There is something undeniably attractive about a rebel. Someone who takes the accepted rules of society and turns them on their head earns the (sometimes begrudging) admiration of the ordinary masses.
Say, for example, someone went into a public area—a place that’s well-to-do and respectable—and shared their rough-and-ready artwork in that very same area, it’s the kind of thing that would cause all those who witness it to sit up and take notice, and even appreciate it.
This is what many artists around the world have taken to doing. By taking their artwork to the streets, the world around them literally becomes their canvas. Art can be found anywhere, as long as you know where to look.
Who exactly should we be looking out for depositing their creative streams into the street? One figure is the artists known only as Banksy. This artist’s career came to the limelight with the release of his 2010 movie, Exit Through the Gift Shop, featuring a van loaded with stuffed animal toys. Other pieces maintain a distinctly subversive theme, including Blur, Crazy Beast 7” (2003), depicting a clown in a suit outside a formal-looking building, and DJ DM, Laugh Now (2008), focusing on a monkey wearing a sandwich board with the words, “Laugh now, but one day we’ll be in charge”. With these pieces, Banksy could be seen as laughing in the face of authority and the accepted rules of society- which is perhaps the whole point of street art in the first place.
A particularly brave street artist is Tavar Zawacki, who goes by the name Above. Based in Berlin, one of Above’s most notable pieces is can be found in Lisbon, Portugal, a piece titled Stealing from the Rich, and Giving to the Poor (2008). The piece was created on a wall between a homeless woman and a cash machine. As people queue up to use the machine and see the woman crouching helplessly a few feet away, they can also spot another figure stencilled into the wall. The figure wears a bank robber’s mask, aiming a gun at the machine users and passing some banknotes in the direction of the woman. Not only is this an inspired piece of artwork in the typically rebellious style of street art, but it also serves to comment on the divide that money can create between the people of Lisbon.
Another noteworthy street artist is the muralist Roa from Ghent, Belgium. The two most prominent themes in Roa’s work are animals and life versus death. The combination of these two themes results in the rather gruesome depiction of animals with their internal organs on display. The surroundings will have a lot to say about what sort of animal you might expect to find: perched on top of a window, you will find an owl, and along the wall of a dingy street you will find a rodent.
When someone harbours true artistic genius, they will be prepared to share that genius anywhere they can. Perhaps there is a lesson here for us all: don’t be shy about sharing your talents. If you want to let it loose on the streets, go for it.
—Luke Mayo, Correspondent (Art)