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Contemporary Graffiti as Political Art Essay

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Updated: Mar 20th, 2019

Graffiti is an interesting form of art. It is an act of writing and drawing with different and beautiful styles on walls. Its main purpose is to communicate with the public.

Many artists have used this art form to convey social, political or environmental messages. In this paper we shall discuss the approach through which graffiti artists used their work as a tool to speak out on political issues. For this paper we have considered two artists and their art works. First Banksy and his”One Nation under CCTV” and “Napalm” pieces, second Frank Shepard Fairey`s “Barack Obama Hope poster”.

Through graffiti art form messages are designed for heterogeneous audience. Graffiti artists who draw pictures for using it as political tool, they are creative than other artists because they want to bring change through their work at national level. Their art work should be eye catching and affecting that could compel political leaders as well as mass audience to think about its message deeply.

Banksy is a British graffiti artist who started his work with the use of stencils. During his career he has performed in an outstanding manner but this most astonishing and influential work that has observed up till now in central London is the painting of slogan on the wall of post office on Oxford Street in London.

He has completed the painting overnight standing on the ladder with a guard and a dog. He painted the slogan in white broad capital letters which says “ONE NATION UNDER CCTV”. He did his most ironic piece of work just few meters far from CCTV camera in order to carry out surveillance protest against British government (Bull, 2011). London is undoubtedly capital of England as well as of CCTV cameras.

People here are leading their life in hell because of too many cameras they feel as if their personal and private activities are exposing more than the need. Whereas on other hand it has millions of immigrants who have arrived in London and doubted as they are involved in criminal activities and CCTV cameras are not helping in catching such culprits than what is the use of these cameras.

Teenage violence, criminal activities, prostitution and corruption rate in increasing in London, these CCTV cameras should help to trace such criminals rather than peeping in to people`s personal activities (Bull, 2011). Banksy`s graffiti art work is still considered as one of the best way of protesting against the government in order to remove the CCTV cameras from the cities or to use those cameras in proper manner.

Banksy is the first man who used his artistic talent to explore the concept of social and political responsibility. His one greater piece of art is named as Napalm. In which he has shown unforgettable pictures from the Vietnam War, the picture shows a young burned girl holding the hands of two famous American Disney characters, Ronald McDonald and Mickey Mouse. Through this picture he tried to draw attention of people towards pop culture image (Warrington, 2004).

Similarly another great artist Frank Shepard Fairey, he was born on 5th February in 1970. He is an interesting and outstanding artist, graphic designer and illustrator. He received great fame at national level for his work which he created in 2008. He painted a simple poster of Barack Obama using blue and red color which had a simple label” Hope”.

He is best known for his icon work of Obama Hope poster. He completed the design for the poster in a day’s time which went into printing. After printing more than 350 posters were sold (Labudovic and Vukusic 2009). Also, when Obama campaign approved it, it was more distributed during 2008 election season. Consequently it became one of the most important pictures of Obama Campaign. Gradually this image has become so popular that it can be seen everywhere even in T-shirts, bedroom walls of students, tea cups etc.

It did not stop here but after the first session of sale Fairey printed 4,000 more copies along with this he made this poster available digitally on internet for the people. This image has become illustrious and famous very soon throughout the United State with the help of social media and other sources. The fundamental idea of doing this was to endorse the theme of Hope among mass audience.

After Obama winning the election in the year 2009, it was revealed that the poster designed by Fairey was actually motivated from a photograph taken by a young photographer Mannie Garcia in January 2007 (Labudovic and Vukusic 2009). In today`s world hope has become one important tool to deal with the issues of life and images have always played a key role to play with the psychology of people. Therefore the hope poster by Fairey helps people to do so.

In a nut shell, we can say that graffiti has played an important part in speaking out on political issues. Also, artists have contributed a lot to do this for people through their skillful and adventurous art pieces.


Bull. (2011). Banksy Locations & Tours Volume 2: A Collection of Graffiti Locations and Photographs from Around the UK. Oakland: PM Press.

Labudovic, A., & Vukusic, N. (2009). Field guide: How to be a Graphic Designer. New York: Rockport Publishers.

Warrington. (2004). Jesus Shopping Banksy. Warrington museum and art gallery , 1-34.

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