Street Art, Decorative Painting and Graffiti Around The World

It is not uncommon in cities around the world to see the over dramatic and unintelligible lettering and designs that decorate darkened back alleys and haunt abandoned buildings. However, a new type of art is on the rise that takes decorative painting and drawing on buildings to a whole new level. Stunning pieces are now found in cities around the world, displayed on buildings for the general public to see and admire. We’d like to discuss some of the finer points of street art, how it differs from graffiti, and how both of these art forms developed. Then we’ll take a look at some current street artists, and what it really means in today’s world.

What is the Difference?

While both have their place in the art world, there are differences between these two types of art. In part, the difference lies in the intended audience: while street art targets the general public, graffiti is usually intended as a message to a specific group. Graffiti itself is known to have several different types, such as graffiti writing, gang graffiti (used to mark turf and send messages to other gangs), or graffiti that includes statements, such as protests to political movements. The work of street artists has more the intention to evoke an emotional response in the viewer. Street art enables the public not only see, but to enjoy and interact with what they see. Rather than using tags, which is common in graffiti, street artists in general develop their art from more iconic imagery. Another difference between graffiti and street art is the legality. While graffiti is a mainly illegal venture, there are many cities around the world that proudly display the decorative painting of street artists, thus making something that is beautiful and enjoyable to all who view it. I have even personally seen communities that pay street artists to cover over illegal graffiti with their own work.

How Did Street Art and Graffiti Develop?

It is hard to put a date on the beginning of art in public places. Even in very ancient civilizations, the practice of writing or drawing on walls was common. Tagging, as is an essential part of graffiti, seems to be derived from the practice of scratching one’s name into a wall. Modern day tagging started to appear in the late 60’s, with apparent origins in NYC, and spread rapidly. The great boom of graffiti started in the 70’s and 80’s, fueled by the insane energy that was inherent to the punk and hip hop movements of those times. Street art has been a more recent emergence, becoming increasingly popular in the 21st century. This form of art has quickly evolved into something well known and popular among both the street art community and among the masses.

Who Are Today’s Street Artists?

The street artists of today are an inventive group with big personalities that show through in their art. A key piece of their different works all over the world is the messages that they try to convey to people all around the world. Some have attained great fame and are followed by thousands over the internet. Here are a few of today’s well-known street artists. From Switzerland we have the wonderful team of NEVERCREW. Their work is fanciful and they enjoy depicting whales in dreamy settings with bright colors. Vhils, from Portugal, has taken what may seem like a step back in the history of street art. His tools are what make him different, because instead of creating decorative paintings, this artist uses chisels and drills to carve his pieces into the walls of buildings. This creative and highly talented artist may be going back to the roots of his genre, but the results are incredibly modern and truly astounding. Of course, our discussion would not be complete without mentioning Bansky. Hailing from England, his absurdist concepts make for incredible art that usually holds behind it a very important message. People in different countries and in different parts of the world find his art in the streets of their cities and stop to look and wonder at its meaning. Usually including humorous tones in his work, Bansky always has an underlying ethical sub-text to his pieces.

How Can We Define Modern Street Art?

The definition of modern street art is something that is constantly growing and changing. It is impossible to pin it down and exactly define it. What we can say though, is that this type of art is becoming more and more popular, with pieces that originally appeared on city streets and walls turning into some of the most popular decorative paintings and contemporary pieces on the market. Street art is reaching the public with strong messages social messaging, or adding humorous points to your day. It is bringing a whole new meaning to contemporary art. This once illegal and somewhat frowned upon type of artistic expression is now becoming adopted into the contemporary art world, and although we may never see these pieces in a quiet and white-walled gallery, perhaps by their wild and urban nature they were never meant to be held there.