I’ve been constantly addressed by billboards in Bristol, but around Bristol is a different kind of public messaging – graffiti. Passing back under the railway bridge I meet a man with a spray can adding to the already full graffiti mural along the long wall and I stop to chat. He is putting an outline on a large picture and he tells me that actually he didn’t do the picture he’s just adding the outline then his tag (graffiti signature).
“Bit cheeky really.” he admits as he finishes his tag. I’m put in mind of my parents neighbour’s cat, spraying the bushes.
Some graffiti is simple ‘tagging’ where the writer marks an area or is leaving a message for a specific audience or gang. The tag is often repeated and repeated all over an area as a way to own or dominate. Other graffiti may include more complex artwork or wider political messaging.
Bristol is the home of Banksy, the now world known graffiti artist whose art challenges ideas and questions the dominant culture. Some of his/her/their famous images can be found on t-shirts, although Banksy has never sold the images. A masked man throwing a bunch of flowers, a girl with a red heart balloon, and two male police kissing passionately are a tiny fraction of the work of this prolific artist. Many of the images interact with the surroundings, for example appearing to come out of a window or a continuation of double yellow lines. The images often also interact with people, they sometimes have a space to allow the viewer to become part of it, pretending to hold something or engage with a figure.
The identity of Banksy is unknown, but it is almost certain that there is a support team involved and the works are accomplished through collaboration. Banksy has never been caught, which is amazing considering the scale of work including a month long daily campaign in New York. Other street artists ensure that they keep quiet. The image of Banksy has been very carefully controlled and was portrayed as a lone man for many years, but in recent months there has been other speculation. Whoever Banksy is I’m very grateful for their work. Long may they evade the law.