The four pillars of B-boy culture are increasingly being recognised and adopted by the wider culture. The art of the DJ has permeated popular musical forms, while breakdance now shares the stage at cultural venues such as Sadler’s Wells and the Barbican with other dance forms such as ballet. Hip-hop lyrics are studied on English courses alongside Shakespeare and Byron. As for graffiti, well, for forward-thinking councils, it is recognised as the solution to urban problems, rather than a sign of urban decay that needs stamping out at the roots.
Graffiti as Therapy
Graffiti artists such as Chor Boogie have long advocated the redemptive qualities of the spray can. Chor is an accomplished international muralist whose art combines knowledge of street culture with an understanding of colour therapy. Chor's unique talent for meaningful expression has been shown throughout the world, including in China, where he was recently commissioned to do a mural for the Olympics.
Chor speaks passionately of the power of graffiti to lift the soul through the uplifting effect of colour in an otherwise grey world. He describes colours as a necessity – like air and water – and argues that, if we are surrounded by them on a daily basis and believe in them, colours have the potential to heal the heart, mind, body and soul.
Chor recently commented: “My artwork, creative sense and talent are my spirituality to recovery. My belief behind my work is my spirituality which is the strength, patience, tolerance, abundance, peace, genuine spiritual love; gratitude is attitude, honesty, willingness, humbleness, health, wealth, wisdom, knowledge, trust, truth, faith, acceptance, adjustments, intentions, enthusiasm, and faith.”
Brighton-ing up Your Life
The redemptive power of colour and graffiti is understood not just by Chor but also by forward-thinking UK towns and cities. During the recent Brighton Festival, local street artists organised guided tours round the city’s world-class graffiti murals. The council has set aside walls and worked in conjunction with street artists to beautify areas around the town. Among the sites visited were the sublime murals that range from tributes to Run DMC and James Brown to the recently commissioned homage to Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese freedom fighter who was recently released from detention. The work on display is recognised by the council for what it is: heroic depictions that can brighten an otherwise drab environment. Go check it out – Brighton walls will lift the saddest of hearts.
Through the careful application of colour, graffiti artists have the power to redeem otherwise monochrome environments: the spray can has shown it can save rather than destroy. With increasing recognition of the value of street art, it cannot be long before we see a St Georges Cross awarded for services rendered, as opposed to critical opprobrium for those who dare to spray what they feel.
We've interviewed Chor Boogie in a Past Issue