The earliest signs of 'graffiti' were found in some caves at Lascaux in France, almost 17,300 years old during the Paleolithic period, yet was not discovered until the 1940. The word 'graffiti' comes from the Italian word graffiato - literally meaning 'scratch' so to find these cave paintings which have be scratched on with animal bones using natural pigments, you could indeed call it the first signs of graffiti. Infact graffiti has been around for a long time, from ancient Rome right up to World War 2 and now into our modern day society.
Urban graffiti first came about during the 1970's in New York. Where as before graffiti used to be drawings or 'scratches' on a wall it had now developed into using spray cans. It evolved alongside the Hip Hop culture, making the language of the streets visible to everyone in society. There were many groups of people who lived and worked in New York who felt invisible, as if they had no say in anything, however with graffiti they could express themselves. They could announce their presence by saying 'we will not be ignored'. A vast majority of graffiti writers came from the run down and neglected sections of New York, they would spray on their homes and buildings to draw attention to the fact that they have been ignored. They would also spray onto transport to give a 'moving message' where people would be able to see what they had written, it would be able to reach all parts of the city.
Jean Michel Basquiat was an American artist who started off as a graffiti artist. He came up with this character 'SAMO' in which he would adopt as his working name in graffiti in order not to be discovered as it was illegal at the time. He started to use a copyright symbol after SAMO which was quite ironic as when something like graffiti is in a public place how can there be any copyright? After a few years however in 1979, Basquiat decided to kill off his character by spray painting 'SAMO is dead' around places. Because of this influence on his life, Basquait then started to produce Neo-expressionist paintings such as his version of the 'Mona Lisa' where he incorporated a fake bank note within the painting to take a dig at art; how some well established painters would get paid millions for a single piece of work that really can people relate to?
Keith Haring started sketching chalk drawings onto black paper in 1981 and evolved this into painted plastic, metal and found objects. He was commissioned to produce many public works such as a mural in Melbourne and other works in Rio, Paris and Berlin. He created 'subway art' where it was purely just a black and white graphical design, however he would juxtapose his design with the adverts that would occupy the walls down in the subways. Haring opened up his own retail store called 'Pop Shop' where it sold t-shirts, toys, posters - all bearing his signature images. It was a major celebrity hang out, but it was also Haring's way of expressionism. This shop allowed his art to be accessible, it broke down the barriers of high and low art.
Over the years graffiti has become more accepting into our society, and today it is now classed as a true art form. Banksy made graffiti viewed in a way it wasn't before, in a different environment within art galleries. Another artist who produces graffiti is Rich Simmons, I have been following his work for some time now and to begin with he set up AITC* - Art is the Cure.
"When I set out to save myself, I didn’t think I would end up trying to save the world. I didn’t realise my own art based antidote would become a cure for thousands..."
His vision, to bring art as a form on therapy, using inspiration in its purest form to change lives. To help people from all ages and backgrounds to inspire and help express themselves through art whether they have any experience or not. He uses street art as a way to extended out to younger audiences, to try and help them realise that they are not alone. Art is the Cure has now developed into a more well known community and Rich Simmons himself has been progressing through his career, becoming a more established artist producing works for galleries and his own show.
Graffiti has started to be taken on by people who have originally been trained in art. It has shifted from street art to a well respected art form that people are incorporating into their pieces. Swoon, who began by studying painting is now a street artist, yet her work is different to the regular graffiti that once began. She is more interested in socially engaging projects and locates her graffiti in certain areas to make a bigger impact on society.
Recently there have been many advertisements shown on TV which have used graffiti as a way of promotion.
There is controversy here though however, that companies are ripping off the ideas of street artists as all of these have been computer generated. They don't explore the true art form of graffiti. In a way you could say it defeats the point. However I feel that even though people might see this as inaccurate, I find that the companies are doing this to try to appeal to a wider audience. They are trying to make their adverts more interesting, the longer you hold someones interest the more likely they are to remember and pay attention to the information shown.
The above video shows true graffiti taken to another level. 'An ambiguous animation painted on public walls.' Graffiti is no long static, if you choose to, it can become reality, you can give it life. By doing this it brings a whole new meaning and a different way in which you view graffiti. As someone who is really interested in animation graffiti never really had an appeal to me, however after seeing this I am quite intrigued by it. It makes you more aware of the types of art in society that is being used to make animations. It opens its field to a whole new audience.