The word graffiti is derived from the Greek word graphein meaning to write and the ancient Italian word graffito meaning scratched which describes a process used to create difference of colour by scratching a painted surface. Its’ origins, some people argue, can be traced back to the cave paintings and pictographs of 30,000 BCE; but, the term evolved in Roman times referring to inscriptions and figure drawings found in Pompeii and other areas that were associated with vandalism. In modern times, graffiti has had a long history with rail and subway cars dating back to the 1920’s. Every generation thereafter has used graffiti to expressed their viewpoints, but it wasn’t until the 1960’s that we see direct linkages to the today’s graffiti movement which originated from political activism and gang activity.
As in all urban areas, graffiti is evident in certain areas of my city that our mayor created “The Graffiti Abatement Program” as part of the Clean and Beautiful City Initiative. The program proactively identifies graffiti hot spots and then works with the affected communities to develop strategies to remove the graffiti. One of the strategies is to create murals as a means of deterring graffiti from appearing on structures. This program allows graffiti artists to legally paint murals in these hot spots, which is believed to promote positive artistic expression, and the murals tends to be left untouched by graffiti vandals.
In downtown Toronto, each summer for the past few years, Graffiti Alley is taken over by local artists and fans for a 24-hour period of legal painting. After discovering this event, I decided to explore the area in order to develop an abstract body of work focusing on the graffiti art of this area.