gordon.dewis.ca - Random musings from Gordon


Graffiti: Art or vandalism? (Or both?)

July 20, 2010 @ 10:00 By: gordon Category: General, Photography

I’m sure you’ve seen it. In fact, you probably see it almost every day, though you may not even register it most of the time.

I’m talking about graffiti.

Graffiti has been around for thousands of years, with some of it persisting to this day. Then, like today, there were discussions and debates as to whether it is art or vandalism.

On my trip to Greece a couple of years ago, I was exploring Nafplio when I came across this slogan spayed on the wall of a building.


But even the graffiti artists couldn’t agree, it seemed, because across the alley was this war of paint between those with stencils and those without:


A little closer to home, I’ve seen tags and more elaborate works of art sprayed on street furniture and other things in the urban environment. Most of it, particularly the tags, gets removed or painted over shortly after it appears.

Map picture

There have been studies that have shown that if you don’t remove a tag within 24 to 48 hours you’re much more likely to be re-visited by taggers.

One piece of graffiti that caught my eye years ago and has survived the anti-graffiti police, the elements and other graffiti artists, is a piece sprayed on a green utility box on Fisher Avenue near Shillington Avenue.


It’s a simple yet elegant piece done in shades of grey. To me it looks like a pair of seals, with one head on the long side of the utility box and the other around the corner of the box on the short side.

I’ve often wondered how long it took the artist to do this piece. Images of the artist covertly going in with a couple of cans of spray paint under cover of darkness and painting the seals with a minimum of passes of the spray cans springs to mind.

Other artists and taggers seem to respect this piece of work quite a bit. Though tags and graffiti have appeared on other bits of street imagefurniture in the area, no one has defaced the seals, though one tag appeared over the head of one of the seals that sort of makes it look like it’s wearing a crown when you see it from a distance.

Even the utility company doesn’t seem bothered by it because they’ve had ample opportunities over the years to repaint the box, yet they haven’t. (A tip o’ the hat to whichever utility owns the box!)

Do you have a favourite piece of graffiti somewhere?

4 Responses to “Graffiti: Art or vandalism? (Or both?)”

  1. Some graffiti is artistic, but most is just childish vandalism,

  2. Jania says:

    At one time there was an amazing piece at Ottawa Tech’s legal wall, of the killer clowns. It was fantastic..
    Also at Brewer Park under the bridge, which is home to the The House of Paint graffiti ‘art in the park’ show, always brings in great talent from across ontario/quebec. Worth checking out!

  3. There’s a tiny one on the McDonalds on Elgin Street, which is the Iwo Jima flagraising silhouette, except with the McD’s logo on top instead of a flag.

    I also quite like all the faces that started appearing around the Market a little over a year ago.

  4. gordon says:

    Thanks for the tips! I was looking for something to do on Saturday while breaking in a new pair of boots and checking these out might fit the bill.


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