Eyesore tags or street art? Artists on graffiti 'tagging' trend

Norwich artist Andrew Wilson has said you can't have lovely murals without people tagging their names in spraypaint alongside

Norwich artist Andrew Wilson has said Norwich can't have lovely murals without people tagging their names in spray paint alongside - Credit: Denise Bradley/ Danielle Booden

Daubed across every spare inch of bins, lampposts and walls in the city centre are graffiti tags.  

But are these spray-painted signatures acts of mindless vandalism?  

Or are they examples of street art which belong in the same category as the much-loved murals lining city underpasses? 

For one Norwich artist, the answer is complex. 

Graffiti artist and muralist, Andrew Wilson, with his work in St Stephens Street. Picture: DENISE BR

Graffiti artist and muralist, Andrew Wilson, with his work in St Stephens Street. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021

Andrew Wilson — a 37-year-old teacher and artist — was responsible for the vibrant commissioned mural stretching out across the hoardings of the former BHS on St Stephen's Street. 

He said: "Graffiti is very hierarchical. 

"You start out by tagging until you build up your confidence. This is mainly graffiti 'writing'. 

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“Eventually, you may move into what is more explicitly 'street art', such as fine-art murals which people don't want to report because they look nice. 

"But people have to realise you can't have one without the other. 

Graffiti artist and muralist, Andrew Wilson, with his work in St Stephens Street. Picture: DENISE BR

Graffiti artist and muralist, Andrew Wilson, with his work in St Stephens Street. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021

"I'll be honest: I spent my youth tagging. It's mainly young men who feel locked out of the system and without a voice." 

Mr Wilson said for the "destructive" phenomenon of tagging to end, society needs to give young people more legal spaces for street art. 

He explained: "Give them the resources to hone their skills and their work won't be an eyesore. 

"The fact that young graffiti artists are now spray painting religious and listed buildings, private property and businesses shows how much they would benefit from working with the older generation of graff-heads through workshops and projects. 

Graffiti on the underpass by Queensway

Graffiti on the underpass by Queensway - Credit: Archant

Graffiti on the empty shop, formerly Evans, in Red Lion Street. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Graffiti on the empty shop, formerly Evans, in Red Lion Street. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021

Graffiti on the walls of Sopwell Priory. Picture: Danny Loo

Graffiti on the walls of Sopwell Priory. Picture: Danny Loo - Credit: Archant

"When I was younger, older graffiti writers helped me realise these spaces were off-limits." 

Colossal Youth, another Norfolk-based street artist, said the recent visit from Banksy in Great Yarmouth exposed the "inconsistent" way authorities deal with unauthorised creations. 

He added: "It sends an odd message if you're covering up Banksy's art with perspex while the rest of us are still having to work under the cover of darkness to avoid prosecution.” 

Norwich City Council said it was not able to give statistics about how many times it had cleared up graffiti in the last year. 

The Banksy artwork on the corner of London Road North and Regent Road in Lowestoft. 

The Banksy artwork on the corner of London Road North and Regent Road in Lowestoft. - Credit: Mick Howes

But a spokeswoman said the council removes graffiti from council property, public areas and highways. 

She added: "Offensive and hate-related graffiti will be removed as soon as possible, and within 24 hours. All other graffiti will be removed within 14 working days where reported." 

Where can you see find street art in Norwich?

The city has long had a community of street artists livening up our urban spaces.

St Stephens underpass has its own "underground gallery" - as does Pottergate.

Norwich's Business Improvement District has in fact admitted it often relies on street art to improve "sad" looking streetscapes, as was the case on St Stephen's Street.

Further afield work from Banksy can be found on the Norfolk coast. 

The artist, whose identity is not known, went on a "A Great British Spraycation"

He left art in the likes of Cromer, Great Yarmouth, Gorleston and King's Lynn. 

Work was also found across the border in Suffolk, with pieces painted in Lowestoft.

The new mural, as part of Norwich "Get Walls" project, on the side of Bar Tapas in Exchange Street,

The new mural, as part of Norwich "Get Walls" project, on the side of Bar Tapas in Exchange Street, Norwich - Credit: Simon Finlay

Norwich BID's 2017 City of Stories mural by Joey La Meche.Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Norwich BID's 2017 City of Stories mural by Joey La Meche

Street art in the Underground Gallery in the St Stephens underpass. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Street art in the Underground Gallery in the St Stephens underpass. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021

Street art in the Underground Gallery in the St Stephens underpass. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Street art in the Underground Gallery in the St Stephens underpass. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021

Street art in the Underground Gallery in the St Stephens underpass. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Street art in the Underground Gallery in the St Stephens underpass. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021

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