Amor vincit omnia

I have been feeling a bit guilty there was no #GraffitiFriday post last week, and here it is Friday again and I had nothing planned. I’ve not had much time to look at graffiti lately as I’ve been working to meet publishing deadlines on another project. And this week has been even worse because… well. I try very much to keep my own political leanings out of my professional life, so let’s just say staying up till six am to watch these particular election results has been more than a little devastating both physically and emotionally. I think there are a lot of people in the world right now who need a hug. I can’t do that for everyone, but I’ll offer you instead a lovely little message I came across on the canalside in Birmingham a few months ago, that suggests one small way to make the world feel like a friendlier place. There were numerous such texts sprayed onto the bricks, I discovered, which gave me a sort of joy in thinking these were sanctioned works using a method that is usually considered vandalism. And who couldn’t use a little joy right now?


I Shall Dance

A few blocks from my house there is a bit of graffiti (in the modern sense) on a brick wall. I first noticed it more than a year ago, and the fact that there has been no apparent attempt to clean it or cover it up suggests to me that whoever owns that wall can’t help but smile when they see it, just like I do.

“One day I will die but today I shall dance.”
When I walked past recently, with a million thoughts in my head and not really thinking about where I was, the sentiment of it suddenly struck me anew. Death – okay, and taxes –  are inevitable, but more to the point, there is a lot of bad stuff in life, in living. Anyone who has gone anywhere near a news source in the last few months is well aware of this fact. And in our own lives, there are rough times and sadness and frustration and things that make it all seem like there is not much point. As my dad (ever the optimist) would say, ‘We’re all doomed anyway.’ And yet… there are things, people, and yes, even the odd bit of spray paint on a wall, that suddenly make you realise that none of that matters. It’s about dancing, finding your joy, and reveling in the little moments that make every struggle worth it. It’s all too easy to lose sight of that from time to time. I’m glad this wall is around to remind me. So I shall dance: literally, figuratively, it doesn’t matter. You should do the same.

Graffiti or Art?

Graffiti has a completely different connotation in the modern consciousness than it appears to have had in the ancient world. Despite common admonitions against defacing a structure, particularly a tomb, in some Latin inscriptions, the prevalence of graffiti and dipinti on the city walls of a place like Pompeii or Herculaneum suggests this was largely ignored. That urge to simply write your name in a surface, which I have discussed before, evolves over time, eventually becoming the spray painted tag that was, in the seventies and eighties, seen as the blight of urban landscapes worldwide.

The practice of spray painting graffiti has also evolved, from the simple act of tagging to elaborate street art. This came to my attention in two ways recently, and made me think again about the concept of graffiti and the way it intersects with art, subversive art though it may be. A few weeks ago I was at the Godiva Festival in Coventry, where there were a number of local artists creating a temporary mural. This mural, however, was not painted with brushes, but with spray cans.

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In the last week, I’ve again come across a sanctioned act of street art that usually would be considered vandalism. In promoting the new Star Trek film, the wall of a building in Clerkenwell has been covered with images of the actors, using the same method of spray painting.

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star trek 1

As part of the promotion, at completion of the mural, the actor Idris Elba turned up, and, in true graffiti style, added his tag to the painting.


For obvious reasons (I think), I found this intriguing as a process. In essence, the idea of recording your presence as an act of writing has come full circle in this one image. The technique of modern graffiti and tagging (spray paint) is used to create an image, a (for lack of a better way to describe it) proper painting, and then is signed, not by the artists, but by one of the people depicted.