Urban canvas

The suburban labyrinth of railways everywhere have always been canvas for graffiti. Especially the tunnels, with their spray-painted scribble quickly scratched before the train speeds through. Half scrawled words of political persuasion waking up early morning commuters and sending a message to the people. A risky endeavour, but worth it for those bent on expression. I guess every day we all find a way to express what we feel needs to be said. By the way we wear our hair, the colour of our shoes or the clothes we choose that make a statement or identify us in some way. Like it or not, we all find a way to wear our heart on our sleeve.

It makes sense really, because the first modern graffiti writer is said to be a Philadelphian high school student who started tagging city walls to get the attention of a girl. He wasn’t Italian, though that’s where the word graffiti comes from and it had all the trademarks of a bold and mischievous confession. The first forms of public graffiti date back to both the Greeks and the Romans who freely displayed declarations of love as well as popular slogans to gain social momentum, but it took until the 1980’s for these messages to be appreciated as street art.

Some of the most passionate expression today is splashed across industrial brick walls and alleyways and has become the signature of many cities. This freedom to create and spread colour, spirit and wit is one of the most liberating forms of expression and unites cities everywhere. Recently in Byron Bay, we came across walls of colourful street art, now the backdrop for selfies and streetside cafes. It’s like a burst of pop art giving brightness to otherwise dull laneways and bland moments. From Paris, Sydney and New York, street art tells the stories that artists everywhere want to express.

There are so many forms of urban beauty. Sometimes a drive through an ordinary street with the light and shade playing on the road creates interest. And yet when I land in Delhi, it’s the stacks of chaos, the carts of blushing pomegranates and everyday jumble that’s so dramatic. Really, I think art is everywhere. Here on the walls of an otherwise grey, symmetrical and gridlocked city, the enigma of an artist is expressed freely, giving travellers a reason to pause and smile.

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