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Living with graffiti

Graffiti is the tattoo of the city, highlighting its personality, marking its memories. Plus, it is extremely hard to get rid of.

Living in London, you just cannot ignore graffiti. It can be everywhere: buildings, walls, trains and even electricity boxes. It is growing like tenacious creepers in every possible spot and is expanding as fast as the wild imaginations of its young creators.

In London, the most famous and well-documented graffiti is the works of Banksy, whose name has become a symbol of street art. The Bristol-born artist put many political and social themes into his works, including anti-war, anti-fascism and anti-authoritarianism, which add a moral layer to the street art. Some of his work can still be found in some inconspicuous corners of the city.

The East End of London, in contrast with the luxurious West End, is the stronghold of subculture and street arts. Brick Lane, Hackney and Bethnal Green are decorated with random pieces of graffiti, stencils and stickers.

On a loafing Sunday afternoon, you can feel the pulse of the city in a different tempo, whilst walking through the busy weekend markets; having a taste of exotic snacks; and exploring the untraceable graffiti.

Changing faces

Graffiti is ever changing. Designs come and go each week, sometimes within days. New layers of painting cover old ones. Works by famous artists are sometimes removed and collected by their fans, almost immediately after they show up. The streets also look different due to the varying decorations of graffiti.

Much of this unconventional art, like most of the spray-painted images on city walls across the world, is explicitly illegal. But it is much more than mere criminal damage in many people’s eyes. For artists, it is an expression of individuality; for viewers, it offers an alternative way of art appreciation.

The east part of London has already become a hot spot for tourism. Organised graffiti tours are attracting tourists of different ages. Shops have used graffiti as adverts to attract customers.

Graffiti, like it or not, is going mainstream. But despite the intentions behind it, graffiti will continue to constantly change the city’s landscape and bring life to it.

 

Words and images by Asta Guo

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