Upfest answers the old question: graffiti – art or vandalism?

27 May

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Why Join Art School When You Can be a Vandal? That’s the tongue-in-cheek question posed by one of the artists at Bristol’s Upfest, Europe’s largest urban paint festival.

The subject was also touched on by the journalist Dan Johnson, who in a largely positive report on the BBC’s national news felt duty bound to reassure viewers: “this is all official; the artists have got permission,” before going on to pose the “art or vandalism” question to passers-by in a vox pop.

As if it needs it, Upfest has once again helped to legitimise urban art as a ‘proper’ art form, drawn or painted by highly-skilled artists who have chosen walls instead of canvas, and spray paint instead of watercolours or oils, to express themselves.

This year’s festival has attracted 300 artists – some of international repute – to the streets of Bedminster, and the quality of the work is, once again, outstanding.

As usual, it’s the really large pieces that command the wow factor. A giant cat on the side of the Masonic pub, painted by the French artist C215, is gob-smackingly good, although it’s sad to say goodbye to Smug / Epok’s snarling girl, who has been watching over the adjoining car lot for the last 12 months.

Meanwhile, End of the Line’s running animals mural at the Redpoint climbing centre on nearby Winterstoke Road is simply stunning, and well worth a small detour.

Let there be no more question about whether urban art is a valid art form. Although the festival is now over, most of the work (that painted on walls, rather than boards) will be up for the next 12 months. Take the opportunity to check it out!

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