STREET and graffiti artwork in Cape Town has made the transition from bridge columns and railway underpasses to gallery partitions.
An exhibition titled Worse Than Heroin is on display within the town centre, celebrating the craft of the artists whose standard canvas is concrete, and the dangers they face being stuck by way of government.
“With its history of forced removals and social inequality, Cape Town has produced legendary artists who have inspired generations of street and graffiti artists who are active today,” mentioned gallery director Charl Bezuidenhout.
“The exhibition title refers to the ironic fact that graffiti artists, when caught by the city authorities, could face punishment harsher than that given to a person caught on the street using heroin.”
For featured artist iL Caso, the craft of graffiti writing is inseparable from it being a crime and declared a public nuisance within the City of Cape Town’s by-laws.
“There wouldn’t really be a point to it if it was legal. It’s part of the game. Otherwise you might as well be a street artist,” he mentioned. “There’s something about going out at night – you’re trying to paint under such pressure, your hand’s shaking and you’re trying to pull the cleanest, straightest line. That’s how you gain respect, because other writers will see that.”
But iL Caso is not any stranger to the felony penalties of his craft. He was once arrested at age 17 and spent the weekend in preserving cells. He was once let loose on parole with 100 hours of group provider.
“The way things are in Cape Town, the cops are scared of gangsters and actual criminals,” he mentioned. “In order for them to make out like they’re actually doing work, they target people like us. To be a writer in Cape Town takes serious dedication.”
The iL Caso works of art featured within the exhibition hark again to when he was once a child using down the freeway, catching glimpses of tags and letterings throughout the cityscape of bridges, columns and partitions. But developing artwork for a canvas is an excessively other problem to spraying it secretively out in the street below worry of being stuck.
“The work that I do in the gallery is very meticulous and tedious compared to what I do on the street,” he mentioned.
Even whilst developing works for the exhibition, he had to break away from the studio and revert again to side road writing.
“I need to take a break from that, go on an illegal mission, get that adrenaline rush and paint full size,” he mentioned. “That’s the only way you learn to get better.”
At its center, the artwork of graffiti is ready conveying which means throughout the design of lettering, and about creating a particular non-public taste.
“My main goal was to bridge the gap between graffiti and art – to break it down so that it’s not so wild and people can see it for its true form. I would love for people to learn something new; to see it the way we see it.”
While graffiti writers like iL Caso run from the government, side road artists akin to Wayne BKS – referred to as Conform – are ceaselessly commissioned by way of govt and corporates to enhance public areas with their artwork. Like iL Caso, Wayne BKS’s graffiti abilities are self-taught.
“The oldest schooling of graffiti was that you have to go out and tag, doing bridges and trains – that was a way to prove yourself, your right of passage,” Conform mentioned. “I know that path but I chose a different path.”
Social media made it more straightforward for artists to marketplace themselves with out tagging illegally in public puts.
While running in promoting, Conform noticed the marketplace for his abilities and has made a occupation out of freelance side road artwork, with purchasers together with nationwide govt, the City of Cape Town and MyCiTi.
He nonetheless maintains the ethos instilled in him by way of a graffiti background.
“With graffiti art there’s always been this ethos that style is the message. The main thing is to have a style that’s your own,” he mentioned.
“I’ve got a specific style of character drawing – lately I’ve been focused on characters, plants and geometric cities. A lot of these ideas are just pouring straight out of my imagination.”
Artworks by way of iL Caso, Conform and plenty of different established Cape Town side road artists and writers might be on showcase on the WorldArt Gallery in Church Street till October 10.