Rough Cut Nation
This article is from 2009.
Graffiti warriors v neo-Gothic architecture
‘No one notices your pointless actions’, read the letters cut out of the floor. That’s not entirely true nowadays. Graffiti culture has entered the mainstream art world. Largely due to Banksy, art that was once firmly associated with lawless ‘sub’-culture now has the potential to attract big money and academic attention.
Even so, to see graffiti sprayed, pasted and projected onto huge plasterboards lining the neo-Gothic interior of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery is a funny and awkward experience. There’s something gloriously comical about watching visitors walking round asking one another what it all means, and nodding appreciatively at a gigantic hoodie Jesus (‘divine and divisive’, according to the lady with the blue rinse). And of course being part of that oneself. This is carefully controlled vandalism. There’s no paint on the stonework.
But graffiti art thrives in disused buildings, and in that sense, with the galleries currently shut for renovation, this is a highly appropriate exhibition. Moreover, these huge, often extremely skilled murals are exciting. Where Banksy is polished and commercial and ironic, Rough Cut Nation is raw and sometimes dark. Its artists aren’t afraid to invade each other’s spaces, and it’s all the better for the collaboration.
Music was definitely missing, although a set of headphones attached to a wall did provide an appropriate soundtrack in a sort of listen-and-learn way, and they’re going to put on a series of concerts to go with the show. Maybe they should ship in a crateful of headphones, rack up the volume, and get the silent disco started.
Scottish National Portrait Gallery, 624 6200, until 30 Aug, free.