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Graffiti: Artistic expressionism or vandalism?

GRAFFITI, derived from the Italian graffito — meaning unauthorised writing or drawing on a public surface or place — has a long history. From the earliest declarations of love and witty banter found in the Roman city of Pompeii in seventh-century BC, to the politically inclined statements that emerged in the United States in the 1960s, graffiti has evolved.

Though still barely tolerated by the authorities, graffiti is now part and parcel of life in urban areas. True graffiti artists consider their work a statement or art form that is a public means of expression. But not all urban dwellers share this view: many see graffiti as a menace, an act of vandalism, and a blot on the landscape that should be whitewashed away.

Some graffiti is undoubtedly pretty and innocuous, depicting scenes of Malaysian life and adding colour to drab walls — along Central Market and Sg Klang, for instance.

But now there is a growing band of politically inclined artists known as “bombers”, who have started to leave their mark in public places around Kuala Lumpur. Carrying the stylings of Asalkan Bukan Umno (ABU) and 18?, these mysterious artists leave their guerrilla-style messages to provoke and provide food for thought.

Whether it’s done for fun, as a practice of the freedom of expression, or to push a message, it may be timely for urbanites to broaden their minds and make way for these new wave of artists.

Two such artists are Shahrane Mat Zaini and Zulkifli Salleh, who collaborate under the name Super Sunday Crew. Says Shahrane: “Graffiti artists are supposed to be free. Our works are basically free exhibitions. There’s no provocation meant in what we do.”

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4 Responses to “Graffiti: Artistic expressionism or vandalism?”

  1. Alex Lam says:

    Some of it is really, really cool… perhaps the authorities should encourage selected graffiti-artists to legitimately add their signature pieces to certain walls. Of course the crappy designs have to go.

    I wonder how long it takes for them to develop an art piece and whether they need to return to the scene over and over again. Also, do they have lookouts to make sure they don’t get caught?

  2. Raine says:

    I think it’s fine if they are aesthetically/artistically pleasing and/or thought-provoking. Look what the old Berlin wall has become now. I think it’s cool and it generates freedom of creativity. Regular murals are boring these days. Graffiti rocks!

  3. chazz says:

    Graffitti is a form of art. It’s difficult using spray cans and getting the form and color right!
    That said, most graffiti artists usually have some form of code – abandoned buildings are open to graffiti art, or in some places, the city hall designates certain building walls for graffiti art. At least that keeps the graffiti to certain areas!
    There’s no need to fight against grafitti, there’s just working together with the artists to let them put their art in designated areas!

  4. mayra says:

    Wow. I love art and if I was able to do that out here it would be sweet.
    But yeah they are able to let everybody know about issues and the freedom it represents.
    Some of the pieces are jaw-dropping and I also wonder how they did it without getting caught.


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