Chinese Graffiti Artists Buck Tradition

Chinese Graffiti Artists Buck Tradition

It can be very easy to forget that graffiti is hardly an American invention. In fact. graffiti has been found adorning the inner chambers of the Great Pyramid, so, yeah, it’s been around for a long, long time.

I’d be willing to bet that for as long as we have been able to make a mark on something, and had the intelligence and civility to designate certain places as “Mark Free Surfaces”, some creative person has been marking them.

While American graffiti tends to run the gamut of free-form scrawl to mega-sized murals, Chinese graffiti artists form crews in Beijing who design portraits and pieces that are arguably unmatched in the West.

The Guardian has a great story on it: Great walls of China: Beijing’s burgeoning graffiti scene – in pictures

This pieces are truly amazing. Some address social issues, some are paid commercial works used to drive customers in the doors, and some are simply there to entertain.

But all of them are worth a look.

What Drives an Artist?

What Drives an Artist?

(What doesn’t?)

What Drives an Artist?

I saw a story last week about some dude in Austin who spray painted a pedestrian bridge with what is perhaps the most glorious, most well-done piece of urban art I have ever seen.

Despite the prominence of this bridge in the city of Austin, it took a, Austin NPR reporter four solid years of dogged perseverance to not only find the artist, but then to convince him to speak to her about it.

I encourage you to read her fabulous article “Who Has The Ninja Style And Kung Fu Grip To Spray-Paint Austin’s Most Visible Graffiti?” for yourself.

What struck me the most was what prompted him to create this glorious Masterpiece of concrete color. These few paragraphs told me everything I needed to know:

O’Donnell had never done graffiti before, but when he saw the bridge for the first time, he just knew.

“’I have to paint it.’ It was like I was drawn to it almost,” he says.

It was sitting there, waiting to be painted, a canvas for the whole world to see.

It reminded me of what George Mallory said when asked why he wanted to climb Mount Everest: “Because it’s there.”

I don’t know why such a simple answer would surprise me. Maybe because I have no natural artistic talent myself. I am so amazed by these creations I can’t help but imagine the stature of those who create them: surely they must be magical creatures; giants or fairies of lore.

But no, they are not. They’re people. With stories all their own, reasons all their own for doing what they do, but a talent they choose to share with the world for no reason other than because they can.

That’s pretty amazing, if you ask me.

Who the hell are we?

Who the hell is anyone these days, right?

We’re just a bunch of folks who admire the random art that colors our urban landscapes. We see it on billboards and buildings; trains and abandoned houses; in the projects and the suburbs; scratched into the park bench or the grout between the tile in the local gas station bathroom.

We capture this often colorful prose and use it to decorate our clothes. In this way we hope to carry their original message farther than its creator ever dreamed possible.

Words are power. Art is love. Design is everything.