When considering a work of graffiti we should not dismiss it as a wanton act of destruction without first analyzing the motives. Some works can express negative aspects of society such as hatred, racism and harm to others, while others can promote ethnic unity, love, friendship and freedom from oppression.The question is then raised: Is graffiti a legitimate art form or vandalism?
"Art" is not what motivates a majority of taggers. It is a way for them to achieve notoriety and send messages between rival gangs. Gang members may send threats through their graffiti and use their tagging as a way to mark their territory.
On the other hand, graffiti has become an accepted art form and, in some cases, moved from the streets and into art galleries and museums. As vibrant expressions of modern cities, street art is the only way that artists can interact with public spaces actively. These art pieces can express emotion and give critique on current politics and society. Graffiti can also be used as yet another medium for artistic expression, as in the case of the Melbourne artist known as Ghostpatrol.
Ghostpatrol is a self taught illustrator whose works range from fine ink drawing and soft sculpture to graffiti and commissioned murals. His art is incredibly innovative and driven by creative impulses using whatever media he can find or afford. Ghostpatrol works and lives in Melbourne, sharing a studio, named the "Mitten Fortress", with another artist who calls herself Miso. Ghostpatrol and Miso often create collaborative works, including some street art.
Ghostpatrol's Street art usually consists of his ink drawings enlarged and made into paste ups. They are simple in design, but highly effective in capturing the attention of the passer-by. Ghostpatrol also chooses to work with stencils, spray paint and a blank wall. Ghostpatrol's unique, dark and satirical style underpins all his work. Placing his work in unexpected places around the city of Melbourne, Ghostpatrol aims to make people smile. He wants to awaken people from their normal life and transport them to a beautiful place. He displays a deep-seated sense of the ironic, and an almost black satirical humor. The monthly hard-rubbish collections are dotted with his anecdotal commentaries.
By creating a space for communication and public discourse, private messages can be made visible and critical, personal, or artistic messages can be passed on to others outside the artist's immediate peer circle.
Graffiti art is a democratic means of expression which the streets colorful, bringing to life the greyness of everyday life and sterile architecture. Before passing judgement on the artistic relevance of any piece of graffiti we need to bear in mind that beauty and art are in the eye of the beholder. A tastefully done female nude can be seen as a beautiful work of art. Yet, in some cultures, the display of a nude woman in any form is viewed as pornographic. We should never dismiss any piece of graffiti as thoughtless vandalism.