Irish society has advanced leaps and bounds since the conservative 70s, to the budding model society of the 90s, all the way to the present day. The Irish are now proud to announce that theirs is a culture of acceptance, tolerance and equality for all. But even in our exemplar society, many activities are still seen as ‘anti-social’, even borderline illegal. How many of us have seen pre-teens skating around town, only to be harassed by security guards from neighbouring stores. These ‘fringe’ hobbies still have a hard time getting the respect they are due. None feels this more than the graffiti community.
Still in its relative infancy compared to our European counterparts, the Irish graffiti community is an active and lively one. Tourists flock to areas like windmill lane and the Bernard Shaw Pub on Richmond Street to admire some of the wildly creative pieces on show there. For instance, the artwork outside the Bernard Shaw changes quite frequently and is a popular tourist site. Add to this an ever growing list of quality spray can retailers and official websites to guide young aspiring graffiti artists, Dublin is quickly becoming a beacon for Irish graffers up and down the country.
One of the oldest and most recognizable spots in Dublin’s graffiti history, Windmill lane, is still impressive today. Located just off the quays, the lane is covered in graffiti, from complex multi-coloured art to simple ‘tags’. The legality of bombing this wall is constantly in question, as is the existence of any legal walls in Dublin. This is where Ireland is lagging behind compared to the rest of the European countries.
Partly due to the lack of widespread urban graffiti culture, Dublin county council has never had to deal with the very real issues that cities like Rome, Paris and Brussels had to deal with in the 90s. Tagging was so widespread, trams would be covered in letters and derelict buildings would sprout massive murals overnight. This forced town councils to cater to the need of these artists and gave rise to the huge number of legal walls now present in most European capitals.
When a large chunk of the demographic feels ignored by the people in power, they search for a way to be heard and to express their viewpoint. This was made abundantly clear recently as the marriage referendum took place. Feeling ignored by the politicians, many street artists took matters into their own hands and Dublin experienced an explosion in the number of pro equality graphs. Some were simple rainbow coloured hearts appearing on street corners. But others took on a much larger scale, such as the multi-storey mural depicting two men embracing! Graffiti has a very unique way of getting its message across and I think it’s this urban quality that makes it so popular.
A great ally for Ireland’s graffiti culture is the internet. With an unlimited supply of tutorial videos and local suppliers, the web has provided aspiring graffiti artists with all the tools necessary to create their own art. So whether you want to try your hand at it yourself or just want to appreciate the wild and unrestrained beauty of graffiti, there are plenty of ways for those interested to pick this hobby up and embrace it!
Words by Luca Lombardo, Arts Writer.