Reverse graffiti is an act of creating an artwork from something dirty or from something that has been vandalised.
When creating reverse graffiti artists use a substance such as detergent or even acid to remove other offensive substances such as paint or dirt and grime. The image left behind by the process is often a positive image. The negative image or background is often the original “mess” left intact as background to the positive image.
Beautiful Emergent Art
The works of art that emerge from this way of working are often very beautiful. The message of the artworks may have double impact because the average pedestrian would be used to seeing this surface as something annoying and an imposition in their perceptual environment. Therefore the impact of seeing reverse graffiti can be double fold. The image itself is beautiful and at the same time an annoying imposition on the perceptual sphere of engagement of the community has been removed.
This is a tasteful and enjoyable event therefore in many instances reverse graffiti can be tagged “conceptual” performance installation. On the Environmental Graffiti website there is a gallery of works that show the power and the impact of the medium. (Accessed July 2012)
Graffiti has been a powerful artistic expression of counter culture for many years. Whilst it has been an effective protest movement much of the time the work has perpetuated itself as irresponsible, personal expression that exists at the expense of the community that sustains it.
Reverse graffiti can step into this rebellious space and provide on the other hand a powerful message, which allows community members to take back the power to clean and care for the environment. This provides better messaging and models a more productive way of protest. These artists have provided a tangible process oriented art medium that teachers and parents as well as community educators can pass on to others, be they young or old
Reverse Graffiti as an Art Movement
Reverse graffiti is a powerful movement that lacks aggression. Because the cleaning expression can be quite intricate, it is also becoming a well-respected art style.
Moose: The Original Reverse Graffiti Artist
Linda of Environmental Graffiti says that Paul Curtis, whose tag is Moose, is the grand-daddy of reverse graffiti. He’s been cleaning the streets of the UK and beyond for around ten years.
She describes the Reverse Graffiti Project, San Francisco as having used detergent and a wire brush, the tools of many a cleaner! The graffiti artist “Moose” works with advertisers to create innovative clean messages and slogans that inevitably turn into works of art. Read more
Environmental Graffiti a Growing Movement
This is the kind of movement that is inspiring teachers to step into a conversation with students about how they can contribute to public art in a legal and respectful manner. These are the kinds of projects that government agencies and granting bodies would be well advised to fund. It is time to say thank you to people like Moose for his insight and initiative. It is also timely to recognize artists like Moose for not only what they do but for who they are and what they stand for. Thank you, Moose!
- Graffiti Project, San Francisco Reverse Graffiti Project, San Francisco
- Graffiti Netwerk Accessed July 2012
- Linda. Environmental Graffiti Accessed July 2012.
Copyright Jo Murphy