I am totally into Street Art, but the challenge that confronts gallerists is how on earth are we supposed to sell the wall that P413 just painted on and give him a reason and the means to pursue his talent? Street Art didn’t begin as a commercial art form and it’s unlikely that it will overtake the painting and sculpture medium anytime soon. The pure joy that goes into creating a work of art that is ‘for art’s sake’ alone provides young enthusiasts, collectors, curators and gallerists with a refreshing flipside to an art world which is, like all industries, fueled by cash.
Let me back track for a minute and define what Street Art actually is. While often referred to as post-graffiti or neo-graffiti; Street Art is public artwork most aptly transformed over the years with a strong sense of activism and subversion. Basically it is what its name directly implies, art on the street. More often seen in more developed cities, Street Art is not only graffiti but today involves methods using stencils, wood blocks, stickers, etc. There is always a message and if the artist is good, it is a strong one. These artists possess a pure motivation to express, not a motivation to sell.
In 2008 I had a love-hate relationship with London. The love part of it began with a visit, in early May, to the Cans Festival, an exhibition hosted by Banksy on Leake Street, in a road tunnel formerly used by Eurostar underneath London’s Waterloo station. If you don’t know who Banksy is, shame on you. Banksy’s face remains a mystery yet he has today become the most renowned street artist worldwide. Shepard Fairey, another big name and founder of Obey is most famously known for his involvement in the presidential campaign of Obama.
In Sri Lanka there have been some exciting pockets of Street Art and public monuments that similarly represent a form of activism and criticality. One may recall the screaming mouth painted around the bullet holes on the wall, next to the attempted assassination of Gotabaya Rajapaksa. P413 is the artist commissioned to paint on the Saskia Fernando Gallery wall, a space that will continuously feature a public work of art commissioned by an emerging artist. P413’s work has also been featured at the Electric Peacock Festival and he illegally worked on a public wall at the end of Marine Drive. The Goethe Institut completed a project commissioning COCA, the Collective of Contemporary Artists, to work on a public art that could be spotted around Colombo prior to the Colombo Art Biennale 2012.
You might wonder how these artists survive; after all, the entire basis of their art form is non-commercial and intended to educate and rebel against the norm. The art world has been gracious to these new age art terrorists and it seems that through this the players are continuously breaking boundaries rather than surrendering to a commercially sustainable medium. There is no question that Street Art in Sri Lanka has a long way to go but perhaps we should start right here, sparking your interest and take it from there. In the words of Frank Lloyd Wright, ‘Art for art’s sake is a philosophy of the well-fed.’ Bon Apetit LT ARTicle Readers!