Graffiti battles – Geordie style

Monstrously cute!

I never really noticed Graffiti much before. However, since our chat with the graffiti boys the other day when wandering about Newcastle blinking in the sunlight, like bears just out of hibernation, it turns out that if you look, it is everywhere. It’s creation and its culture have become a real part of the community. At its best it feels more like art than anything I’ve seen in the Baltic Art Gallery (Lovely building. Contents -pretentious bollocks) Even during my last visit to the Tate Modern, the partially dismembered tailor’s dummies mummified in parcel tape were the most exciting thing on offer at the time. When does defacing something become art? Banksy, the internationally famous and famously anonymous graffiti artist certainly seems to got the hang of that one.

Vandal or philosopher?

Wikipedia defines as graffiti ‘writing or drawings that have been scribbled, scratched, or sprayed illicitly on a wall or other surface in a public place.’[1] Graffiti ranges from simple written words to elaborate wall paintings, and it has existed since ancient times, with examples dating back to the Roman Empire and Ancient Egypt. I certainly saw some very old graffiti scratched on the stone of the pyramids when I popped over to Cairo the other day. No idea what it said mind.
These days it’s all emulsion, spray paint and marker pens but it has always courted controversy and is seen as sheer vandalism by some. Graffiti artists will often remain anonymous (in case the council nobble them) and sign their work with ‘tags’ or pseudonymns.

Making a point in paint

Sometimes they work in teams and have events called ‘black book graffiti battles’ which are like combative art battles in the same way hip hop gangs have dance battles. It’s competitive and aggressive and they can be about territory, or simply just who’s the best. It’s often got some sort of political and social message behind it too. A sterling alternative in my view to solving your differences with a suicide bomber or an automatic weapon. Perhaps we should suggest it in Afghanistan.

In Newcastle, graffiti art has been funded by arts organisations who are trying to provide diversionary activities for NEETs. NEETs are young people who are Not in Education, Employment or Training. We’ve got rather a lot of those here in the North East. They get to play music under the railway arches behind the Sage music Centre in Gateshead while practising their graffitti art in an encouraging environment. I loved the large colourful tableaus. A homage to Bobby Robson, a less flattering portrait of Margaret Thatcher. Giant space aliens, ancient ruins, Geordie dialect as art (Haway the lads etc..) and girls with green hair. Fantastic! I think we should definitely have a graffiti trail around the city, it is a great fun afternoon out.

Manga madness

Although I remain sceptical about the link between this activity and getting the NEETs into education, training or employment I very much enjoyed their efforts. And it is true that some of the very good artists get commissioned to provide graffiti for specific sites and do get paid. And a few of them seem to end up with a very high value indeed – just ask Banksy. His artwork entitled ‘Slave Labour’ showing a boy sewing union jack bunting just before the Jubilee, was stolen, gouged out of the wall of a Poundland store in Wood Green in London and sold in Miami for £300,000. Not sure who got the cash mind you…

Green hair is in this week


Geordie graffiti