Graffiti has likely been around as long as hominids could smear ochre or scrape their mark on rock. While the 2500 year old, arguably crude/rude? graffiti, discovered at Astypalaia is still mirrored today on bathroom walls and other open source galleries, it has also continued to evolve and diversify with society to the point now where some venues invite and commission street and building “art”.
Graffiti or “street art” traditionally involved drawing or painting shapes and or messaging on unconventional surfaces and often without the object owners permission. It can be targeted at the owner of said object/surface, and what the owner symbolizes, or just be a convenient and conspicuous place to scribe ones emotions and ideas. Graffiti may focus on a beloved or reviled third party, may celebrate significant events (e.g. graduations, team victories), may be used to message broader socio political concerns, may be used to beautify or otherwise take advantage of drab and depressing manifestations of civilization (e.g. the sides of rail cars, abandoned properties, construction barricades etc.), and or to not let a lack of resources get in the way of our innate need to express in times of frustration or suffering. Despite it’s fascinating aspects and attractions it still can invoke the full spectrum of emotions where it occurs on design works intended as “public” art in its own right or on environmental design intended to provide un-messaged natural space …or where it is crudely executed.
Yogyakarta, one of Indonesia’s ancient cities, has been a center of art, craft and culture for hundreds of years, and continues to flourish and evolve today. The area has attracted and supported artists and artisans in many areas whether in music and performance or through expression in stone, wood, fabric or canvas. Not surprisingly, even the cities forbidden craft of graffiti shows remarkable artistry, from the quality of execution and it’s eye-catching colors, to its form and content. Throughout the world graffiti and street art culture or guilds have evolved as has the rise of graffiti/street art celebrities, Yogyakarta is no exception.
Visitors to Yogya should take time to study both the new and old art scene including it’s graffiti. A few examples are presented below. For those really interested, graffiti and street art, tours can be included in your Yogya exploration, or you can simply give it at least a second look while driving, bicycling or walking by.