When people talk about art, what is the first thing you thinking of? Probably pictures hanging in galleries, or sculptures out of marble. You probably don’t automatically think of things like street art, as there is still a little bit of a stigma with some people around this type of art. It is often thought that art is an elitist subject, but street art brings itself to its audience, coming out of the galleries, becoming easily accessible and free to see.
Some people will class anything they see painted on walls as graffiti, but there is a very distinct difference between graffiti and street art. The difference is intention. Graffiti writers don’t create their work with the intention of audiences understanding it, it is written for only certain people to understand codes and tags and appreciate the style. Street art however is created with the purpose of the audience viewing and appreciating the message which they have created. Street art very often follows the same lines as contemporary art, but due to the technique and style, can be created quickly and present political and social messages much quicker than artists which can be seen in galleries.
Street art has started to come up in the ranks of artistic merit, with some artists now being commissioned for their work, but many still are opportunists, which means that the street art that you see one day could dramatically change in a short space of time due to the artists looking for space to display their talent.
Street art can be seen all over the world, in fact you probably walk by some on a daily basis and barely acknowledge it as art, but I urge you to take the time and really look at what is being presented to you.
Street artists develop their own styles and these become wholly identifiable, from the very famous to the not so well know.
Banksy is probably one of the most well-known street artists, and while his art has now become a commercial industry, with his works being displayed in galleries, such as The Moco in Amsterdam, he still very much works a street artist with his thematic style showing up across the world.
Some of his most recent work has caused a stir in the Hull in the UK, with his anti-Brexit statement showing a young boy perched on top of some older graffiti, with a colander on his head, wielding a sword with a pencil attached to the end and the statement “Draw the raised bridge!” This has been met with mixed receptions from the people of Hull, who equally appreciate the work of Banksy, but not so much the message that it is sending as locals have called for the piece to be cleaned off the disused bridge.
Banksy uses a stencilled style to achieve quick and easy application to maintain an air of anonymity and to work fast. Many of his pieces are now preserved due to his rise in popularity.
Not all artists are as well know, yet still hit with a huge impact, artists such as the Dutch Danny Oosterman aka Danny Recal, who worked with El Pez to create the “New Milkmaid” which can be seen in Amsterdam, is not a household name across the world like Banksy, yet presents audiences with precision and style which he achieves with only spray cans and guide lines. You can see in the picture below the definite motif stylings of the Spanish El Pez, the wide smiling parrots which juxtapose the Recal’s classical re-composition of Vermeer’s “The Milkmaid”. This particular piece brings the focal point of the painting in to the current times, with the milk run out of the jug and her bare leg showing, making a statement that she is now offering something else to make ends meet.
Motifs are a huge part of the street artist’s style as this makes their designs instantly recognisable, and makes way for their reputation and ability to get wall space or commissions. An artist who has refined his motif is Thierry Noir.
His elongated faces with bright bold colours have been seen all over the world, and lays claim that he was the first artist to paint on the Berlin wall in this fashion. His work has become an icon for new found freedom.
Not all street artists work in the medium of paint, opting for mosaic tiles, Invader created small boards which can quickly be applied to walls. These again can be seen all over the world, with his most recent visit to Bhutan.
You can generally see his work, above eye level in main streets and in plain sight. If you’re visiting a major city…look up, and you might just find yourself an Invader.
Some street artists take their inspiration from classical artists and no one demonstrates this better than Dreph. His work captures the light technique, Chiaroscuro, used by Caravaggio, to paint people he knows or local heroes in large scale portraiture work.
The detail and method of his art is instantly recognisable, with the ethereal blue backgrounds and highly detailed study of his portraits.
No matter what you think about art galleries, it is clear that we are living in an ever changing one. Take to the streets of your local city and look around. Appreciate the work that these dedicated artists are giving to you for free.
There are hundreds of other artists which I wish I could have written about in this article, as each have their own charm and beauty, and all deserve recognition, from the comical to the highly political.
Street art is an easy way to break the walls down between the elitist art movements and the general public and we should be celebrating this splendid movement.