Tagging is everywhere. There is not one city, town, village, underpass or toilet that doesn’t have at least one of these ‘urban autographs’ .

In fact, I am more surprised to see a wall that doesn’t have a tag of some sort.

Now, a graffiti and/or street art fan is far more likely to appreciate or at least understand why people tag and how the history behind it has led us to past and present-day throw-ups, burners and various other types of graffiti.

 

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But to the average person, taggers have a bad reputation.

In fact, just this week someone declared to me matter-of-factly that, “Everyone hates taggers“. But why?

Well, firstly, people argue that graffiti is ‘mindless vandalism‘. Most people don’t seem to mind authorised street art, however, tagging and ‘illegal graffiti’ is considered unwelcome and unsightly.

People especially hate it when it damages buildings, is done on private property, or in public places.

Secondly, a lot of people think it makes neighbourhoods look rundown, crime-ridden, and unsafe, blaming tagging on ‘youths’ or gangs from poor backgrounds, intent on causing as much damage as possible. They believe that in turn, this attracts more crime.

 

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Now, there are always two sides to every argument (and sometimes there is a total grey area). I can understand why people hate it; however, as a graffiti fan and sporadic tagger myself I can understand the appeal and the fun that comes along with it.

 

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However, I want to offer a few examples of where tagging has been used to create something beautiful.

Why?

Because I know it’s not always possible to change people’s opinions of graffiti or tagging, but it is possible to show them something that challenges the preconceived image they have, and makes them a little more open-minded to it.  🙂


#1. Organised Tagging Becomes Art

Vibrant, contrasting colours with a multitude of different names from all over the world, taking over an entire wall on such a huge scale that you can’t help but look at it in amazement.

The public love it, regularly taking photos and selfies with it.

Question: what is about thousands of tags in one place that’s so much more beautiful than one tag? Is it the placement of them? How they are organised into one piece? The colours?

Another question: why do people love this wall but still can’t appreciate tags?

It seems each tag in this piece contributes to the overall beauty of the work, but yet it is not possible for the public to appreciate the beauty of a singular tag in a public place. Would people like tags more if they were done for a reason, in a designated area for the purpose of art?

Or would that just defeat the object of tagging, and graffiti?

 

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Wall by Barry McGee / photo by carnagenyc


#2. Unintentional Collaboration  

The contrast between the different colours almost makes this look like abstract art. It’s almost like an unintentional collaborative art piece; hundreds of graffiti artists coming together to create an unexpected art piece in a rundown location.

If you took the colours and the textures and applied them to a canvas, you could sell it as art. Yet people will look at this and see vandalism. What’s the difference?

 

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#3. Beautiful Mundanity

Just like #1’s wall by Barry McGee, it seems organised tagging looks and appeals far more than sporadic tagging. The colours and neatness of the tags as they interlink with each other makes this bin actually look really artistic.

Again, it could be argued that taking these tags, with all their colours and arrangement and applying them to a canvas would create an art piece people would happily pay for. But because it’s on a bin, it’s not art (?). I admire the ability to make any mundane object look beautiful.

 

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#4. Beautiful Punition 

Punition graffiti is basically a form of graffiti where a word is repeated over and over, normally until a whole surface is covered. It’s my favourite form of graffiti as it results in work like this:

 

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To me, this is art. Whether illegal or not, it still looks incredible.

Many would agree. But what makes this piece so much more likely to be viewed as ‘impressive graffiti’ than sporadic tagging?

Of course, firstly there is beauty to be found in making a mundane object (the lorry) look more interesting. The tag saturates the object, manipulating colour and texture to create something that looks particularly impressive and creative.

But if a tag saturates an urban space such as a town or city, it isn’t deemed as creative or beautiful.

Why? Do tags have to be placed this close to each other to become ‘beautiful’ and interesting? Does the distance between a repeated tag affect how artistic it is deemed?

Again, do tags have to be ‘organised’ with colour, size and texture for artistic effect in order for someone to appreciate them?


#5. Colour & Texture  

It’s a classic image that’s been shared thousands of times. And sure, this photo has been edited to make it the train pop more, and the background more grey and dismal against the colourful tags. But it looks amazing!

And although many would just see vandalism, it’s clearly so much more than that. Another accidental collaborative art piece by thousands of graffiti artists.

 

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#6. Displays of Individuality

On the surface, just a load of tags on a doorway. But look at how many different typefaces there are…

This is the effort of a multitude of different taggers, all with their own individual flair and unique way of writing. I’m sure it could be argued that some of these tags don’t look like the work of a seasoned tagger but still, all of these people felt the urge to write their name on this door.

It appears displaying your name in a public space is an innate urge!

 

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#7. Unlikely Contexts

Artist- Hush

Work by Hush

 

Hush says, “I look to take something like tagging that is generally seen as aggressive, ugly and masculine out of context and present it to the viewer as something beautiful“.

Whether a fan of his work or not, it’s still interesting to see how he incorporates tagging into contemporary art in order to challenge the viewer. In this piece the tags add to the abstract feel of the piece, the perfect addition to a beautiful and graceful image of a geisha.


#8. Diversifying Connotations of Graffiti

A lot of graffiti fans would argue against the commercialism of graffiti, however, as a general observation, this dress has an incredibly artistic flair.

Taking tagging out of it’s urban context and putting it into fashion is an interesting step as it makes the tags less ‘threatening’ and more appealing.

Again, mixing traditional feminine beauty with tagging challenges the viewers opinions on tagging and graffiti.

 

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#9. Challenging Preconceptions

The photo is intriguing enough with it’s soft lighting and the beautiful face, but add the tag and the way it perfectly curves round her eye and this photo becomes even more special. It’s a perfect hybrid of feminine beauty and urban grit, two things you might not necessarily relate to each other.

Again, a piece of art that challenges the preconceived notion of tagging.

 

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Work by Rafael Sliks


#10. Appreciating Skill & Style

This wall is breathtaking. Why? It’s simple, it’s minimal, and the focus is on the contrast between the white and the black. This tag is creative and stylistic; it pushes the boundaries of traditional tagging and offers something more beautiful, quirky and interesting.

And as it’s basically unreadable, the viewer tends to focus more on the shape of the tag, rather than what it says.

I’m a huge believer in that if more people paid attention to the beauty and skill in how someone writes – the style, the rounded edges, the detail, the manipulation of how the Latin alphabet looks –  they would appreciate many tags a lot more.

 

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Written by Cosmo

Cosmo

Hi I’m Cosmo, street art & graff lover, artist, designer, writer & full-time street rat…

I run the • cosmic traveller • blog and also blog here on Graffiti Kings!
Follow me on Instagram @cosmictraveller_uk