It is everywhere. From the desk you sit at in lectures to the streets that you pass every day from getting from destination A to destination B. Graffiti can be seen as vandalism or it can be seen as art that goes beyond the regular canvas.
In Dublin alone, graffiti artists vary in style and range. Once you are aware of it, you will find it difficult to go a day without seeing a unique stencil or tag (a tag is the graffiti artist’s personal signature). The most commercial of Dublin’s street artists is Maser. He uses the line ‘Maser Loves You’ and spreads it across shop fronts on George’s Street, outside the Bernard Shaw pub on South Richmond Street and many other locations. The ongoing use of his name and style means instant recognition for his creation much like the infamous Grift who has tagged buildings, bridges,towers and anything that can be accessed at all across the county.
However, recognition is not what Dublin’s own Dr. Gone wants from his art. "I simply enjoy the act of painting. There is no way to explain the feeling when you paint the freshest piece or got the slickest spot. I don't care if people see it or tell me if it is good or a fresh spot. I like to know that they wish they had done it themselves". He pursues this art as a sport and stands his ground that his technique, as opposed to stenciling, is the truer form of stenciling. "Stenciling is a cop out. Every graffiti writer is furious that they have managed to cling onto what has taken over two decades of blood, tears, lives and jail time for a lot of us and to be accepted."
Lampsy takes a more light-hearted approach to his art. He uses his 'I Love Lamp' logo to brighten up people's days and to share the love of the lamp. His posters and stickers of lamps in every shape and form are found all across the city centre and are an ode to that line, yes that line, in Anchorman. Other Dublin stencilers include Asbestos. His 'Lost Series' of posters advertise missing items like cardboard boxes and slices of toast. The posters are rare gems to come across but even rarer are his dolls' heads. They can be all found on his website www.theartofasbestos.com
but to find them in the real world is a tougher quest.
It is clear that there are many talented artists working on the streets in Dublin but as it stands, there is no one particular outlet to exhibit it. When asked about the City Council’s attitude towards street art, Dr. Gone dismisses their attempts at making art accessible as a waste of money. "Dublin corporations have done very little to develop its truly talented artists. It has dumped money into black holes, instead of doing something about the ever increasing crime as a pastime. I've seen these projects drain tens of thousands of Euro and all you get is the kids drawing all over it and burning it. It's very frustrating."
For many, the line between art and vandalism is a thin one. Dr. Gone argues that vandalism is a question of ownership. Brian Kelly, an artist from the USA who studied Fine Arts in the Burren College of Art in Co.Clare, feels the same. "I enjoy vandalism. I think that is part of the thrill of painting the stencil. But I think it is my right to mark the objects around myself", he says. "Corporations have money, so it is okay that they do this. Individuals without money are not allowed to use the streets as communication when it is the neighborhood that we live in and not the corporation's."
Kelly displays his art on the streets as a way to promote his talent as a tattoo artist. The stencil of his face is found all over Ireland and is also found on the skin of his followers or his army. "The main aspect of the Brian Kelly Army is tattooing my face on people, which is sort of like graffiti on people. The stencil aspect of the project is to help make people aware of it, but also just to make them wonder what the hell this image is, and then maybe the person will spend time and energy researching. It may at least make people curious. But it is also about marking my territory."
Kelly is aware of his art and how trends can catch on. "It began as a joke to see if I could get people to get my face tattooed on them when I started tattooing. It became more popular after a few friends got it. To me the project is about making a myth, a sort of big brother figure."
There is a mythical aspect to graffiti artists as they mostly work at night and use to pseudonyms to avoid being caught red handed by the police. But in London, there is the now annual Cans Festival where hundreds of artists gather to transform a street into a place of explosive colours and images. Anybody can come see who these mystery people are and they can find their favourite artist's work without having to go on a graffiti goose chase. The festival recognises graffiti and stenciling as an art form rather than a criminal offence and artists from all over the world take part to display their work. Corkman Conor Harrington's mural was one of the main attractions there this year as well as Blek Le Rat, who has influenced almost an entire generation of stencilers.
Graffiti has become almost a fashionable thing now but there are very few outlets for beginners to display their work. It is a punishable crime for the majority of people who take part in street art even though it is still art, just in another medium. Not every graffiti artist can get the celebrity status as easy as Banksy did you know.