Sat, Jun 13, 2009 - Page 13 News List

The city as a canvas: The street tricks of the graffiti artists 城市當畫布 塗鴉客街頭搞怪


“In many people’s minds, the relationship between tattoos and gangsters is the same as the relationship between graffiti and vandalism. This is unbearable to creative graffiti artists!” said graffiti artist Jimmy, as he pointed out the difficulties this stereotype poses to graffiti artists trying to gain social recognition.

Graffiti artists used to use Taipei’s Ximending as a base for their creativity, but over the past two years, the trend has been to move to the city’s East District. Their impromptu creations can be seen everywhere from the walls of buildings and metal rolling shutters along the fourth and fifth sections of Zhongxiao E Rd to the fences of the Songshan Tobacco Factory and Taiwan Railways Administration’s Taipei Railway Workshop. The Taipei City Government has pledged to punish them heavily, but that has not stopped their ambition to express themselves.

Seven years ago, BOBO formed a graffiti group named 4CREW together with foreign graffiti artists. He is not even 30 years old and is already a master in this field in Taipei. “Every graffiti artist’s work and style are unique. The general public may not understand the elements in an artist’s work, like script, totems, and symbols, but we instantly know whose work it is when we see it.”

Apart from Ximending, the landmark of their creativity, the spread of graffiti artists is an attempt to gain recognition. This spread of their creativity has also added greater vitality to the cold concrete jungle.

“We are neither vandals nor anti-social,” according to BOBO, who claims that they would not touch clean and neat buildings or MRT stations. However, there are many abandoned apartments and dull riverbanks and power transformers. Such space without a soul “is where we paint freely.”

BOBO admits that most of the graffiti in Taipei has been left by graffiti artists wandering the world. “Many creators place their focus on action. They even pick highly-challenging locations so they can experience the original anti-establishment spirit of graffiti making.”

For professional graffiti artists, a 3m by 6m to 7m metal rolling shutter of a shop is a standard canvas. From abstract characters to brilliant totems, “the work can quickly be done in about an hour or two.” Some artists who prefer the technique of “bombing” love to climb up to a roof top to place their creations in high places beyond the general public’s reach. “Just like a guerrilla war, you spray paint in two colors in 10 or 20 minutes and then walk away. Since it is difficult to cover or clean such graffiti, you have a greater sense of achievement.”

In recent years, many stores around Ximending’s “movie street” have expressed their fondness for graffiti art, taking the initiative to pay graffiti artists to create freely on the walls of their stores. The creation in the stores and around the community has turned such graffiti art streets into urban artificial scenery. Since the area is now a walking district on holidays, it has become a popular scenic spot that attracts people who go there to take photos.(LIBERTY TIMES, TRANSLATED BY EDDY CHANG)



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