The Eye of the Fish

Maximus
October 1, 2008

Anyone fluent in Squiggle?

The Eye of the Fish can see many stories, read many texts, and understand many things: but one language that fish don’t speak is Wildstyle.

Graffiti – writing or drawings scribbled, scratched or sprayed illicitly on a wall or other surface in a public place.

While we hope to write more on the burgeoning graffiti art scene in Wellington (which can be argued as a good thing), and debate more on the subject of tagging (which seems to be more perceived as a bad thing), right now it is, to me, more of a curious thing.

dunno1.jpg

Curious because, some 30 years after it was popular in Europe and America, it now seems to be popular here. Curious because, the Civic Trust have just given a blogger of a small back alley an award for public art.

dunno2.jpg

Curious because, we have an elaborate history of living in a land with a tradition of figure marking, carving, painting: and yet we still copy overseas tired and passe formats in the style of our graffiti. Curious because, I can not figure out what on earth each of these 3 new graffito are saying. Do you know? If so, please feed the Fish… 

dunno3.jpg

Nathan
1 - 10 - 08

Second one is ‘Vent’ or ‘Vents’.

Third one is ‘Ikon’.

These are the names of the artists that did the wall pieces. (as pinched off http://www.streetarse.co.nz)

I’d rather one or two full murals like this, instead of pissy little marker squiggles everywhere. Much like what the walls at Waitangi Park aren’t meant to do.

M-D
1 - 10 - 08

I don’t think graffiti, if it is meant to communicate ‘literally’ at all, is meant for the likes of us – no matter how much the white middle-class art-world would like to try to authorise the ‘genre’…

…and let’s not go down the route of a distinctive kiwi ‘vernacular’ – culture is just another global free-market…

Nathan
1 - 10 - 08

edit: “Much like what the walls at Waitangi Park are meant to do.”

arthur
1 - 10 - 08

I don’t see how you get Vent or Ikon out of that.
I only see a CSNTDR and SILVERADO. Perhaps an obscure John Cleese reference?

The first one, obviously, is XLNKXLSAPRV. Clearly denoting the lack of Large sizes of clothing available at an annualised percentage rate.

Easy….

Robyn
1 - 10 - 08

Sometimes with these, I look at them and I can’t figure it out, then someone says, “Oh, it’s REAL” and suddenly the lines will all snap into place, forming a word.

The point with these, though, isn’t legibility. It’s almost like a secret code. The artist is writing their name up on the wall, in massive, blown-up letters, but only a select few will be able to read it.

And it’s not just about the word. It’s as much about the colour of paint, the other embellishments, etc.

But you’re right – graffiti is a very conservative art form. There is a style and people stick to it. There is variation, both within New Zealand and internationally, but so much of it as “writing your name in giant bubble letters”.

Not everyone is stuck on that style, though. Check out >this Auckland graffiti – done in housepaint applied with a brush.

rondo
1 - 10 - 08

Yawn: graffiti wild style, i’m so rad. Tedious and boring white male obsessive pseudo african-american faux decorative claptrap. Bring me a bucket fountain, i’m going to be sick. Why do we pander to this colourful yet morally anaemic daubs? Why not carve this into our buildings…

http://lh3.ggpht.com/_i4p4iNctDxs/R3RHP6jPmmI/AAAAAAAAEE0/CWn7e_pB4f4/maoricarving.jpg

http://www.trekearth.com/gallery/Oceania/New_Zealand/photo399205.htm

davidp
1 - 10 - 08

Those are in the Salvation Army carpark, about 100m from my place. I see them often, and wonder if they might have been “commissioned”? Like, the other wall of the carpark hasn’t been touched, and they did cover up a whole lot of shitty ugly tags.

Art and My Life
2 - 10 - 08

Here is a link to pics of some of those being painted (with names).

Art and My Life
2 - 10 - 08

Lets try that link again
<a href=”http://www.trekearth.com/gallery/Oceania/New_Zealand/photo399205.htm”http://wgtnwallstreet.blogspot.com/2008/10/lights-camera-action.html

Maximus
2 - 10 - 08

Ummm, where’s that link? I too am having trouble reading IKON into that…

Philip
2 - 10 - 08

I can see half an I, definitely and O and the bottom of an N. No sign of K.

I wouldnt say all NZ graffitti is passe, especially some of the murals around. I suspect that like typography, the differences between graffiti’s requires a lot of subtlety to read. Perhaps graffiti-type is just serif-ing taken to the extreme?

Robyn
2 - 10 - 08

Something else to consider: do you think the artist painted this with you in mind? Are you the intended audience? Is it supposed to make you feel included… or excluded?

E
2 - 10 - 08

It’s wonderful to see this debate outside the graf walls.
I laugh now but when I first started taking images of graffiti, I couldn’t read the wildstyle stuff and if it didn’t make sense to me, I wasn’t interested in it. How ignorant and unappreciative I was back then.
Like any other language, with a bit of exposure and a good translator or two, anyone can become fluent. And often, even if it can’t be deciphered, you can pick up who it’s from just by their style.
Ikon has many different styles which are documented extensively on the Wellington graf websites (just in case you’re interested). And Ikon and Vents weren’t commissioned to paint the pieces above but they did get permission. You’ll often find more big pieces like these behind the Opera House and there’s a doozey by the Mill bottle store.

It’s not widely known that an Auckland crew named TMD went to Germany in July this year to defend their title as the World’s best graf writers. And Deus, one of the writers in TMD, won best Tagger in the world. Not only did they win, but this year the comp changed the judging so, to make sure there was no favouritism, the competitors decided who were best. How must that have been for them – being voted the best in the world by their peers?

I’m not sure that I agree that NZ has a conservative style, you just need to check all the many graf sites to see the huge variety – but if, upon comparison to other countries, it was lacking, could it be because it’s so unsupported?

Robyn
2 - 10 - 08

Tedious and boring white male obsessive pseudo african-american faux decorative claptrap.

Except when it’s women or brown people doing it.

Are white males not allowed to participate in street art or be inspired by other cultures?

Could their rebellion against societal expectation be just what their art needs to flourish?

rondo
3 - 10 - 08

i know, i know, white males are allowed to be inspired by other cultures, and the poor little darlings are feeling culturally oppressed because the tangata whenua in this country have a far more graphically vibrant heritage etc etc: but the big throw-up wildstyle things were big in the 70s and 80s in other countries, and shouldn’t we be moving on by now? It is fascinating that there is even a world-wide competition being run – for a supposedly counter-culture activity (once, at least), that sounds like selling out to the man / the machine / the corporate marketing supremos. Was it sponsored by Coke? Or perhaps Dulux? Maybe even a more ‘street’ company like Globe shoes?

to me, the more interesting work being done right now is stenciling, with some very amusing social commentaries being sprayed up, as well as some highly skilled artistic works from the likes of a few certain players – Banksy obviously in the UK, and Mephisto Jones being the obvious poster boy in NZ – damn fine artist too – although I’ve heard that he’s flown the coop, and that’s a real shame.

But there is a certain parallel to NZ architecture copying the movements of overseas architecture, again, a few years later, due to time it takes to design, build, and publish works of architecture, despite the best efforts of the internet. But at least NZ architects (most of them also tedious and boring white male obsessives as well, i’m sure) aren’t copying American buildings from the 80s.

Robyn
3 - 10 - 08

Nicely said, Rondo.

I like how stencilling has come about due to technological changes – computers, Photoshop – mixed with the older tool of spraypaint. A similar thing’s happening with sticker art.

Both stencils and stickers let the artist prepare a lot of their work at home. It’s not the rushed throw-up; a more thought and design can go into it.

A friend of mine saw an infamous Auckland stenciller spraying up a stencil. A car pulled up, he quickly ran out, over to the wall, taped up the stencil, sprayed it, pulled the stencil down, and walked back to the car. It took a couple of minutes maximum. Try doing that with freestyle graffiti.

Nathan
5 - 10 - 08

You can do it even quicker with pasties Robyn. ;)

rondo
5 - 10 - 08

Pasties? I thought they were…. umm, tassle thingies for stripper’s nipples. Not sure how that helps your graffiti skills, but maybe that’s just me.

Anyway: great quote from Mephisto’s website: http://www.mephistojones.co.nz/stencil where he notes:

“I feel it must be said: the “photo scan, brightness/contrast tweak, cut and spray” stencil method (so frequently passed off as original) is often generic and artless. Computers and monkeys can do that shit : artists should at least know how to draw. More creating – less replicating!”

Nathan
6 - 10 - 08

Pasties = paste-ups = a design printed or a stencil sprayed on paper, cut out and then pasted up on a wall. Quicker, if a bit messier. =)

Mr. Popo
30 - 01 - 09

Mephisto definitely has a point. but it also takes vision alongside creativity. computers are just tools, like paintbrushes, spraypaints etch. anyway, Found a nice little interview onmephisto jones at an art blog. link here to the interview: http://www.sweet-station.com/blog/?p=1496

awanny
21 - 04 - 09

????????? ????? ?????, ? ?? ???????? ?? ?? ???????

Honeywood
21 - 04 - 09

Translation:
The distinguished author of the blog, but you do not accidentally from Moscow?
Apparently…

Maximus
21 - 04 - 09

Damn spammers. Blogosphere is full of them. Try not to encourage them !

Maximus
21 - 04 - 09

There’s quite a few Russian ones, and I got the first Arabic one the other day, but some seem to be getting through the spam filter lately. Die, spam-scum, Die!!

emuche
15 - 05 - 09

? ? ??? ???? ?????? ? ??????… ???? ?? ?????????? )

Robyn
4 - 01 - 10

Sometimes with these, I look at them and I can't figure it out, then someone says, “Oh, it's REAL” and suddenly the lines will all snap into place, forming a word.

The point with these, though, isn't legibility. It's almost like a secret code. The artist is writing their name up on the wall, in massive, blown-up letters, but only a select few will be able to read it.

And it's not just about the word. It's as much about the colour of paint, the other embellishments, etc.

But you're right – graffiti is a very conservative art form. There is a style and people stick to it. There is variation, both within New Zealand and internationally, but so much of it as “writing your name in giant bubble letters”.

Not everyone is stuck on that style, though. Check out >this Auckland graffiti – done in housepaint applied with a brush.