As someone with a complete lack of artistic ability, I find graffiti, when done tastefully, very impressive. I think that graffiti can be amazing to look at, share a message and reflects the heartbeat of the city. Here are some of my favourite pieces I’ve photographed the last couple of years and some context behind them:
The graffiti I saw in Mallorca, like the country, was bright and colourful. There were a mixture of themes in the art ranging from religion to the vibrant youth. The woman I was staying with was friends with a couple of the local artists and worked together with one of them. The graffiti artists are a part of local art culture and there isn’t he mystery of the artist you get in the bigger cities.
I found the graffiti in Brussels to be more sophisticated as a whole, although the variety is huge. The first piece below parades the famous Belgian cartoon The Adventures of Tintin whereas the piece next to it is erotic and controversial. The blue pencils in the third picture can be seen all around Brussels and are done by a broken up young couple who carried on spraying the pencils separately after their relationship ended. There is more of an enigma among the youth with the graffiti artists in Brussels. Meeting ‘the pencil guy’ at a party is something to boast about to your friends.
There was lots of graffiti in Antwerp too even though it isn’t as big of a city. Overall I was pleasantly surprised by the huge array of contemporary and urban art in Belgium, both in galleries and on the street.
A lot of the graffiti in Barcelona shares the vibrancy and brightness seen in Mallorca but I saw a wider range of styles. The first piece was taken next to where Picasso lived when he was a student as a mural to him. I particularly liked the third piece which reminded me of Shakespeare’s Ophelia but with a gothic twist.
My camera broke while I was in Prague so I only got to take one poorly lit photo. In general the graffiti was a lot edgier than what I had seen in the rest of Europe and had a very youthful and current vibe. I’d like to go back and see more.
I regretfully didn’t take photos of any graffiti in California which is a shame because San Francisco is teeming with it. I thought I’d sneak in this picture of a boat washed up on Sunset Beach in LA captioned “OS BOYS Out sinking…” because it made me smile.
Montreal Mural Festival 2015:
I have a big selection of photos to choose from for Montreal and am considering doing a separate post to share all of them. Every year Montreal hosts a mural festival where selected artists will have freedom to graffiti a wall on Saint Laraunt Boulevard. It’s great because during the eleven days of the festival in June you can actually watch the artists doing their work.The festival started in 2013 and each year most of the art will be painted over and replaced with a new piece. The art for me reflects on the city. It’s bold and creative and the festival is all about sharing urban art so the public can enjoy it, an attitude I strongly and consistently felt while I was staying there.
Montreal Mural Festival 2016:
These are some of my favorite pieces from this year. I love the second piece of the woman holding a shell with half her body decaying. It’s colorful and morbid and I invite you to share your interpretations.
I saw a fair bit of graffiti in Toronto as well, but the best of it was on ‘Graffiti Alley’ by Queen St W. The pieces ranged from stunning and colorful works of art to some more political and topical pictures. I like the slightly skeptical one on the bottom right of one of Santa’s reindeer smoking with the blue robot holding up a sign that says ‘Stay Positive.’ It sends a very cynical message to those walking past it towards the financial district.
To me the range of graffiti styles in Toronto is very reflective of the nature of the city. With the highest immigration population in Canada, Toronto is a thriving hub of different cultures and personalities. In some ways the contrasts between districts gives a feel of a lack of identity but in other ways this mish-mash of identities is what unifies Toronto. I think you can see this in the urban art too.
I liked the octopus piece but annoyingly the shadow ruined it. I didn’t see much graffiti because I only spent one afternoon exploring London but I wanted to post the hockey piece because it’s such a great Canadian cliche.
Brooklyn, New York City:
I only have one picture of graffiti in New York unfortunately. I like this because it’s beautiful but it also seems to have a cynical message about industrialism. The symbolic purple pylon boldly placed among nature could be an artistic satire of New York City? Either way I think the piece is cool.
I hope to add to this list in the future. I wanted to post about the graffiti in London, England but I do not have any photos. Where’s your favorite city for the urban art?