Introduction their canvas instead of an ordinary blank


People have their own different interpretations of the word “Art”. More
interpretations most likely cause increasing disagreements. Art is a way of
expressing your creative ability and imagination commonly through emotions by
showing the audience rather than telling them. Art is also a universal language
that is used through many platforms and one that is globally understood
(citation). However, people will interpret the meaning of art differently to
the way others do. The same applies to “graffiti”, there are many ways you
could describe or define “graffiti” however, one person will have a different
perspective on it from another.

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The question “To
what extent can graffiti be considered a form of art?” will not only explore the
style of graffiti however it will also explore the term “Street Art” as both
are interrelated. Since the two terms are similar and interchangeable they are constantly
mistaken and confused for one another (Zavokos, 2016). Studying Art people learn
how, to be inspired by their surroundings, to appreciate other artist’s work
and to understand the messages behind the artwork, whether it would be social,
historical or in a cultural context. Therefore each work of art whether it is
graffiti or street art, usually has a meaningful message behind it.

This topic is worth exploring because graffiti and street art is a
subject that should be more socially appreciated. Unlike other art movements,
it is not discussed in the same way as they are different to other types of
artists because they use private and public properties such as walls and trains
as their canvas instead of an ordinary blank canvas, it breaks away from the purpose of galleries and museums as they use a different
mean to display their artwork. Comparing it to other art movements, graffiti is
considered one of the quickest growing art movements in the 20th


People tend to ask each other the same question when it
comes to talking about graffiti; is graffiti the same as street art? And the
answer is no, however, without the existence of graffiti, the style of street
art would never exist.

When we think of the word graffiti, society often associate
it with negative things such as violence and youth gangs but what makes people
think of graffiti in a certain way? Some cultures for example in Beijing, have
already accepted graffiti in their society. Graffiti’s main purpose is mainly
communicating with other gangs through displaying their work in public which
the messages behind each graffiti may involve socio-political issues or “a cry
for revolution”. (DeNotto, 2014) The main difference between graffiti and
street art would be that graffiti involves tagging and it is a text-based form
of communication. The way they communicate with one another is very interesting
because most people cannot read most graffiti; they have their own “internal
language” (Lewisohn, 2008), a secret language in their community.

The word graffiti, originally known as an Italian term
“graffare”, means to scratch on a surface (DeNotto, 2014). Graffiti originated
in NYC, America. Teenagers in the States during the 1970s and early 1980s
started from just only using basic tags out of boredom. Graffiti writing had
moved from the walls onto the outside of trains where they do simple small tags
while the trains are dropping off the passengers (Thorne, 2014). Later on, the
number of graffiti increased and so did the competition among the artists. It
became really threatening and very competitive when artists started to jump
down onto the train lines to tag trains that were parked there. In spite of
losing their lives, people kept on doing it, as it allowed them more time in
the process of doing their work. As a result, they were able to create a bigger
and more detailed work using creative typography; old-style, curvy, bubbly,
wild style font (Zavakos, 2016). In result, people of NYC are now able to
notice their tags more than before. However, the competition did not stop
there, they were willing to risk their lives just to be known for having the
best tag in the city. Not long until they found a way to break into where the
trains were parked overnight. As a result, the tags now have unique complex
typographic forms of lettering and those are the graffiti’s that we see around
our cities today.

The most frequently used form of graffiti is known as
“tagging”; “A stylised signature, normally done in one colour. The simplest and
most prevalent type of graffiti, a tag is often done in a colour that contrasts
sharply with its background” (Thorne, 2016) in the simplest term, it is a
“graffiti artist’s signature” (DeNotto, 2014) It is also a way for claiming
territory. Society finds it rather difficult to accept this type of graffiti
since it is usually done in one boring colour however that was how graffiti
started. Despite tagging being nearly everywhere around the world, society
still think that it is unattractive and does not deserve to be seen on the
streets. The artists would put their tag names everywhere they go, to advertise
themselves, to be known for something either through their unique techniques or
through “mass coverage” (Lewisohn, 2008). Other gangs could look down on
graffiti writers if they make a mistake in their tags. For example, if basic
tags were not finished in a certain way, their work would immediately be
labeled as amateur.

Society has to be open to accept that tagging is the “core
of graffiti” (Weisberg) and that it is not the same exact style. There are many
different styles of graffiti and tagging just falls into one of the styles that
are less of a form of art then other styles. It is a text-based form of
expression and communication but it is not conveying any positive prospects to
the public’s eyes as why it should be completely considered as art.

Street Art

Street art can also be known as urban art, guerrilla art,
post-graffiti, net-graffiti or a sub-genre of graffiti (Street Art, 2016).
Street art is also sometimes seen as an illegal and rebellious act against the
art world. However, in reality, comparing it to graffiti, street art is not
perceived as violent and is not seen as a crime to obliterate private
properties. Graffiti is mainly about interacting with gang’s however street
artists’ care more about interacting with the people viewing their work on the
street more than communicating with other street artists. They want the public
not to only acknowledge their work but to also understand the message behind
their work and have a response to it. “They do not have any of that hidden
code; there are no hidden messages; you either connect with it or you do not
(Thorne, 2014) Their main focus is portraying visual symbolic images to get
their message across instead of using tags as their main focus. However, their
work may have their tag name or their signature on their work but it is usually
not the main focus of the work. G. James Daichendt explains that; “street art
is less concerned with letters but emphasises the visual image, contextual use
of space, and uses a wider range of materials that extend beyond the spray can”
(Zavakos, 2016)

Street artists are generally people that have an art
education or a proper art training. Therefore all the colours and images are
all carefully planned out with a sketch before applying it on the street. The
artists then have to choose an appropriate surface where they decide to place
their work then do an outline of their work on the wall. Furthermore, if the
street artists decide to do another style that uses stencils, they would have
to draw a rough outline on a piece of a film then cut it out. It takes more
effort and time to complete one; however, graffiti needs to be done very
rapidly. Moreover, “street art is often reflective of the place where it is
installed” (DeNotto, 2014) Therefore different cultures will have a different
style of street art and in my opinion, that’s the beauty of it.

Several street artists start their work on the streets with
graffiti before shifting their interests to exploit street art. This attitude
relates to the public conception on the two terms, since graffiti is not
accepted as much in society, therefore graffiti sprayers are afraid of being
arrested and live in constant fear of it. They also feel restricted with the
style of graffiti, as there is not much to explore other than the form of
typography (lewisohn, 2008).

There are now various selections of the best quality paints around the world,
in spite of having that, some artists still only prefer using spray paint. As
an artist, you can use almost anything that exists in this world to create art.
There are several styles in street art: graffiti, stencils, wheat pasting,
stickers, rollers, video projection, street installations, screen-printing,
yarn bombing, sculptures and lock-on – this shows how the worlds of graffiti
and street art are evolving and reinventing themselves. Street art is another
form of creative expression but instead of focusing only on typography, it
focus on visual expression instead of text-based expression. Therefore the
public will however most likely to consider this type of expression as art more
than graffiti or tagging. Because of the use of colours, shapes and forms; the
public will recognize this as more a form of art even though it is still against
the law.

Issues encountered


Survey on tagging,
graffiti and street art

The survey conducted aimed to provide an insight to the
public’s view on the controversial art forms that this paper researches. This
survey used is a combination of an online and face-to-face questionnaire. Convenience
sampling was the method that was applied, which is a non-probability sampling
technique that is used to select participants relative to the proximity of the
researcher. The reason for this technique being, it is easily operated, it is
the most cost efficient technique and because of the limited time-frame that
was available for this research. A total of 200 people responded, 150 of them
online and 50 face-to-face.

the scientific disadvantages overweigh the practical
advantages (Bornstein, 2013).

The respondents were asked two questions about each of the
art forms which include tagging, graffiti and street art after being shown an
example of each form. The questionnaire asks whether the respondent considers
each style a form of art and whether it should be performed on public property.
Respondents had to answer each question choosing one option out of five on the
Likert scale. This measuring system is effective when used to figure out precisely
how much an individual agrees or disagrees with a specific statement. Which is
functional for my research as it provides more specific and accurate information
on the public’s opinion on this topic.

Furthermore, qualitative data would not be of better use as it is difficult to
analyse and requires much more time and research which is not as convenient. As
the scale of this survey only covers a minuscule fragment of the world’s
population it has to be significantly generalized which in turn decreases its
reliability. Along with the scale of the survey in terms of respondents,
another factor that reduces the reliability is the number of questions. This
survey consisted of a total of six questions that are similar to each other, if
the survey covered more information by presenting more questions the
reliability would slightly increase. Practicality is one of the main advantages
that the convenience sampling method holds over other sampling methods.
Implementing this method takes far less effort, cost less time and is the least
expensive (Bornstein, 2013). However, a major problem with the method is its
lack of generalizability which means the findings can only be applied to the
sampled group. This limitation contributes further to the reliability of the
survey. Many other factors also contribute to the reliability but only the main
aspects will be discussed. Therefore, these influences have to be taken into
account when analyzing the results of the survey.


















The majority of respondents considered tagging to not be a
form of art and also found it should not appear on public property such as
walls. Most people globally, think of tagging as a sort of vandalism rather
than an art. Tagging is stereotypically associated with crime and therefore a
negative connotation of the style immediately forms. Along with assumptions
tagging also does not consist of many elements and requires less skill than
other art forms. However, the survey displayed an unexpected result with a
total of 43% considering this as an art form. This value was expected to be
significantly lower. However, what this could imply is society’s growing
acceptation of tagging as well as graffiti (Schofield, 2016). Moreover, it
could also suggest that society is starting to realize the value of tagging and
its intended meanings. People are quick to assume and judge and this may be a
reason why tagging is not yet completely accepted by society. While many
consider it vandalism, the artists view it as freedom of expression.

Figure 2 shows a similar result with 36% compared to 37% from
figure 1, strongly disagreeing with the statement about tagging being performed
on public property. Again, the results were not as anticipated suggesting that
tagging is becoming more accepted in society nowadays. The gap in the number of
responses disagreeing and strongly disagreeing with the statement provides more
depth into the opinions of the public. The majority chose disagree rather than
strongly disagree. The gap may suggest that people are still skeptical about
tagging and its appearance on objects such as walls and telephone booths. However,
the results display a lower amount of negativity because if respondents felt so
strongly against tagging most would respond with “strongly disagree” and a
larger percentage in total would disagree. The similarities in results add
reliability to the survey as there is little difference between the two
questions decreasing the probability of anomalies in the research. Anomalies are
results that differentiate from the regular which may impact the overall
average of the findings.











Graffiti is seen as more accepted by society than tagging
and one of the reasons for this may be its visual aesthetic combined with the
colours utilized in the work (Neelon, 2003). The results for the responses on
graffiti conclude that 89% consider graffiti an art form and 76% reckon it
should be performed on public property. The fact that only 11% out of 200
respondents don’t consider graffiti an art form is not as surprising because of
the apparent skill and technique required to complete the work.  


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