Tuesday, February 25, 2014

No, that’s a yes

Tony Fomison was a street artist for a while in early 1960s Paris and probably also saw the influential book Brassai graffiti which introduced wall markings, paintings and carvings as what Brassai called the language of the wall. Fomison didn't stick to the walls. He literally worked on the street making pavement chalk paintings in exchange for a few coins. The hustle eventually landed him in jail and booted out of the country. It was while he was licking his wounds in the UK that he saw the photograph that was the basis for No! a painting now in the collection of the Christchurch Art Gallery. 

Along with just about everyone else who visits central city Christchurch we saw the giant iteration of this Fomison work adhered to the building that houses the Physics Room and an outpost of the Christchurch Art Gallery itself. Anyway, all this going on about graffiti pays off because we noticed that the big Fomison reproduction had been tagged. In fact it turned out to be more like a job of graffiti conservation. The story goes that when No went up it was pasted over an existing tag and sometimes when it was photographed what remained of the tag was even Photoshopped out (see LIVS Life in Vacant Spaces) site). 

Then late one night what Fomison would have certainly called in his old school way ‘my fellow practitioners’ returned and redid the bits of the graffiti that were covered up. They also took time out to add a bit of commentary around who owned the wall as an exhibition site in the first place: “Keep your shit 4 the Gallery” (if only they had one they certainly would). And then, in the way of these things, blue paint guy came along.

Images: from the top, putting No! on the wall, the graffiti is Photoshopped away, the original tag, the revised tag, as it looked a couple of days ago