Tuesday, July 3, 2007

(UPDATED) Revisit the writings on the wall

by Erika Tapalla

QUEZON CITY, Philippines -- When the sun has gone to bed, “Bonz” and his posse scurry about empty streets armed with nothing but spray cans, ready to mark their existence in their time and context on bland walls. Their work is lyrical and political, yet illegal when it defaces public or private property. Their work is a response to the world in which they move. Their work is called graffiti, street art, writings on the wall, or even vandalism. Whatever term it masquerades behind, the work of Bonz remains a catchy and powerful way for nonconformists to get noticed. But is there really more behind this risky endeavor? Does it deserve a second glance?

Bonz most certainly thinks so. He believes in expressing his art in the street to add color and meaning to our familiar surroundings. Although the graffiti movement has long been present in the global culture, Bonz believes it has yet to blossom in the country. It is only during election period when graffiti is actually noticed -- when obvious contempt for a candidate is depicted by adding horns to his head, blood dripping from his mouth, or simply spraying the entire face until it can no longer be recognized.

Together with his crew from SBA or “Samahang Batang Aerosol,” Bonz releases stress and emotion and spray the walls with the colors of the rainbow.

“Some of our work are preserved in playgrounds and basketball courts because it’s a production. The talent of a writer really comes out in the details of the piece,” says Bonz.

More often than not, Bonz’s creations are inclined toward the Filipino culture. Characters have Filipino attributes, or recreations of favorite cartoon characters that play a large role in a lot of Filipino children’s childhood. But MEGA Magazine’s Art Director and street artist Maia Reyes, who goes by the name “Supreme” on the desolate walls, believes in a higher form of graffiti.

“I took the art form to another level by executing my piece on permission walls. Personally, I think it’s the lack of respect toward other people’s property, which makes me prefer to do it legally. The important thing is I get to do whatever it is that I want and to actually share it with other people,” she says.

Supreme has had many exhibitions and has collaborated with other graffiti writers like Caliph8 and famed foreign artist Futura, to name a few. In these exhibits, the concept mostly revolves around the hip-hop/street/urban underground culture that is still budding in Manila. Using spray paint, acrylic and fat markers, they would scribble on the walls commissioned by top brands such as Lee, Nike, MTV and Sneaker Pimps.

“Graffiti will survive through time but I don’t think it reflects our culture. It only reflects our culture if the theme of the piece is related to the Philippines,” contends Reyes. “If anything, I want people to be aware of the graffiti culture, to celebrate the art and skill that goes behind it.”

Early man’s innate urge to write on surfaces grazed historical textbooks as cave drawings used to tell stories of our ancestors. After thousands of years, it seems this primeval itch to mark walls has not left us; but could these marks really tell a story? It seems graffiti offers a dose of hope and a gulp of freedom to many.


Thea said...

I totally agree with what Bonz said about not doing "wall-art" on anyone else's property. But that doesn't mean graffiti art should stop. I think more art exhibits should showcase graffiti and stuff because like any other art, it's self-expression :D



wired4news said...

Thanks Thea! Keep reading and give us your comments, suggestions, criticisms, whatever :)

Drew said...

i think art that you can see on the street is cool. but sometimes, i think that the city manila is too "urban" and "gritty" for anything to be noticed.i agree with thea this sort of stuff should be in an exhibit so people can truly appreciate it.

Anonymous said...

No matter how much we progress, man is still that cave-painting caveman at heart. Hahahaha