Alexandre Orion, Reverse-Graffiti Artist: Saint or Sinner?

Reverse graffiti by Alexandre Orion
Reverse graffiti by Alexandre Orion | Source
Banksy - Stencil on the waterline of The Thekla, an entertainment boat in central Bristol
Banksy - Stencil on the waterline of The Thekla, an entertainment boat in central Bristol | Source
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Graffiti

Graffiti is often viewed as a worldwide social and community problem and even a criminal activity, but there is true art and conviction in the work of some graffiti artists such as Banksy. One "greener" offshoot of this artform is called Reverse Graffiti and one of the main exponents of this is Alexandre Orion (better known as just Orion).

You may ask the question, "When is cleaning the sidewalks a crime?" The unexpected answer is: "When you’re doing it to create art." A number of street artists around the world have taken to expressing themselves through the innovative practice called Reverse Graffiti. With a new spin on the “Wash Me” messages scrawled on the back of dirty cars and trucks, they seek out soot covered surfaces and inscribe them with images, messages, and even advertising slogans, using rags, scrubbing brushes, scrapers, and pressure hoses (but no paint).

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Alexandre Orion, Metabiotics
Alexandre Orion, Metabiotics | Source

Alexandre Orion

Short Biography

Alexandre Orion (born 1978) grew up on the streets in Brazil. As a child in São Paulo, he became accustomed to the busy sidewalks by day and the din of traffic at night. The streets inspired Orion and his first graffiti was done at 13 years of age. He bases his urban street art on the “pichaçao” (from niche, meaning tar).

Orion first gained public fame with his exhibition Metabiotics in 2006, a graffiti/photography project in which he painted graffiti pieces with white and black latex paint and photographed people interacting with them.

Also in 2006, Orion created Ossário, in one of São Paulo's road tunnels. He spent 13 nights using pieces of cloth to remove some of the thick layers of soot caused by vehicle exhausts that coated the tunnel sidewalls. Orion selectively wiped off the grime in such a way that skulls were outlined by the soot left on the walls. The tunnel became a catacomb with over 3,500 hand-designed skulls reminding people that the same black soot covering tunnel walls also darkens our lungs and our lives. In other words, what we do to the earth directly affects our well-being. (read more: Wikipedia)

Sao Paulo, Brazil
Sao Paulo, Brazil | Source
Orion
Orion | Source

Orion, Saint or Sinner?

Orion is an artist,

The environment's his muse.

Reverse-graffiti is his style,

A damp rag the tool he'll use.

ζ λ ξ ζ λ ξ ζ λ ξ ζ λ ξ

Orion's signature is skulls,

He draws them in the dust,

On the grimy walls of tunnels

In São Paulo's inner crust.

ζ λ ξ ζ λ ξ ζ λ ξ ζ λ ξ

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People live trapped in their homes

Behind self-made prison walls,

While the world outside them is destroyed,

Despite anti-pollution calls.

ζ λ ξ ζ λ ξ ζ λ ξ ζ λ ξ

Back and forth enclosed in cars,

Oblivious to change,

Moving between work and home,

Priorities are strange.

ζ λ ξ ζ λ ξ ζ λ ξ ζ λ ξ

Source

He wears a gas mask as he works,

As protection from the fumes,

And tunnels become catacombs

Adorned with Orion's skeletal murals.

ζ λ ξ ζ λ ξ ζ λ ξ ζ λ ξ

His illegal artwork is a sin,

Though he never uses paint.

His protest for a better world

To me, makes him a saint.

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Comments 44 comments

Ericdierker profile image

Ericdierker 5 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

Wow that is really interesting. How could this be anything but art? How could anyone complain when it is their failure to clean that creates the medium? It is the polluter of the air that creates the defacing of things.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 5 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

I agree Eric. Orion should be encouraged as his work turns the filth created by the city into art. Thank you for being the first to read and comment, and glad you found this hub of interest.


mckbirdbks profile image

mckbirdbks 5 months ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

Hello John. This is an amazing story. Orion sends a powerful message. His art is compelling. I wonder what the police wrote him up for. As I was watching the video, I thought the simple solution was for the municipality to clean the walls of the tunnel, then I see the water truck and power sprayer doing just that.

This is another worthwhile presentation.


always exploring profile image

always exploring 5 months ago from Southern Illinois

To me he's a saint. The video is amazing. Why would they hose his artwork away? Maybe that's the only way to get the grime cleaned up? I love your poetry...


Jodah profile image

Jodah 5 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

Hello Mike. I am glad you found Orion's story intriguing. From what I read the police were unsuccessful in getting him charged with anything. The fact that he was not actually using paint and was actually cleaning soot away made it impossible to charge him with vandalism. They did only clean the area where he was working however to prevent him from doing more there..but the soot soon reformed.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 5 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

Hey Ruby. Yes, it is good when artists have such conviction and use their talent for the greater good. Maybe it was a way of forcing the authorities to clean up, but unfortunately they only seem to do it where he is placing his reverse graffiti. Thanks for reading.


manatita44 profile image

manatita44 5 months ago from london

A remarkable journey, but again I suspect the streets of Brazil is a good school for many. Very nice and inspirational work and your poem is 'cool' too. Peace.


FlourishAnyway profile image

FlourishAnyway 5 months ago from USA

Enlightening! He does just what art should strive to do -- motivate people to think, inspire change.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 5 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

Yes, manatita, I am sure Brazilian streets are a great learning ground in more ways than one. Thank you for the kind comment.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 5 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

Exactly what art should do, Flourish. Thanks for reading.


Vellur profile image

Vellur 5 months ago from Dubai

Alexander Orion, definitely a great artist. Interesting, great poem.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 5 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

Yes he is Vellur. Glad you enjoyed this hub.


Mel Carriere profile image

Mel Carriere 5 months ago from San Diego California

Lovely poem. I vote saint. At least some aesthetic benefit to humanity comes out of the soot and grime.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 5 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

Thanks, Mel. The authorities should be nothing but pleased. Your comments are always most welcome.


Genna East profile image

Genna East 5 months ago from Massachusetts, USA

I hadn't heard about reverse graffiti before, John, or this unique artist. I liked the poem, as it reflects what and how I feel about his powerful art. Well done. :-)


Shyron E Shenko profile image

Shyron E Shenko 5 months ago

John, I hope they never clean away

The Skull and Bones

And just leave Saint Orion alone.

*

*

I love this


Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 5 months ago from Shelton

I agree with shyron Jodah.. and the poem you wrote is a clever piece of graffiti, awesome my friend :)


pstraubie48 profile image

pstraubie48 5 months ago from sunny Florida

Thank you for this introduction to an artist I have not known before this time. He truly has a gift. The ability to 'see' as artists do is beyond my feeble little brain's comprehension...and the way he creates his work is amazing.

Angels are on the way, Jodah.

Shared ps


Jodah profile image

Jodah 5 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

Hi Genna, the concept of reverse graffiti certainly should be welcomed around the world. It is a way of, if not highlighting pollution and city areas that need cleaning, at least making them more attractive. Thanks for your comment.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 5 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

A nice little verse there, Shyron. Glad you liked this.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 5 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

Thanks Frank. Your comment is always greatly appreciated.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 5 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

ps, thank you for the great comment. Orion sure does have a special gift.


billybuc profile image

billybuc 5 months ago from Olympia, WA

Great read, John! I knew nothing about Alexandre....I found myself liking the artistic expression very much.


Larry Rankin profile image

Larry Rankin 5 months ago from Oklahoma

I was aware of graffiti as art, but I had no idea what was being done with filth:-)

Very interesting read.


Faith Reaper profile image

Faith Reaper 5 months ago from southern USA

Wow, John,

Fascinating read here! I've never heard of this reverse-graffiti, and find it so interesting, especially why Orion does what he does, and I hope he continues on. His art is amazing to me and should never be washed away. I love the photos of real people interacting with his art. Clever!

The only crime I see is the pollution and tar not being cleaned away to prevent people from breathing it in, so his art should remain as a reminder until something is done!

We have a long Fourth of July weekend here in the States.

Peace and blessings


Jodah profile image

Jodah 5 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

Thanks Bill, it's hard not to like Alexandre's form of artistic expression. I am glad I could bring him to your attention.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 5 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

Hi, Larry. Yes, reverse graffiti sure is interesting and a worthwhile form of art'


Jodah profile image

Jodah 5 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

Thanks for the great comment, Theresa. Yes, you are right, the only crime should be not cleaning the soot and grime away in the first place. Glad you enjoyed reading this. Have a great Fouth of July.


Seafarer Mama profile image

Seafarer Mama 5 months ago from New England

Great hub, Jodah. Enjoyed reading about Orion and your tribute poem. The video is the of the best illustrations!


Jodah profile image

Jodah 5 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

Hi Seafarer Mama, I am so glad you enjoyed learning about Orion, the video, and my poem. Thank you for the kind comment.


Jackie Lynnley profile image

Jackie Lynnley 5 months ago from The Beautiful South

My son (who isn't famous lol) does art like this so I know for a fact it is not evil and that Christians can do it. Art cannot be fully understood can it? Either appreciated or not and for all the time he put into this I so hate to see it washed away!

Loved the poem in his honor.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 5 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

Good for your son, Jackie. I am constantly amazed by the originality of artists and what they use as their mediums. This type of creativity needs to be encouraged. Thanks for reading.


DDE profile image

DDE 5 months ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

You beautifully presented a art and its great meaning.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 5 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

Thank you very much, Devika. Glad you liked this.


teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 5 months ago

He does have great talent! It is done with great detail and thought from the artist.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 4 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

Yes, he certainly does have amazing talent, Dianna. Thanks for reading.


Missy Smith profile image

Missy Smith 4 months ago from Florida

It's crazy that it even poses a question whether Orion is a sinner or saint for his artwork. We should all be inspired in some way. Everywhere we go; there should be an artistic inspiration in some form that gives us a different vision, especially, in nasty, grimy, tunnels and such. It brings positives and negatives to my mind. So, he is taking grime build-up and making exquisite skull art out of it. It blasts a message to wake up to pollution, but also shows a person's raw and unique talent. I mean, I think he is a saint. I think he is a messenger here, and he does it with his art. If we would all find a way to take our talent and use it for purpose, I think we would all appreciate one another more. :)


Surabhi Kaura profile image

Surabhi Kaura 4 months ago from Toronto, Canada

Jodah, an interesting piece. There are some by-laws that prohibit the use of graffiti, but then there is an artistic side to it, yes. I guess, we can have a special spot where the art of graffiti is valued. Amazing hub, and I am fascinated by the great works of the artist. Cool. Loved the poem at the end. Vivid!


Jodah profile image

Jodah 4 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

Thank you for finding the time to read this, Missy. I know how difficult things have been for you recently so I very much appreciate that. How Orion can be classed as anything but a wait escapes me. The only crime here is the authorities trying to stifle freedom of speech. He has great talent, and he is using it to point out injustices and just trying to wake people up to things that is wrong with the world. I applaud him.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 4 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

So good to receive your comment, Surabhi my dear. Some graffiti is vandalism it is true, and should be seen as a crime but Orion's work is different as it only uses the soot and grime of the city as it's medium and is used to point out the dirty state of the city. As an aspiring artist yourself I know you can appreciate Orion's work. I am glad you enjoyed my poem also. Love to you.


aviannovice profile image

aviannovice 4 months ago from Stillwater, OK

If we still had the thumbs up votes, I would give you one for this, and I did not often give them. Glad to see Orion wore a gas mask for his work, and I agree wholeheartedly with his work. We are destroying ourselves with all this pollution. If I ever get to Sao Paulo, I will look him up to congratulate him in person.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 4 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

Deb, thank you for the great comment. I appreciate the thought for the "thumbs up" and if you do ever visit São Paulo, congratulate Orion for me too.


bravewarrior profile image

bravewarrior 4 months ago from Central Florida

I've not heard of Orion before now. I love what he's doing. He's found the perfect way to speak out against what we're doing to our planet. I think his work is brilliant!


Jodah profile image

Jodah 4 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

Shauna,mai hadn't heard of him until recently either, but I applaud what he is doing and other artists like,him. Thanks for reading.

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