Is graffiti art?
On Tuesday, I cycled past the graffiti on Newmarket Road. What I didn't know was that it was the very day of the anniversary of the Blight Society's Sub-Urban 'Secret Jam' on Newmarket Road in 2010 (18 Sept).
A black-and-white girl reaches towards a red apple on a branch. A black-and-white snake hangs from the same branch. The background is uniform purple. Two black puddle-shadows are cast by the girl's feet.
An odd thing happens near the girl's hand: the medium shifts from commercial spray paint to collage. The 'beware of everything' sticker is part of the work and is the name of the artist's website. The yellow sticker sits on top of a standard 'Fire escape' sticker, and there is also the torn fragment of a third sticker that says 'racism'.
We don't see the girl's face. The purple ground reinforces the sense of mystery. It creates a space without space, a bit like the gold grounds in Byzantine church mosaics. The apple and snake have biblical connotations. 'Beware'... of temptation? of the tree of knowledge?
I like the little girl's feet, socks in sandals, and their tiptoe stance.
Paint, panel, pigment spilling over onto the frame, bricks and weeds: that's the context of this graffiti.
These two graffiti make use of the stencil technique, made popular by the famous graffitist Banksy.
Another work by the same artist. Note his signature: d.b. How is d.b. linked to bewareofeverything.com? Graffiti artists are secretive. They wear hoodies so that we can't identify their faces. They have names like d.b., or Pahnl, or Shlomo Faber.
This one's by Martin Squires. Graffiti art is not anonymous art. Nearly every panel has a distinctive signature. The letters draw attention to their status as pictorial icons: the M twined inside the S. '20 10': the date? More works on Martin Squires's website.
This is not stencilled. More works by Leeks at Leeks' photostream.
This is a big work, not painted on a smooth panel but directly onto the bricks. The pattern of the brickwork shines through the pigment. Close-up, runnels of light and shade provide texture.
Graffiti in context: traffic and street signs. I had to be careful not to step onto the street when taking photos.
The work below is by Irony. As I snapped this photo, a man yelled out from a passing car, "Sexy!" Did he mean me? or the painted woman? If you stand in front of graffiti, studying it as if it were art, you are likely to get treated as an anomaly. Nobody would yell at you in a gallery. And probably not if you were just walking along the pavement past these paintings, talking on your mobile phone.
Keith Haring-like whimsy in the flying cats below, and an interesting transparency effect, as if sheets of cling wrap had been stretched across the panel.
Close-up splotches contrast with the black-and-yellow feline silhouettes. Other works by Pahnl are on Pahnl's page.
A leonine water spout by Dell. Contrast of monochrome photo-realistic head and fiery abstract expressionist spout. Both are incongruous on this street: drive-by art?
Another artfully iconic signature.
One of Cambridge's ugliest roads is, oddly, a great spot for graffiti art.
If anyone can identify the signatures I couldn't read, do let me know.
What and where:
Graffiti art by the Blight Society, wall of Eastern Gate Property Ltd, Newmarket Road, just off the Newmarket Rd / Elizabeth Way roundabout, Sept. 2010, featuring Kobrapaint.
A video of the 'secret jam' is on vimeo.
Kayleigh Doughty, one of the artists, also contributed to Luke Jerram's piano installation.
Read related posts on Cambridge street art:
Yarn-bombed lamp posts on Jesus Green
Murals under a round-about
Read my follow-up post:
Whatever happened to the Newmarket Road graffiti?