Maybe you’ve seen graffiti, and maybe you’ve seen some really good graffiti, but if you haven’t discovered Calligraffiti, you just haven’t lived yet. As an artist, and someone who loves the way hip-hop culture has impacted art and street visuals, the marriage of graffiti and calligraphy, for me, is a match made in heaven. According to mastermind Niels Shoe Meulman, “The fairly new art of Graffiti and its somewhat rigid rules prompt us to look further back into the history of writing” and, bada boom! Calligraphy! It’s a little bit of brilliance really. The two art forms meld into one aesthetically pleasing new concoction that had me feeling like maybe there actually are designers out there doing something new…
Graffiti is, according to the all knowing wiki, “any type of public markings that may appear in the forms of simple written words to elaborate wall paintings” while calligraphy is “the art of giving form to signs in an expressive, harmonious and skillful manner”. Put put the two in the same medium and on the same wall and you get the freakishly cool offspring which is calligraffiti.
Graffiti has been challenging graphic designers from the billboards and train stations around the world. Books like Subway Graffiti by Martha Cooper can be found all over the world for design reference and guilty pleasure. The public manner in which graffiti unapologetically assaults our imagination has captivated audiences, some of whom probably have grudgingly scrubbed the afore mentioned culprits from business walls and back alleys. With graffiti artists like Banksky getting press from Grammy Nominations while hiding behind monkey masks, the art of graffiti has indisputeably infected our culture for better or worse (author’s opinion: better). There are many forms of graffiti, but probably the most popular involves a backpack full of aerosol cans, some tunes, and a friend who is watching out for the cops. The legal ramifications don’t seem to hinder artists like Banksky from putting their effort into pieces like the one below.
Calligraphy, on the other hand, is a horse of a different color. I don’t know that I have ever heard rumors of people being arrested for calligraphy or having to mask their face to prevent their identity from being known. On the contrary, while calligraphy is an incredible form of art that has evolved through the centuries, most people think of it the same way they think of speaking Latin or understanding Quinten Tarantino–that’s cool, but I don’t want to take the time to learn it. Calligraphy sets are novel, sold alongside the Christmas origami kits in Barnes & Noble, and usually the gift you find when you clean out your closet years later and say “oh yeah, I forgot I had that”. Still, the art form has thrived and graphic artists have long respected it as something akin to reading the Bible in its original language. The beauty of its scripting is clear in works like the one below.
Now, on to the fun stuff…what do you get when you cross the two art forms? “Shoe” would be happy to tell you, or, i should say, show you! But rather than try to explain calligraffiti in scientific terms, I am just going to link you up to some rockin’ images and even a few juicy links for inquiring minds.
- Spectrum’s Flickr set from Shoe’s signing
- What is calligraffit?
- Check out Shoe on YouTube