April 5, 2010 3

Graffiti Design – Art or Vandalism?

By Ian in Random

Defining art is a difficult task. Who is to say what constitutes a good piece of art? It is a highly subjective matter with few guidelines to go by. Some people think of art as paintings of nature, people, or bowls of fruit. Others think art is anything that moves you. Between all the traditional and radical interpretations of what makes a piece of art or design successful, one must look at graffiti and wonder – is this art or simply vandalism?

Living in the city of Toronto, you’re bound to see graffiti. Many of Toronto’s walls and buildings are covered in graffiti. The designs range from a few words simply spray-painted on the wall, to the most ornate and detailed.

These designs are what fill in all the gaps and spaces of the city. In between corporate buildings and alleyways, graffiti artists find a place and a way to express themselves with a few tools and imagination. Still, graffiti used to be cast in a very bad light. Graffiti artists were not seen as artists. They were nothing more than society’s angry outcasts, professional vandals who defaced public property just for the hell of it.

Today, graffiti has garnered a lot more respect and appreciation. It seems that some people enjoy graffiti; they even think it is beautiful. The fact that graffiti artists are referred to as artists shows just how much public perception of these designs has changed. Graffiti has been embraced in a new way. There are websites dedicated to the collection of graffiti photos, online galleries to display what graffiti artists have to offer. There are graffiti stores that cater to graffiti artists by selling all the supplies they need, from spray paint and canvasses to the right clothing and customs products.

However, I wouldn’t hold my breath for graffiti to ever be fully accepted by society. It may have its admirers and its own art galleries but these galleries are online, in that virtual cyberspace where they can’t be touched. I don’t know if graffiti will have its own art museums, and if they did, I doubt they would have the same kind of prestige or reputation as a traditional art gallery would. While many citizens think of graffiti as art peppered across their home town, authority figures think of it as another problem to be dealt with. The police, the city of Toronto, and dozens of graffiti removal companies are all putting a lot of money and time into stripping the city of graffiti.

I find it interesting that the location of a design can be the factor that defines what that design is – a nuisance, or something beautiful. That location being on the side of a building or on a canvas at home is the deciding factor. Of course I can see why graffiti is removed – the bottom line is that these buildings do not belong to the graffiti artists. It is not their property to design on. At the same time, that artist’s voice inside me thinks there is something almost romantic about a city being used as a canvas to express someone’s beliefs and passions, while giving citizens a bit of beauty to gaze at in between all the grey buildings.

About Ian:
Hi, I'm Ian T. I'm a York grad and a copywriter for Eden Advertising. I'm the master of procrastinating. I like to use parentheses (sometimes). I love the LCBO because wine makes me happy. I don't blog, I capture moments in time.

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