From the ancient times humans have been trying to enliven their surroundings. The following images show one of the oldest discovered images made by man. Humans are one of the few animals, who have a sense of aesthetics. Well many nests made by birds, or mud castles made by termites, etc. are beautiful too, but more than beauty they are primarily functional. Humans are I guess the only ones who make art just for the sake of it.
“The eruption of Vesuvius preserved graffiti carved on the walls of Pompeii, including everyday Latin insults, magic, love declarations, alphabets, political consigns, and quotations from famous literature, offering us a direct insight into ancient Roman street life.” This line, a quote from wikipedia on graffiti, gives a very apt summary of ancient street art.
Fast forward to twenty years ago. The new age graffiti appeared on the urban lanscape. Intertwined with Hip-Hop and punk music, it was illegal and so very cool. They were considered vandals and chased by the police.
In 1986 Frank Shepard Fairey started a street art campaign called ‘André the Giant has a Posse‘ as an experiment in phenomenology. Propagated by skaters, they now have full firm called obeygiant, selling everything stickers, clothing and music. Their tagline is ‘Manufacturing quality dissent since 1989’.
Banksy on the Israel west bank wall, earned wordlwide media attention.From piss stinking walls it has sneaked into the exhibition gallery. Banksy who was one of the pioneers of the stencil art, now has exhibitions with a live elephant painted with gilt. He sells his prints for thousands of dollars. Street art has even been covered by the time magazine.
And this street art culture has been widespread, running through many countries. Recently I read an article on the first generation street art in Iran. I had always felt why I did’nt see any in India. I have been in Mumbai and now in Delhi, but apart from the trivail and egoistic, ‘i love u rita/sita/anita’ scratched on walls I didn’t see any. So it felt really good when I spotted a few in Delhi on my way to office. One is that of a grinning face with a sort of cross for his face. This has been stencilled along the outer ring road, on the sides of flyovers and bus stop signals. This image was taken at the Hauz-khas/IIT flyover.
With decrease in printing costs, new media like stickers and pasteups have arrived. People are experimenting even with cut metal. While it is debatable if what these artists are doing is right or not, as they sometimes do paint on private property. But it cannot be dismissed that they do make our surroundings beatiful. Here is a slideshow with some pics of prominent street arts.
So people stencil the city, but do it right.