Left no place to go, given the Covid-induced lockdown, lately I have acquired the strange habit of staring at the walls. Allow me to explain.
Adjoining the alley next to which I live in the city of Malmö in Sweden is the outer wall of a parking building. Every day I pass it, and every other day it changes colour and form. Well, it’s one of the walls reserved by the city for graffiti artists.
They come and spray paint this wall with their creations, and never do any of these creations stay for more than a day. It’s lifted up and painted all over again, and yet again by a number of graffiti artists. Sometimes, I stop and see them shaping their art. Spray cans in hand, a light mask covering the face, they go about doing their work with the devoutness of whirling dervishes—unmindful of the world unfolding around them, they spray the walls with deft hand movements. Within minutes, shapes begin to emerge from nothingness—a human figurine, orphan letters possibly of a word signifying underground culture, or at times simple streaks of movements crafting illegible and possibly meaningless signs.
Read: Digging Where I Stand
The more I see them practicing their craft, the more I wonder at the futility of their pursuit. Isn’t art supposed to stay forever, serving us a reminder each day that there is more to life than chasing goals? Unable to contain my desperation to seek a reason, last week I tapped one of the graffiti artists on the shoulder. I appreciated his art, and told him how much I enjoyed it, and how the ever-evolving amalgamation of colours, and proclamations, and figurines inspired me—however, what’s the point in it for him of painting and repainting the wall every few days?
“Well, would you notice this wall had it been like this for the last ten years,” asked the anonymous painter. No, I wouldn’t have, treating it like any other wall with colour chipping off it after so many years. “Then that’s what we do—we paint it for you to come and see something new everyday, take inspiration, and even look forward to crossing this street,” he said, “and, as far as protecting the art is concerned, these days protection is about saving it online. Once it’s on your Instagram page, then be rest assured it’s saved forever!”
Intrigued by the discovery, I have started looking around my city more curiously. It turns out that Malmö is one of the cities in Sweden that has the largest amount of street art. Two blocks away, I found two murals by a Polish muralist Natalia Rak. Inspired, I took to searching for more and came across the whole side of a building that was painted in graffiti art of a British artist who goes by the name of Phlegm.
Street art is mainstreet art now. Not hidden from public sight but out in the open for people to take inspiration from. And for once, I am thankful to Covid as it has opened up a channel for me to explore my surroundings more deeply and become curious about what always lay around me.