Street art is a diverse art movement, one that has grown in popularity as work being exhibited in the streets continue to develop in size, style, and technicality.
“A lot of people associate art inside of a gallery with elitism where as we as graffiti artists have broken that boundary”, expresses pop artist Luck MrEmpty (also known as ‘The Mayor of Johannesburg Graffiti’). He explains that “we have to carry on organising more graffiti related events and taking moral obligation as graf writers with our art to express that art doesn’t only belong in a gallery but also to the people.”
While his work relies on harnessing very simple notions such as musical lyrics, urban quotes and pop culture, it is presented in a complex union of vivid colours and layered application that aims for something much more profound than what is seen on the surface.
Having been captivated by graffiti from a tender age, MrEmpty mentions that when he was in high school he “met cats like Dreda MSE and Chris MSE and they showed me the ropes. I’ve never looked back since.” He further explains that the style of his recent work “features a lot of pop culture references like Felix the Cat, Mickey Mouse Hands, Money Bags, Brick Walls and retro pattern work. These elements trigger nostalgia,it’s what we grew up watching. It reminds me of our innocence as kids and with the guns and bullet holes it’s basically to symbolise how innocence and youth can be easily corrupted as we grow older and more exposed to certain things in life.”
Taking from the world around him and awarding his recent inspiration to contemporary artists such as Kaws and Tender JW aka POSE MSK, saying that he feel as though they “share the same graffiti DNA they play along the same narrative of taking pop culture references and giving them a new meaning.” The diversity of his capabilities as a visual artist is apparent all around the city outskirts and downtown Jozi through large-scale murals. “My latest mural is titled: ‘The Krook Monopoly’ of the tradition Monopoly Man dressed in a suit but also is a crook brandishing an automatic weapon. The whole narrative is based on how we view the corporations as heroes where in fact they are the actual villains.”
In the battle of graffiti being coined as ‘the language of the outlaws’ and misconceptions of being understood as vandalism since it became a relatively popular art form in the 1970’s, BigLuck notes that although art should be for the people, “professional artists have personal rules, moral obligation and guidelines to adhere to. Personally I do my best not to destroy but rather enhance a wall. I never put up my work on people’s homes, places of worship, schools etc. because I think it looks disrespectful.”
It can be said that street art adds greatly to the personification of a city. The greatest thing about street art -it’s alive.