Vernacular/Graffiti Art for Galleries

Apart from the pleasure good graffiti can give to any person unblinkered by prejudice, they have a distinct resemblence to that of the practising calligrapher and typographer, since they are lettering-based.  The starting point for many of the 'Old School' graffiti artists lettering may have been 'Mickey Mouse characters or Comic-strip style, but the wild and often illegible forms which arise are much a product of their time, place and circumstance.

They are about lettering as image; whatever meaning they have for one particular viewer is in the way they are done, not 'what does it say'.

Commissioned works from graffiti writers allow them to take whatever time they need, not under pressure of being chased by authorities or by an angry tax payer. But for some artists this comfort is a turn-off and they claim to perform less well when not in their 'element' with an illegal act to keep the adrenalin flowing.

Outrageous as this may seem to some, they have much in common with the decorated initials of mediaeval manuscript like the Duke of Berry's Grandes Heures or the commissioned ChinaTown mural that shares a likeness to Pablo Picasso's Cubist works.

Duke of Berry's 'Book of Kells'
Duke of Berry's 'Book of Kells'
China Town 2004 Mural
China Town 2004 Mural
Graffiti Artist Stash 2004 Elms and Lesters Gallery London
Graffiti Artist Stash 2004 Elms and Lesters Gallery London
Canvas of my own, Oils & Aerosol
Canvas of my own, Oils & Aerosol

What I have not seen enough of is vernacular artwork exhibitions. I know the obvious example people would point out, such as Banksy's display in the Bristol museum. However, Banksy is not a traditional graffiti artist, he uses installation art and stencils rather than typography work.

A gallery which is closer to me called Butespace which is situated in Cardiff Bay displayed some canvas work with an urban style but was situated in one room on the 3rd floor obscured from the majority of viewers who would wander into ground floor at their leisure. The other levels were packed with traditional work such as landscape paintings and abstract photography.

I have heard of a 'weekend' at the Tate Modern in 2008 which 'encouraged young people to experiment with different forms of street art such as projection, drawing and sticker-layering'  However, I do view this as fleeting gimmick which re-inforces the stereotype that graffiti is a pass time by idle teenagers.

One exhibition I thoroughly enjoyed was at Elms and Lecesters painting rooms in London(see Although the gallery was rather small in comparision to well established venues, there was a wide variety of pieces from New York artists such as Stash and Futura.

Other work at this exhibiton included aerosol mixed with other mediums such as oils & acrylics, an installation piece called 'graffiti on the tube' with detailed writing on cardboard tubes and merchandise such as rugs by artist Stash.

I am a Graphic Design graduate with a diploma in Art & Design, and after being made aware of the different styles at this show I have integrated many techniques into my own work, typography & canvas.

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Comments 5 comments

lyricsingray 6 years ago

Very cool my friend , love the artwork too - my brother does it - amazing stuff, Thanks, Kimberly

myownworld profile image

myownworld 6 years ago from uk

Great hub...and I just fell for that canvas (with the woman's face). is that yours? You really are talented, I must say. Hope to see more of your work here! keep posting...

kingbyname profile image

kingbyname 6 years ago from south devon, uk

I really like the comparison you make between modern graffiti art and medieval manuscripts. I look forward to reading more of your opinions about art and seeing your own artwork.

sierra8 6 years ago

Good job on the canvas.. I need to find my sketch book and some paintings to scan and publish on here too. :) I love art! :D

bonny2010 profile image

bonny2010 6 years ago from outback queensland

finally I found it - great artwork and love the script - I don't do this type of work but I have always admired the flow of of certain works I have seen on walls and railway vans - to me they promote everything but vandalism as many people with 'square toes' think. (got a poem about people with square toes - must find it'

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