Graffiti and street art in Greece

Writing on the walls… When you walk around in the bigger cities of Greece, you will quickly notice brightly colored assault of names, political slogans or animated figures splattered across the walls of nearly every concrete building. For graffiti artists, for sure Greece is the place to be!

Greece gave rise to the word graffiti – the term coming as it does from the Greek root graphie, meaning to write.
But what role graffiti plays in the city of Athens’ aesthetic today, remains a controversial subject.

During the intensive 1-week courses and Cultural Weeks in Athens , Omilo always takes the students for walks in Athens, passing by various graffiti and street-art examples. Is graffiti vandalism, art or freedom of expression? During the walks we always get various answers and interesting discussions! Some see it as rightful freedom of expression, others as a way to improve the city’s appearance, while others absolutely dislike it and believe it depreciates real-estate values.

How our cities look like, is inevitably a part that we are all concerned about. Different cities have tried different tactics. Instead of taking a confrontational approach, the City of Athens tried it otherwise : “If you can’t beat ’em, join’em”! By working together with graffiti artists, Athens is helping to bring color to different neighborhoods in the center.

Instead of just repainting the buildings, the city teamed up with graffiti artists, found sponsors and ecological paint companies, found buildings and started working with ideas. The materials used were environmentally friendly . The collaboration was interactive from the start, with artists and graffiti writers asking the opinions of owners and residents on how they would like to see their neighborhood. Also previous collaborations with government agencies and schools have brought color to Greece’s concrete jungle.

In our Flickr album you can find more pictures of street art in Athens.

But what about the “other graffiti”?

Greeks have not given up graffiti as “street communication” as well! Athenians hold a variety of opinions on the value of this kind of street communication and what it adds – or doesn’t add – to daily life. Athenians have been expressing themselves, since the Nazi occupation and the military dictatorship in the 60’s and 70’s. Greeks have been writing on walls to offer criticism and hope to fellow citizens. But there is a concern about the graffiti in Athens… Citizens, graffiti artist and public officials can only agree on one thing: where one does graffiti matters! Writing on private owned buildings without permission, should not be allowed…

What do the words « tags, pastes and pieces » mean?

Tags
The classic form of graffiti is tagging. “You apply your name on a surface with as much style as you can. You do it quickly, in a risky place. In Athens, this became unfortunately a “sport” getting a bit out of hand!

Pastes

These are drawings the artist does in his or her home or studio and then pastes them on the desired wall. This reduces the time it takes to produce the work, diminishing the risk of getting caught.

Stencils
This is a means of creating an image or text that is easily reproducible. The desired design is cut out of paper, cardboard or other material and then the image is transferred to a surface with spray paint or a roller.

Piece
Short for masterpiece, a piece generally must have three or more colors. “To piece” can be used as a verb, meaning to go out to paint graffiti, and not just to go out tagging.