The most intriguing piece of graffiti I have ever seen, stencilled in foot-high emerald letters at knee-level in a pedestrian subway near Leeds city centre, England. I expected a series of similar graffiti to appear elsewhere, and spent some time thinking of variations which I would daub on the sides of various buildings:
None of these ever came to pass, mostly because I felt I could never do justice to the original artist without purchasing foot-high stencils and spray paint cans, which would have necessitated a larger commitment to the entire art of graffiti than I was prepared to make at the time, being more inclined to etch witty put-downs with my house keys next to puerile toilet-door jokes.
Random urban art like this is one of the compensations for living in cities, which are otherwise an almost constant imposition on one's peace of mind. The effect of 'found art' or really thought-provoking graffiti is twofold, almost self-contradictory:
- It stimulates your thought and creativity, and gives you a window into your own personal world that is untouchable by traffic or work or noise.
- It reminds you that you are not alone - that this urban space you inhabit is not just populated by robots with whom you cannot speak, but living, creative individuals with inner lives of their own. This public space belongs to you, and them, and cannot ever be fully taken away from you by advertising and construction and delineation.
In Dublin, some unknown artist drew small stick figure girls all over the city centre, some with question marks over their heads, all of them performing some action, such as emerging from a skip, or climbing a stairs, or looking up to the top of the government buildings. The artist looked for and received no reward for doing this, and placed no signature beside the girls. Urban art is exactly like this - no recognition is necessary, because your audience is a collective of which you are already a living, experiencing part. The gift is as much for you as for them.