Graffiti – Art or vandalism?

Growing up in Cardiff over the last 30 years I have seen many changes in the City but none have been more prevalent than the huge increase in graffiti – especially over the last couple of years.

I will use the term graffiti with the official definition of that being the name for images or lettering scratched, scrawled, painted or marked in any manner on property. Graffiti is any type of public markings that may appear in the forms of simple written words to elaborate wall paintings.

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On most of Cardiff’s backlanes you would find the odd splattering of rude words, abuse and general scribblings. But currently graffiti has become everso prevalent making its way into neighbourhoods and onto the high street – becoming more of a nuisance and an eyesore than ever!

My first experience of graffiti locally was generally the sprawling of some abuse to local people, groups or organisations. It would appear on garage doors and the odd wall. But as the graffiti artists got more confident it would start appearing over street furniture like telecom boxes, telephone boxes, bins or any item deemed to be impersonal.
Here are some current examples just near The Cardiff City Stadium. They are an insight into our youth but still show some humour and what really happens down that alleyway!
(Click on any image to reveal what I captured! Not suitable for under 18s)
Teenage text in LeckwithTeenage text in LeckwithTeenage text in Leckwith

Most people are now aware of the really colourful street-art that is prevalent in large cities like New York where it just isnt deemed graffiti but more as an expression of art form. These can be amazing pieces of art, rich in colour and design. In Cardiff this type of graffiti can be seen in various parts of the city including near The Yellow Kangaroo pub in Roath, NorthCote Lanes in Cathays, and two official walls in Grangetown Park and Hailey Park.
Graffiti in Roath-Different Strokes
Below is a Google Map detailing some of these official and not so official locations around Cardiff. (Im gonna try and work out how to embed Flickr photos on the map aswell!)

Cardiff Graffiti Characters No1

Syks graffiti in Canton.(Generalising here) Most graffiti artists seem to abide by these rules and only use official areas and respect the city that they live in -where the works that they produce can really brighten up and add to the cultural experience of a city.

Whereas other graffiti ‘artists’ just seem to go around the city and randomly plaster their ‘tag’ over any surface they want. Last month one of these offenders was located (by some blood left at the scene) and prosecuted for leaving his Syks, syx10 tag throughout many parts of the city.

Wales Online reported on the 3 year ASBO that this abuser has now received. The tag was left on walls, businesses and vehicles and due to the pure intensity of the tagging was totally unecessary and an abuse on our city. The tagger claimed that it was a ‘victimless crime’ but surely the cost of clearing up all this graffiti, wasted man-hours and the negative impact on the environment and tourism etc can run up bills topping ten of thousands of pounds.
The odd tag down a back lane somewhere can (just about) be excused and a blind eye turned to but when it’s down a local high street in full view for the public and visitors to see just isnt right and these offenders should be prosecuted. This ‘Syks’ tag can be seen throughout Whitchurch, Gabalfa, Canton and beyond and i’m really glad that they have named and shamed the person responsible.

Personally I don’t see the point in tagging, especially tagging in such a density – and with such a lack lustre and unimaginative tag!
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Someone who has previously tagged parts of the city was someone using the tag ‘DUEL’
This was a bit more discrete and creative but not a total full-on abuse to the city. Backlanes, junction boxes and dis-used buildings were targetted with colourful tags and stencils. I found them all quite intriguing and began capturing them around Cardiff.
Duel Grafitti in Pontcanna Fields

It could be argued that i’m a bit hypocritical for having an opposing view on different taggers but graffiti is just like art – some people like and see something from different peoples ‘work’. In this instance i get nothing from someone aimlessly tagging a large proportion of the city with a tag compared to someone else being a bit more creative and brightening up some areas with varying tags.

Duel graffiti in RiversideDuel Grafitti in Cardiff

Duel graffiti in CantonDuel Grafitti in Cardiff
A lot of these ‘Duel’ tags have now been removed (due to The Ashes coming to Cardiff and PontCanton getting a swift make-over!), covered up or just faded away-but there was something quite special about unearthing another one.

Graffiti has now branched out further and isn’t just the use of aerosols for creating words and delightful pieces of artwork but also encompasses posters, stencils, stickers and tagging! Some examples from around Cardiff I have recently found:-

ExitKermit the Frog

So to sum up a City can cope with the creativity and gloriousness of proper full-on art-based graffiti in moderation. With more and more official walls springing up it really is generating a keen interest for the youth of today and could give us our very own answer to Bristol’s Banksey. The general public must also become more savvy to distinguish between what is deemed vandalism and what is the more creative side of graffiti. Both just cannot be bundled into the same bag any longer!
PS I do enjoy anything that is creative or contains a bit of humour………
CMK Graffiti in RoathGrafitti Face on Ely Bridge
Make Acid, Not Love graffiti.

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