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Graffiti and Street art, two terms that are often mentioned in the same breath, but where are the differences, or is there none?
In Athens, we had the opportunity to learn more during the Greek Kreuzberg – Street Art Tour with Manolis Iliopoulos. Manolis has studied architecture, however, prefers the life as a freelance artist. Also a street artist, he is a connoisseur of the scene and offers guided tours for small groups.
Meeting place is the metro station Monastiraki. From there we go north-east to Psyri, a gentrified neighborhood in Athen. In the early 90s, Psyri was disreputable and it was not without dangers to stroll around here. Today it is an in-quarter with modern restaurants, bars, taverns and small hotels where more and more artists live.
There are various forms of graffiti and street art. These two forms are very different from each other. Graffiti includes as a central component letters that are artistically presented in different ways and with different techniques. Street art usually involves an image.
In the conversation with the graffiti artist Senor, whom we meet by chance, we discussed about the difference. For him, it is a question of the philosophy; graffiti always has to do with letters. The term Street art develops into a commercial name and has to do more and more with selling. Senor writes graffiti for more than 20 years, but not, to make money or to become famous. Nevertheless, his focus is on quality, not quantity.
He earns his living with sculptures mixed with video art. Today, he still writes his graffiti with joy, it keeps him a bit a child, as he says. Later we had the opportunity to see a large graffiti, which he had created in four hours.
Talking to a shopkeeper of a graffiti accessories shop we could see that a part of the scene is still moving in a certain gray area.
During the tour, Manolis draws our attention to the painting techniques and how to recognize the different artists. The Russian-born artist Nar works with a black color from a tar-like products. It is applied quickly and wet streaks run down the wall. In the whole area, these drawings can be clearly identified and assigned to the artist.
In Athens, you find a lot of street art made by the artist WD aka Wild Drawing. He was born in Bali and uses a technology that becomes increasingly common: The paintings are designed on a computer, printed out and can be quickly attached to the walls.
This demonstrates the fact that these artists often work at the edge of legality, which is often associated with high risk. Manolis shows a nice graffiti in green and petrol. The peculiarity of the artist was to install his art in sweeping turns very quickly. It is not surprising, that the artist has been killed in an accident, while painting in the metro.
There are many motivations for Graffiti and Street art, partly political, partly intended as a parody. Whatever – the question about the motivation of the artist remains. In many cases, the driving force is to attain fame, that some of them achieve.
While in the past, this type of art was seen mostly critical and often punished as criminal damage, the trend turns increasingly in a different direction. This can be felt particularly in Athens. Graffiti and Street art are increasingly understood as an expression of a new youth culture and often serves as beautification of the urban landscape, but is not always the case. Nevertheless, it will now be tolerated, even if it is not promoted.
We were particularly impressed by the street art painting that shows the dog Loukanikos. During the riots of 2008 – 2009 in Athens, he was always to be found at the forefront of the demonstrators. The dog, famous as Riot Dog, died in 2014, presumably, due to the tear gas and other chemicals inhaled in the riots. With their graffiti, the three Athenian street artists, Vasilis Griparis, Alex Martinez and N-Grams, set him a monument in the center of Athens.