11 International Graffiti Artists to Follow Right Now
Graffiti can be disrespectful, vandalistic, and obscene. Or it can be rebellious, artistic, and charged with political and social meaning. Or it can be a combination of the two.
In archaeology, ‘graffito’ refers to a deliberate mark that prehistoric people left on a stone surface to depict figures, but nowadays graffiti is usually frowned upon.
Contemporary graffiti can be an artistic expression through which street artists share with the public their artistic skills as well as their social, political — and often provocative — beliefs.
There are some places where graffiti is legal, but in general, it’s not. There are city councils that recognize the possible artistic value in graffiti and provide wall space. Instead of unilaterally demonizing the practice, they are finding ways to promote creativity while upgrading the urban landscape.
An example is the Urban Act in Rome (Italy), a project set to give people space, time, and exposure to express themselves in the city.
There are also graffiti festivals around the world, such as Upfest in Bristol, UK. Europe’s largest free festival in 2017 had 350 international artists and 50,000 visitors. In 2018, their 10th year, the registered artists numbered 1,000.
As with any artistic expression, excellence is marked by a combination of creativity, technical skills, and significance/message. Possibly risk too, in this case. Combining these elements, the best street artists adapt to the surrounding environment to spray/paint subtle messages, colorful explosions, or massive artwork.
Here are 11 graffiti artists around the world to follow.
Honorable mention goes to the activist and satirist of unverified identity. His simple but powerful stencil graffiti started to appear in Bristol (UK) in 1990. His work grew internationally to include movies and Dismaland, a theme park lampooning Disneyland, but he never left the graffiti work which now appears in many countries and continents.
The new trend of ‘green graffiti’ is up-and-coming and will revolutionize this art expression. Anna is a pioneer of this wave, usually using words or simple phrases. She doesn’t stick to one medium and works around the point of contact between nature and the built environment in many ways.
New York city, USA
The Ecuadorian-born Sandra Fabara was one of the first women on the subway graffiti scene in the 1980s, earning her the nickname ‘First Lady of Graffiti.’ Her work is characterized by busy scenes with explosions of bright colors, curvilinear shapes, and inconsistent scale of subjects.
King of 3D street art, the Dutch artist’s work has a specific point of view which would make it look real if it weren’t for its surreal themes. He wants to raise awareness of current environmental and liveability issues, or simply connect with a specific place. His work is temporary (he mostly uses chalk) which strengthens its importance.
She is the first female graffiti artist of Afghanistan, a title that speaks for itself. The act of her working itself defies traditional gender-related customs and Afghanistan’s dangerously hostile environment towards women. Her pensive graffiti aims to uplift a nation ridden by too many years of wars. She is also a fine art faculty member in Kabul.
Another artist of unknown identity. MTO’s big-scale and few-colored artwork gives significance to otherwise anonymous surfaces. Big empty walls of condos, buildings, or street-sides suddenly turn into the background for gatherings and a physical feature of the building itself.
The solid-colored graffiti of Bart Smeets has a strong sense of place. He turns anonymous urban elements into an element of his scene. The pensive mood of his work has an original mix of abstract elements portrayed in a realistic way.
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Martin includes high-resolution figures in his work, placing his graffiti in the hyper-realism genre. Furthermore, he twists the genre with dynamic and surrealistic scenes, creating additional contrast which nevertheless doesn’t seem in conflict.
WiseTwo tends to steer clear of political messages in his graffiti, although he has done some in the past. He just wants to “Just paint, make places look beautiful”, in his own words. In WiseTwo’s work, we see traditional African masks, ancient patterns, and a wide range of colors coming together organically. He takes historic, non-Western motifs and portrays them in contemporary fashion.
Young Iney (‘frost’ in English) took the Moscow graffiti art scene and gave it an original, modern, and feminine twist. The cluster of colors typical of the Russian scene (not rich in graffiti, even less of colorful ones) becomes richer, brighter, has starker contrast, more definite forms, and softer geometrical forms. She creates different female cartoon characters and surreal scenes that form lively action.
Graffiti is becoming more widespread in Asia as a whole. Especially in the “far east” and in the Southeast, this art form is gaining traction by combining colors and ever-changing forms but usually historic and traditional motifs.
Egg Fiasco is a fine example of one of these up-and-coming artists. He might be most known for placing a central, realistic figure surrounded by an abstract mix of shapes and colors as background. His fine technical skills can reproduce famous classical and historic artwork as well as creating traditional figures.