“You’re viewing a style of art that’s still scandalous”
When there‘s talk of art it is often the Mona Lisa or one of Gaudi’s grand designs that come into play. But there’s something to be said for street art. Notably in Santiago de Chile. There’s a unique presence to graffiti and street art – two similar but differently defined terms, I have come to learn.
Has more association with spray cans, letters and stenciling
Draws to landscape and tends to be free in style and technique
Whatever the definition, it’s got my attention. Knowing that the artists sketch these images at night, at their own risk, makes the work more exciting and somehow more personal – an individuals triumph against societies ‘do’s and don’ts’. You’re viewing a style of art that’s still quiet scandalous. It’s an art form that’s been coined as ‘visual politics’ by Blue a graffiti artist from Sweden, which I feel helps explain Santiago’s art rather well.
The scale of graffiti in Santiago is still some of the most spectacular I’ve seen and by that I’m not just referring to the quantity (there is a lot) but rather the detail on offer. It was an important time for students to express themselves in 2011 as protests took to the streets daily for better quality in education. This caused a lot of nervy-excitement. It’s a city in major transition, growing in modernity, yet at first glance the whole place is covered in naff spray paint – even on high-profile buildings and monuments.
It could be said that I was out of my comfort zone and needed a bit of time to adjust to the markings. Growing up in a little village, you don’t see much street art or graffiti, but that’s certainly made me notice it more and question the form. After all, when you’re away from home it’s easy to take note (and dislike) the unfamiliar, constantly searching for homely similarities. It wasn’t until my second visit to the city that I began to understand and enjoy this form of expression and get past my Hampshire expectations. That’s not to say a lot of the paint isn’t just swirls of pointless mess, unable to decipher words or images. I got talking to a local taxi driver who said he didn’t like this type of graffiti either, but then he stopped by a piece of street art, showing colour and definition quiet rightly saying: