings and inscriptions drawn by free hand on any support, most of which belong to public places. So that’s the little anecdote.
It was in the shadows of New York in the mid-1960s and 1970s that the first graffiti was born in hip-hop culture, where one of the main ideas was to get noticed. Street Art, by imposing itself on the walls of New York, perfectly demonstrates the desire to be seen.
He will then travel. First in Europe, in the 1980s. It is developing thanks to important and especially significant events such as the Algerian war, or the famous May 68 in France and especially on the Berlin Wall. These are some of the key events that have brought Street Art to the world.
A perfect example of the importance of graffiti for the self-expression of the people is the Berlin Wall, also known as the “Wall of Shame” by the West Germans. It is first of all the wall that separated Berlin into two distinct parts.
For twenty-eight years we will hear about East Berlin, where the Soviet government, and consequently communism, was established, as opposed to West Berlin, where capitalism reigns: The United States, France and England.
The west side of Berlin is, soon after its construction, covered with graffiti and colorful paintings. This phenomenon then reflects an idea of freedom on the western side of the wall, while the other side of this wall is white. This highlights the differences between the two Berlin cities.
The Berlin Wall seen from the west side.
It should be noted that graffiti is very often not well appreciated by the public, misunderstood, demonstrated by a definition found in the dictionary: Inscription or drawing scribbled by passers-by on a wall, monument, etc.
the action of graffiti on the walls of a town without authorization is illegal in most cities in most countries. Considered as a degradation of public property, it is punishable by fines and even imprisonment. And it’s the same for almost all types of street art. But perhaps this reinforces this art, reinforces the motivation of these artists.
This is really interesting because all through the history of art, there have always been problems of misunderstanding about the artist. But it has also pushed these artists to make themselves stronger, to provoke, to transmit messages, to use the public’s reaction to give a life at the artwork.
Jean-françois millet « des glaneuses »
A 19th century French painter, jean-francois Millet, brings to the spotlight the most miserable people in society, les glaneuses, those who collect what remains in the fields once everyone has passed.
When the painting was presented to the public in 1857, the bourgeoisie was outraged, forced to look at what they did not want to see, forced to look at a rural world magnified by the painter. Today this work is a world classic.
151 years later, in 2008, the famous street artist Banksy put a revisited version of the famous painting on the Bristol Museum’s wall. In what can be called the rewriting of Millet’s painting, Banksy pleads for non-work. Representing two women who “glannent” as in the first, and third on the edge of the board, sitting down and smoking a cigarette. Banksy with this distorted painting implores his anti-capitalist and revolutionary ideals.
“des glaneuses” by Banksy
Banksy is a proof of expression through street art, and especially, graffiti. He is still unknown to the public today. No one has ever seen his face, no one knows his identity, no one really knows who he is. Only one thing can identify him: his pseudonym -BANKSY- and his art, so particular. And yet, Banksy is one of the most publicized figures in Street Art in the world.
A very good example of his power of expression is to have painted on the wall of Gaza in Palestine. In all, he painted nine frescoes in Palestinian territory under the watchful eye of Israeli armed forces soldiers. Above all, it is a message of hope delivered to the Palestinian civilian population and in particular to their freedoms. During its realization Banksy is approached by an old man, who points out to him that he makes the wall beautiful. Banksy thanks him, but the Palestinian continues by telling him that he and his people do not want this wall symbol of hate to be beautiful. And he finally said that he and his team had better go home.
The message is clear: the Palestinian people do not want to highlight this wall that locks them in a real open-air prison.GAZA’s walls paint by BANKSY
Artists who give a very strong message, there are many of them, and not only on graffiti of course. For example, JR, a French artist who on October 8, 2017, on the border of Mexico and the United States, organized a giant picnic on both sides of the fence, his family and hundreds of guests came from both countries to share a meal at this meeting point. They have met around the eyes of a dreamer (half on the Mexican side, the other half on the American side) to eat the same thing, share the same water, enjoy the same music… For a moment, we forgot the separation wall…
It is on this wonderful proof of giving message and hope through street art that I will leave you, and in company, here are some extraordinary graffiti that deserve to be applauded for their boldness and magic. Thank you for reading me, have a good day, and don’t forget to be creative.
in art as in love, instinct is enough. Anatole france
eL Seed, « Perception », Le Caire (2016)
ECB, Busan, South Korea (2012)
Written by: Germain Picot