Graffiti is all around Brighton, but is it a curse or a blessing? We delve into these arenas of conflict, these wars of the walls
The logical place to start, is to define exactly what graffiti is. The answer I found stated that it was writing or drawings scribbled, scratched, or sprayed illicitly on a wall or other surface in a public place. However, the whole crux of the matter is the use of the word illicitly, as illicit usually refers to something that is not morally proper or acceptable. So the main question here is actually whether graffiti is or is not morally proper and acceptable.
When does vandalism become graffiti and when does graffiti become street art and when does street art become bona fide (mainstream) serious art?
Historically, man has in fact been leaving his mark on walls for centuries, millennia in fact, like the mammoth illustrations on the walls of caves in France. This was an early form of art and a way of telling future generations what that individual had witnessed and wanted to share with the world. It was arguably their form of immortality.
The graffiti can be religious or even a language like that of the Aboriginal people in Australia and it forms part of the world’s oldest continuous cultural tradition, which is believed to have started 30,000 to 40,000 years ago!
Over time our civilisations have become more complicated and so indeed has our art and our graffiti. There’s no denying it that in our modern world-of-advertising age, graffiti is shaping us and the world of art. We are subject to it and in turn absorb it into our psyche and thus a seed is sown, often a deep seed deeply embedded and then in some cases it metamorphosizes and raises itself to the surface and behold you suddenly decide to get a specifically designed tattoo. But where did the initial idea come from?
There are a myriad of opinions surrounding the subject, as to some graffiti can be barbaric mindless acts of vandalism. To others graffiti can be political, or graffiti can be amusing, or it can be open to interpretation, or it can be challenging art, or in the following example, graffiti can be deeply moving.
During my investigation, I spoke to one chap who was busily creating graffiti in Brighton and he seemed particularly pleased that I was taking an interest in his creation. He uttered that he usually made the creations for himself, but in fact his friend had died and so he was doing today’s work as a homage to him.
Another chap I encountered red-handed so to speak, had a photo of his pooch on his mobile phone in his left hand and he was endeavouring to copy that onto a billboard with his aerosol paint spray, (held in his right hand) but about 100 times bigger.
One thing is for sure though, graffiti artists often create work to let you know that they were there. Whether it be via an elaborate masterpiece or just by tagging their own chosen artistic name in their chosen style.
The location for the graffiti is usually paramount for effect (juxtaposition and all that) whereas at other times it is solely just being in a place where you won’t get disturbed or caught doing it, but either way, it is a pre-planned military operation. Having said that, these days more and more often graffiti and large murals are done to order and this is a reflection of society moving towards acceptance as a whole. Whereas in other countries, graffiti is sometimes the individuals fight against censorship and the freedom of speech.
At times during my tour of Brighton’s parodying pop art, I noted that sometimes the forest of sophisticated graffiti was created on every available blank space, whereas other streets walls were totally untouched provocations, as these walls were under total control.
I also felt that the walls that were touched by the human hand (via freehand aerosol paint spray can or stencilled) were screaming at me to get noticed with their pseudo 3D movement style imagery, whereas others were more refined and sedate affairs. I considered that I was on a hunt of sorts and that I was endeavouring to get into the mindset of the best places that I would be able to discover witty, exciting and surprising street art, that could possibly change my perspective on the world around me and so enrich my soul.
In Brighton the explosion of (sadly limited lifespan) raw energy graffiti by the many and varied voices of unique artists has now become part of the history of visual culture and has added to the mystery and Bohemian attitudes of the City and as a whole it is striving to gain more acceptance throughout society. So in time, the very best pieces of exciting, energising, invigorating street art have literally jumped from the walls and into the expensive art galleries and have sold for massive sums of money, as in the case of the Bristol born Banksy.
It’s rather amusing that I personally witnessed people reacting to the world around them on my trip. As several times when I photographing the art on the walls, other people (locals and foreign visitors) would stop to see what I was actually taking a photograph of and then they themselves would get out their mobile phones or camera and also take a picture. It’s as though the art for some was all around them, but they were either just blind to it, or too busy to notice, or possibly just needed the confidence to also be able to take a photo in front of everyone.
As I was wandering around on my art tour, it was going through my mind that I actually felt in some way I was literally taking a snapshot of our City at this very moment as in a time capsule and if I hadn’t have bothered to do this, then it would more likely be lost forever because it would either be whitewashed or overpainted.
I wish that I had done this for our Brighton record shops in the 1970’s and 1980’s, as I have images of their interiors and exteriors imprinted on my mind, but alas no actual proper records. So I am very pleased to have captured Brighton’s new art!
I did start to catalogue exactly where each piece is located within the town, but hey you guys, you just need to go out into Brighton and have fun exploring for yourselves! Good luck!
All photographs were all taken by Nick Linazasoro on 8th July 2017.
For your further enjoyment, we have added 100 Brighton graffiti photos below.