We often pass by, without giving a second glance to public art. But most public graffiti wall murals artworks say a lot about their community and tell stories of the iconic past.
The term ‘murals’ finds its roots in the Latin word ‘murus’ meaning wall. Murals are generally surface treatments given to walls or even ceilings in the form of artworks and other designs.
They derive inspiration from the culture, hopes, values, religions, etc of a community and are influenced by the climate, locally available materials, and other similar factors.
Wall Graffiti and Murals
Be it the depiction of the historic past in living colour or the installation of scenic backdrops on-site, murals add to the drama of space.
Murals date to Upper Paleolithic times such as the paintings in the Chauvet Cave in Ardèche department of southern France (around 30,000 BC). Many ancient murals have survived in Egyptian tombs (around 3150 BC), the Minoan palaces (Middle period III of the Neopalatial period, 1700-1600 BC) and in Pompeii (around 100 BC – AD 79).
In modern times, the term became more well-known with the Mexican “muralista” art movement (Diego Rivera, David Siqueiros, or José Orozco). There are many different styles and techniques. The best-known is probably fresco, which uses water-soluble paints with a damp lime wash, a rapid use of the resulting mixture over a large surface, and often in parts (but with a sense of the whole). The colors lighten as they dry.
Murals today are painted in a variety of ways, using oil or water-based media. The styles can vary from abstract to trompe-l’œil (a French term for “fool” or “trick the eye”). Initiated by the works of mural artists like Graham Rust or Rainer Maria Latzke in the 1980s, trompe-l’oeil painting has experienced a renaissance in private and public buildings in Europe.
Today, the beauty of a wall mural has become much more widely available with a technique whereby a painting or photographic image is transferred to poster paper or canvas which is then pasted to a wall surface to give the effect of either a hand-painted mural or realistic scene.
Wall Graffiti and Murals as public expression
Murals have been adding depth and intrigue to spaces since time immemorial. They are also a means of powerful public expression, derived from the fact that murals found in public spaces scream about the aspirations of the local people, their identity as individuals or a community as a whole.
They show who they are, what they think, where they came from, what they want! And this is all done in a way that the message is clear to a broader audience; that everybody can understand and enjoy. This is what Wall Graffiti art encompasses within its realm.
Originating from the Greek term ’graphein’, graffiti broadly means ‘to write’. However, its Italian roots suggest that Graffiti (evolved from ’graffiato’) means scratching onto a surface to reveal the bottom layer.
Thus, done using spray cans, marker pens and even pastels; the subject of wall graffiti art ranges from abstract calligraphy to a whole genre of artistic paintings. Traces and textures left in wet cement are also forms of graffiti.
People can exercise freedom of thoughts and expression and sometimes this leads to wall graffiti being classified as an act of vandalism.
Terrance Lindall, on the subject of Wall Graffiti said, “Wall Graffiti is revolutionary, in my opinion”, he says, “and any revolution might be considered a crime. People who are oppressed or suppressed need an outlet, so they write on walls—it’s free.”‘