Last week I went to see Farleigh Hungerford castle near Bath – It’s a place that I’ve driven past countless times promising to stop there one day. It was an amazing visit and its highlight for me was the interior of the Chapel, dating back to the 14thC. The power of the medieval space is down to the fact that it is largely full of nothing at all. Except, that is, an amazing quality of light, and rich wall surfaces carrying of hundreds of years of paint and decoration.
Like many visitor sites, amidst this very special surface patina lie the marks of generations of people that had visited before me. It’s the kind of wonderful building where areas of the surfaces are covered in graffiti, some carefully scrawled or scratched, some complete with serifs!
It struck me how different my experience of graffiti had been just the weekend before. I was in Lambeth – just a stones throw from the London Eye – where in a long subway graffiti artists were literally lined up side by side with spray paints all creating their own contemporary marks and messages in a public space.
Their work can takes hours to create with careful preparation, dedication to detail, and several hours in the execution. As a site where graffiti is encouraged it is a constant hive of activity, and speaking to one of the artists there I learned that their efforts are highly ephemeral. Indeed there’s a common acceptance that their completed labours of love might only survive a few hours before being over-sprayed.
It leads me to ponder on the values of scrawling things on walls when perhaps no-one might notice or care. But then I guess that’s exactly what writing a blog post is too!