Art or Graffiti?

When someone says “graffiti” I tend to think of psychedelic colours and tags in suburban areas. Of course that isn’t always the case and probably the most well known artist, “Banksy”, rarely uses much colour, is very clever, often humorous and frequently carries a political message (IMHO). Nonetheless I still see it as graffiti / modern art.

But just because the canvas of an artist happens to be a large outside wall, does that mean it has to be graffiti? Β  This question arises from wandering around Reykjavik on another grey, rain lashed day. Β We stumbled upon a factory with painted scenes on its walls and a house with a face looking out from its end. This is the work of Guido Van Helten and we were blown away.

My photographs cannot do justice to the images, partly because the weather was so grey so that the building simply blends in with the grey of the sky, but here are a couple of shots of one of the factory scenes.

Van Perspective
Van Perspective
Hesitation
Delaying the Moment

Overall we weren’t too enamoured of Reykjavik itself as a place for sight seeing (though do check out the amazing countryside), but this set of open air art was a real prize for our wandering. The sheer scale, detail and impression they gave. For me this was the number one attraction in Iceland’s capital city and one we found quite by accident.

So back to the title, art, graffiti or both? What do you think?

You can learn more of these murals at Guido in Iceland. Please note the titles I have put to the above images simply reflect my own choices.

Have a great weekend.

55 thoughts on “Art or Graffiti?

  1. That’s so amazing and an extraordinary thing!! I’m really impressed..about the title..that’s a tough question, I think is something between, because this picture is clearly art, but I also want to think that he,who made this wanted to be a little bit ‘rebel’ and attract the people eye by his bravery , I mean look at this art piece it shows more than we can see ..just my opinion πŸ™‚ I wish you a great day,MM!

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  2. I think you’ve asked a great question here, MM. Not sure it has a definitive answer. If this was on a canvass, opinion would still be divided ad to whether it was Art or something else – illustration, perhaps.
    But we don’t need to decide, do we? We can just enjoy it.

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  3. In my eyes, graffiti has always been art. I enjoy art in urban spaces, using a building or a train as a canvas. Honestly, besides photography, it’s my favorite kind of visual art to enjoy.

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    1. While I love this, Banksy and the Berlin Wall, for me too much graffiti is simply scrawled initials and tags and nothing of any visual value. But hey, we can’t all like the same things – wouldn’t be a horrible world of we did.

      Need to start my article for you soon, 😎

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  4. I am from Christchurch NZ where most of the CBD and a few suburbs were destroyed in the 2010/2011 huge earthquakes. Last year the City Council put together a museum and street art project called RISE. It featured some of Bankies work and was the most visited exhibition ever. We have amazing paintings on bare walls where buildings used to be. So my point is that street art definitely has a place in a city. It brings a lot of cheer and brightness to otherwise dreary areas and buildings πŸ™‚

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  5. I guess in my opinion the “canvas” used is irrelevant, this to me as a fine piece of art. It is quite incredible that the artist was able control the perspective of the elements with the size of this a piece.

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    1. It seems we are at one on this Dom and it is the perspective that gets me too. Would love to gave seen how he did it – it is mind blowing.

      Once more cheers for your comments and have a good weekend. MM 😎

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  6. I love murals, executed by artists with owner’s permission. I worked in an area dominated by rival gangs who used graffiti, or tags, to designate their territory, or broadcast gang related activities, or whatever they felt like spray painting that day. It was awful to see such disrespect and disregard for other people’s property. If there was a surface, it got tagged. Murals, beautiful; tagging, not so much.

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  7. I think this is one of those topics where it crosses a grey line, there is a fine line between vandalism and art. Could writing or scribbles on the wall be justified as art? It comes down to personal opinion really. Living in a large city I see so much graffiti that I cannot find myself justifying as art and is has distorted my opinion of it. However I have also seen some beautiful work done like the one you’ve captured that makes me smile when I go past. I think graffiti is art in itself when done with respect to property.

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      1. Wish we had some of this on the walls of this small border post town going to Swaziland but its mostly pretty nasty stuff ( neither art or graffiti ) πŸ˜›

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  8. I think of them as murals but murals are art to me. Even graffiti is art to me actually. Just as landscape photography is different than street photography for instance. These are really outstanding pieces of art!

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  9. I can’t decide whether it’s graffiti or art, I barely know the difference but I can say, it’s such a beautiful piece, and the picture makes it even nicer. I can’t imagine how it would’ve been if the sky were blue, but I like it in grey. Hope you enjoy the weekend, too. πŸ™‚

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    1. Maybe, but when I compare this to other murals (such as those in the north of Ireland) there is no real comparison to me. I suppose one can then ask that forever asked question “what is art?”.

      Sorry, I am no genius and do not have a defining answer (and personally do not think there is one – it is a matter of opinions)

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  10. So beautiful – definitely art. I would argue that often “graffiti” is more honest and powerful with a real message than what is more traditionally considered “art”. Surely art is something that speaks to you and that tells a story? Why can’t graffiti do that? I think case I would saw this piece of graffiti tells a story far more than a painting of a vase of flowers..

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    1. Interesting comment and I agree with much of it. Personally I see the Banksy graffiti as a form of art (I’d call it graffiti art) and then there is graffiti which is just vandalism to my mind – inane initials etc. just to brag. Of course I am no expert just throwing out questions and queries.

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      1. You’re completely right, I agree. There’s a split in both, it’s the same with “art” there is a lot of it that I wouldn’t personally consider art because it has no message, it is just drawing of a vase or something..

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      2. Exactly, art is opinion. I personally find the old dark court paintings very dreary…..and what is the point of photo-realism? But that is just my opinion rattling around…..

        Enjoy your weekend, MM πŸ€

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    1. And what if Michaelangelo had painted on the outside of buildings not inside? It would still be art surely? So agree with you on this one.

      Thanks for taking time to comment and have a great weekend. MM

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    1. I think it is interesting and think a lot of people will agree with you. For me this is art – permission has ben sought, the canvas happens to be a large wall rather than the traditional picture frame.

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