For now, the mural is here to stay, along with the throw-up, wild-style and the ubiquitous tag. There is no force, committee or individual that will or can stop these forms of graffiti. The council do not have an answer; their graffiti strategy document is full of good intentions and misunderstandings; there is confusion about what is graffiti and what is art. With a small budget and no real solution to clean up the city of unwanted graffiti other than covering it up with white paint; the base colour on which the next graffiti attack will take place, there is little hope for Brighton and Hove, from continuing to be tattooed with second rate wall art and the scrawling tags of an infantile mind.
The paint by number murals that litter the walls of the city are mostly cartoonish, or ‘doesn’t it look like that celebrity, what’s his name type of drawing’. Originality is not something the muralist in Brighton and Hove is aiming for; familiarity, and pleasing the crowd is their intent, however in some perverse way originality, created by accident, might have found its way onto the walls of the city. The overlaying of different styles of graffiti has achieved something that at a stretch might be called original, or perhaps something that is close to the works of Jean Dubuffet of the Art Brut movement, but this is not by design rather as a consequence of a turf war for wall space.
It might be of interest the way this scramble for wall space tells of the need of those who use the street as an outlet for their lack of artistic ability to find recognition. The graffiti, often with totally meaningless content, and painfully personal, has very little connection with the city. When the content has a greater reach, the technical inadequacies might be ignored; for example, when a message is needed and contemporary, as in the Extinction Rebellion mural in Gloucester Road, Brighton. Sadly, to the right of this mural we have a pointless throw-up, a piece of visual noise.
Explanations for the proliferation of graffiti are numerous, one might be the addiction to celebrity that can make the sad little tagger hope that one day the film crew will turn up and give their existence meaning by filming their scrawling’s. Most film and TV dramas have, at some point, in their footage when referencing crime, gangs, drug dealing, murder or violence a backdrop of tags, Wildstyle or throw-ups, because that’s how the writers and film makers perceived the rundown areas of a city to be, and in Brighton we have plenty of backdrops for them.
Unlawful graffiti is a crime, bad graffiti art is just an uneducated decision made by the commissioners of the work. Graffiti is here to stay and the only graffiti that should stay are murals that have something different about them. So please who ever is commissioning them don’t just say yes to another 30ft copy of Neptune, just because Brighton and Hove is by the sea.