Is graffiti art?

 

• Sam Bloor and Shannon McCulloch. Photo by Jenny D’Anger.

IS graffiti art, or glorified vandalism?

And who gets to judge its merit?

These are the questions posed by It Could Be Worth $1000, a thought-provoking exhibition by local artists Shannon McCulloch and Sam Bloor.

Bloor took out last year’s prestigious Fremantle Print Award, while mate McCulloch was highly commended.

The exhibition is a mix of paintings, objects and digital images, challenging the viewer on issues like authority and criminality, and the definition of art itself.

Pointing to a fluoro police vest in the exhibition, Bloor poses a conundrum.

“Someone seeing the show could wear the vest to perform an act, or use it to perform an activity,” he says.

While there’s been a proliferation of street-art murals and a growing acceptance of graffiti as art, WA vandalism laws have toughened up.

As former graffiti artists, McCulloch and Bloor spent hours trawling through the new laws, discovering odd anomalies, such as it’s legal to buy a large marker, but you can be fined $1200 if you are caught carrying one.

“If you’re under 18 you can buy an empty marker and the ink, but you can’t buy a marker with ink in it,” Bloor says.

One of the artworks in It Could Be Worth $1000, is a still of a newsreader, set against a huge graffiti backdrop.

• Sam Bloor’s WA In Unison won the FAC Print Award in 2016.

“Mainstream media is still using graffiti to sell it to you and say it has no value,” McCulloch says.

He was responsible for a series of “mug shot” paintings of graffiti artists caught on CCTV, which was published in The West Australian.

“The West’s wall of fame—its greatest hits,” he quips.

Bloor says they want to have a sophisticated discussion about graffiti.

“We are not condemning or glorifying [graffiti], that would be too simple and wouldn’t do the idea any justice,” he says.

It Could be Worth $1000 is at Fremantle’s newest gallery space, Smart Casual, 52 Adelaide Street, until May 28.

by JENNY D’ANGER

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