Like chewing gum on pavements or Metro seats, disfiguring graffiti on walls, doors, hoardings, notices, bridges, bus shelters and in underpasses, trains, tunnels and public places can be a curse but, in a suitable place, the more creative graphics of some urban artists, as opposed to talentless vandals, can often be quite stunning in adding colour and character to grey places or to those with special meaning.
Polonia Stadium, ul.Konwiktorska, Warsaw
Buenos Aires's Soho district is enlivened by wall-art that's totally in keeping with its Bohemian nature, as is Hamburg's St.Pauli district, whose drabness is transformed by a riot of colour; Berlin's can be particularly blunt in delivering civic protest or gripe while neighbouring the reconstructed Old Town, Warsaw New Town's local football stadium's perimeter wall hosts a powerful homage to its disastrous 1944 Uprising, which, sadly, as with so much of this type of art, won't survive urban pollution or the unstable nature of its 'canvases', where few are primed or sealed and on which one can hardly hang 'Do Not Touch' notices or hire minders to ward off unwanted attention with a stick. I can't resist translating the text on the stadium's gate (4th image marked *PW*), and you have to remember that with the incumbent SS waiting to raze the city and the Red Army across the Vistula waiting for that to happen, the uprising really had little to lose other than life and its honour, which it certainly did and ultimately wouldn't:
"We'll go into battle - For every one of your bricks - We'll give you our blood - Warsaw's children - We'll go into battle - When you give the order - We'll carry our anger to the enemy"
Chunks of the Berlin Wall, particularly valuable if with original graphics, have been successfully sectioned, framed and sold off - there's a large piece of the wall, perspex-clad, in our local village, 340 miles from its original foundations - but that's still a part of living history whereas others only depict it retrospectively. There's a box-full of medium format slides of the immediate post-fall Wall waiting to be dusted-off and scanned, just as soon as they can be located, in a chaotic, non-filing system from the days when one had to save for the next roll of film and rob for its developing costs. One day......
Palermo, Buenos Aires - Nov 2011
I don't take any credit for the images in the following 'Graffiti' gallery as they're the creation of often superior if unheralded graphic artists, which I've simply recorded in the hope that when their efforts have faded and are long gone, victim to bulldozers, developers, offended politicians, earthquakes, skateboard parks or something far worse, there'll still be a record somewhere, on paper if I have the time, or on a hard drive that someone might still be able to decode at some point in the future, of what they had to say or of the welcome colour or statement they lent to a bleak cityscape.
But I qualify all this: graffiti's fine, but only by consent.
Apologies to the many unknown artists (although for the Warsaw series I think it's safe to say it's the work of Jacek Wielebski, from distant Gdansk) for the cropping of their work, but that's forced by the limitations of equipment and display space: the whole offering is often important to interpretation, these offerings unfortunately limited mostly to the detail that would otherwise be lost in any all-encompassing, wide-angle view. So: sorry, but only to the real artists and not to casual sprayers.