Convicted street artist defends work
By Aimie Cronin ⋅ March 12, 2010 ⋅ Post a comment
Street artist Phillip Sparrow in his Auckland workspace.
The distinction between street art and graffiti vandalism has come under the microscope, as a popular Auckland stencil artist was convicted of graffiti on private property at the Auckland District Court on Tuesday.
Sparrow Phillips’ conviction takes place just days after a 19 year-old was sentenced to almost two years behind bars for graffiti vandalism in Tauranga.
The government has a zero tolerance approach to graffiti, said police spokeswoman Cathie Collinson. The artistic merit of the graffiti has no relevance, she said, as the issue is about whether a person has permission to put their work on someone else’s property.
“If you walk down the street you are bombarded with billboards and you don’t get asked for that to happen. So what’s the difference between me putting up stencil art and billboards?” argues Phillips.
He insists there is a huge difference between graffiti vandalism and street art and gives the example of famous stencil artist Banksy to reinforce the importance and mainstream appeal of street art as a form of social commentary. He believes that while there is no artistic merit in tagging, stencil and graffiti art should be recognized and appreciated by the public, not policed.
AUT University advertising creativity lecturer Paul White agrees. “The difference between Sparrow and a tagger is massive,” he says. “Taggers aren’t trying to say anything.”
Phillips says teenagers who are angry about something make up the vast majority of taggers.
He adds that some adolescents begin with tagging but develop their work into more of an art form over time. In these cases, they are able to protest or say something to the public in a way that Phillips describes as “neutral.”
“No one can own it. The public are able to view it and appreciate it and then move on.”
Ninety per cent of the people he encounters are positive about his street art.
This month the government launched a programme called Tag Free Kiwi aiming to reduce the instances of graffiti. Secondary school students will be informed of the various criminal offenses and consequences surrounding graffiti.
The maximum penalty can be seven years in prison and Collinson believes the punishment fits the crime.
“Imagine if someone did it on your house or property,” she says.
Paul White disagrees: “If it were any good I would keep it there.”
If anyone sees this guys work, catch a tag on it, destroy it. Take photo and we'll post it on the blog. Does the concept of all for one mean anything to you? Just what the world needs, another stencil artist who relates to Banksy and thinks what he's doing is different to catching a tag.