Banksy: Is Graffiti Art?


What do you do over night, when its too hot to sleep? Well, if you’re me, you spend the night time thinking about Art obviously! Inspired by the Banksy exhibition and the question from Em’s mum, ‘What’s the difference between Art and Graffiti?’

Here’s my thoughts:

Firstly in order to determine if something is Art to start with, I’ve narrowed it down to 3 things, the first 2 being:

  • Intention (of the creator) and
  • Interpretation (of the viewer)

Notice I put ‘creator’ up there, and not ‘artist’? There’s a good reason for that…

These 2 elements satisfied me until about 1am, until I broke things down a little further and realised that someone can emote ideas visually as an urge of expression without any intention at all. In a nutshell, someone can be an Artist without realising it:

  • Art as a means of Expression

Here’s how I came up with this thought:

Take a pair of identical twins, sit them motionless in a room together. The first sits there because she is bored and has nothing better to do, the second sits there because she wants to see how long she can sit there. Both twins are performing the same action (or lack of it), but only one (the second) has Intention in her actions, only it isn’t obvious as it is internalised and no-one can see it apart from themselves. Sooo…

….now freeze the scene and add a third person into the room observing the twins. He can see them both and have no idea regarding each others intentions, or lack of them. He may Interpret the scene as questionable, creative, emotional or insightful etc. His Intrepretation determines what is infront of him.

Indeed he may choose to see them both as Artistic forms of Expression or not – just people sat in a room doing nothing.

So with that in mind, there’s probably a natural order to these elements that define Art – and until about 4 am I was quite content with this. However it took about 1min to glue them all together, wait for it to set, paint with acrylics and varnish, whilst I tidied up the idea.

Using the above thoughts, I’ll return back to the original question of:

What’s the difference between Art and Graffiti?

Obviously Graffiti is a form of Expression (you are presented with a form of indirect communication), Intention is present (unless it happened by accident??) and Interpretation is placed upon it (It’s beautiful: It’s a mess)

So by my theory, Graffiti is Art, as it has all the elements which make up ‘Art’. However, a piece of the puzzle is missing when refering to Graffiti, and that is: Acceptance.

Think of Acceptance as Interpretation on steriods. If Interpretation is the opinion of 1, 2, 10 or a million people, Acceptance is the categorisation of Interpretation within Society. If Society, (whoever that may be) decides that Graffiti isn’t socially acceptable, then this messes with our Interpretation of what Art is – it clouds our judgement. It looks like Art, smells like Art – but everyone says it’s a mess, so it’s a mess, right?

Wrong. Graffiti is a form of Expression with Intention open to Interpretation which equals: Art

Don’t let the Acceptance of Society en masse cloud your Interpretation.

Ta-daa, its 5:25am – time for bed again 🙂

(btw – any first year art student should have been able to tell me all this, and put me straight on my wrongs, however I didn’t go to Art School, haven’t read any books on the topic and haven’t discussed it with anyone – these are my thoughts solely: think of is as a disclaimer for idiocy)

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