If Bristol can graffiti its streets in style, so can Cardiff

Graffiti is a notoriously divisive artistic medium. Some people consider its presence on the city’s streets an eyesore, and something that heralds a continuing era of mindless vandalism. Others, however, interpret graffiti in a completely different way: an expression of anti-establishment sentiments, politically charged, yet aesthetically engaging. 

This is Niels Shoe Meulman's (also known as Shoe) piece for 'See no Evil'. He is an internationally known artist and graphic designer. He was born and raised in Amsterdam, Netherlands, where he is also based. Image courtesy of http://www.bristol-street-art.co.uk/gallery/photo/see-no-evil-shoe

In August 2011, Bristol city centre was gridlocked by an influx of international graffiti artists, art-junkies, and critics, all seeking to participate in a new arts event with a subversive edge, “See No Evil.”

“See No Evil” ran from 18-20 August 2011 and comprised a rich variety of musical, artistic and cultural elements, which made this festival irrefutably unique.

Perhaps the thing that made it so exceptional, however, is that Nelson Street, the site of the festival, was willingly handed over by Bristol council for the muralists and graffiti artists to add some much-need colour. This action suggests that Bristol council are artistically aware, and that they appreciate how street art can enhance the urban landscape and engage the public in a new and different way.

The public’s reaction to the graffitied walls of Nelson street has been positive, overall; this is, perhaps, an unsurprising reaction, considering Bristol is the city that spawned street-art veteran Banksy.

Given the success of this event in Bristol, perhaps it is time that Cardiff gave some consideration to injecting its streets with a selection of quality and expressive graffiti pieces too. Yes, if graffiti is commissioned or approved by the council it risks losing the potency of its anti-establishment subtext, but it would undoubtedly add another facet to Cardiff’s artistic profile. A city-wide graffiti project would also provide younger artists with a safe and lawful platform to practice their skills.

Imagine if more artists took to the streets of Cardiff, so that the city enjoyed walls lined with beautiful murals, pithy slogans, and politically and socially stirring messages. It might feel as though a small corner of the ever-edgy Berlin had landed in South Wales.