Graffiti as art in order-conscious Singapore

Tue Nov 22, 2011 11:46pm EST
 
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By Cerelia Lim

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - In an industrial park near Singapore's harbor, a group of people spray-paint a wall with the bright colors and rebellious swirls of graffiti.

Under other circumstances, their action would lead to prompt arrest. But the "taggers" are artists taking part in a performance highlighting the urban art form.

Graffiti is seriously frowned upon in Singapore. Last year, a Swiss man was jailed and caned for vandalism after he spray-painted a subway train.

But the perception in the city-state that graffiti is nothing more than vandalism by wayward youth is changing, thanks in part to art festivals like the one at the industrial estate, part of the Voilah! French Festival Singapore.

"There is still a sense of graffiti as anti-social behavior, but when people see it in a gallery, it becomes an artistic endeavor," said Howard Rutkowski who helped organize the event and exhibited 72 pieces of graffiti art on canvas at a gallery in the estate.

Even among aficionados, though, the purpose of the art form is open to debate.

Two years ago, a group of graffiti artists found themselves barred from the only government-sanctioned arena where spray painting is allowed, a youth park in a shopping district.

The reason given was that they wanted to spray paint messages in support of children victimized by the Palestine-Israel conflict.   Continued...