What Graffiti has told me so far

“Graffiti is one of the few tools you have if you have almost nothing. And even if you don’t come up with a picture to cure world poverty you can make someone smile while they’re having a piss.” 

— Banksy 


My first time to have the desire to do graffiti was half year ago when the Lion King from the dream shared with me the street art from Clarion Alley, San Francisco.

Those graffiti were flaming on the wall and I could imagine how breathtaking you would feel while walking in this street. These colors enlivened the gray walls, the street, and the city.  It’s not only about colors, but each graffiti is telling a story with purpose, they made you absorbed in thoughts, reflection, and even meditation. 

At that moment I had a desire that I wanna do graffiti, to express with colors and purpose.

(street art of SF, click to see)

I remember that when I arrived in Berlin, it was snowing, the whole city was gloomy and cold, the first thing I decided to do was going to the Berlin Wall, the see the East Side Gallery especially the most famous graffiti “My God, Help Me to SurviveThis Deadly Love”. IMG_1587Walking along the Berlin Wall took me back to the cold war and pushed me to think about peace and war, humanity, of course, the walls.

People love building walls when they face problems, no matter the real walls in the border to prevent refugees and emigration, or the invisible walls in our heart.  When problems happened,  instead of facing it and find solutions in a positive way,  our instinctive behavior is to refuse and dodge.

So when there are war and immigration problems,, we build real walls in the border, when we get hurt in heart, we build invisible walls and became less trusting of people. However, hiding and dodging never solve the real problems, they just made you ignore the problems like an ostrich who thought that if they couldn’t see the fact, problems don’t exist.

 I was thinking a lot that day and later I did a simple drawing about the walls between people, which means “Among us there is one wall, maybe I will turn around and leave because of my fear and cowardice, maybe I take all my courage to overcome the wall but you already leave, maybe after the wall there are more walls among us, or maybe none of us choose to give up but overcome all the walls among us and be closed to each other. Love will give us courage and wings, love will overthrow the wall. 

(draw my thoughts about walls, click to see)

It was the graffiti art on the Berlin Wall made me think so much and got the conclusion. Now when I look back, I realize that this is how graffiti make the change and impact,  to raise awareness and cause reflection by its intense visual impact.

I was spending half year to paint on paper and canvas at home and refused to go outside to waste my time, I thought that to be a successful artist I need to host exhibitions in famous museums and auction paintings at a high price. But graffiti makes me realize that street is the best gallery for art because anyone passing by is your audience, they see and feel, they think and reflect, that’s how you make a change on people.

So recently, I started to go outside to discover the city where I lived now, I went to different slums, communities, public schools to talk to local people to understand their situation and problems, to figure out how to use art to support them. I met street photographers to discover corners of the Manila and catch moments of people with special eyes.

(slums, communities, public schools of Manila, click to see)

I also met lots of passionate street artists to learn how to do graffiti. My first graffiti was not that bad from the perspective of “having fun and enjoying yourself”, but I need to think more and do better in the perspective of “Art speaks to make a change” and practice the skills.

(first time to do graffiti, click to see)

Making art has made me curious about everything and wanna play with everything, just like a child again,  to comfort with ambiguity, to create with ideas, and to do transdisciplinary research. Now, I hope to do better graffiti no matter from the ideas or skills and run art projects in slums, communities, and public schools of Manila.

May I make the world more beautiful with my talents and passion. May art brings people happiness and significance. 

Looking forward to what’s next!

Mowen Li

2017. 9. 3. 
Manila, the Philippines. 

What Graffiti has told me so far”的一个响应


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