Graffiti and overlayering

I love graffiti. When I pass a real good graffiti spot I get a thrill I rarely get from museums and art galleries, the thrill of just seeing beautiful composition and colour. It’s more like flipping through a fashion magazine only without the social angst. I have wanted to use graffiti as a method to make abstract images and I wanted to see who else has done that and why. 

Ida Ekblad, Norway

Idas paintings often include graffiti or cartoony looking figures and I always loved them so much. I guess she is working with juxtaposing different visual languages to create new connections.

“I always thought it was so stupid to do graffiti on painting,”she admits. “But maybe because it was so stupid, it was tempting.”/Ida


Ida Ekblad‘s artistic practice incorporates painting, sculpture, performance, filmmaking as well as poetry. Her works transmit a distinct vibrancy and spontaneity, created through the energetic movement of her compositions, the bold application of colour and the attentive use of found materials. Ekblad’s expressive paintings often depict winding and twisted lines, some indicate human-like figures, others resemble landscapes. The forms and gestures found in her work derive from a wide variety of inspirations and art historical references, such as CoBrA, Situationism and Abstract Expressionism but also pop cultural aesthetics like graffiti or cartoon that indicate Ekblad’s genre-crossing approach.


“(…) her oeuvre is slightly akimbo, which is how your legs need to be when you are limbo-ing. Nothing, from the heaviest of scrap-metal objects to the densest of paintings, can sit still. As the gate attests, what matters in Ekblad’s work is passing through. And the journey is a dance.”

“Poetry is key to Ekblad’s work – the song indivisible from the dance. She selects words for their sounds and forms with the recklessness that comes from not writing in your mother tongue.”

“Ekblad treats words roughly, clanging them together, or physically squashing or carving them into things (as in the gravestone-like A Caged Law of the Bird, the Hand, the Land, 2011) to fix them concretely. In the case of the Wagons/Tracks paintings, this technique felt heavy-handed, the problem being that you can’t force poetry into your work no matter how much pressure you apply. Ekblad is great with hard or heavy things, but words are altogether more slippery.”



Jean Michel Basquiat / SAMO

Basquiat started as a graffiti artist (SAMO), became hyped up and centre for a huge art market boom in NYC 1980’s and left the graffiti scene eventually. 

“Jean-Michel Basquiat”, Leonard Emmerling

“I think that the two similarities that Jean and graffiti in general had in common was that people wanted to harness a wild animal. They couldn’t control him and they couldn’t control graffiti. The art world was bland and they wanted something on their wall. Jean-Michel’s work is very anti-art world you know. It’s almost like a curse. Ad people still love that. They love being cursed at.” /Lee Quiones (page 14)

The art scene in the 80’s: The line between high art and trivial culture became even more “porous” than before. the bond between art, music and nightclubs was really strong. All much because of Andy Warhol. (page 8)

Same began as a “lifestyle religion devoid of all ethical substance”. “The SAMO project attacked the speciousness of materialist society. (page 12)



In the area where I used to live in Sweden the walls would occasionally be tagged or painted with graffiti. Since the city of Stockholm has a policy of “zero tolerance” to graffiti, this would quickly be removed. When the paint was sprayed on public walls the “sanitisers” came in big trucks and removed the paint with high pressure-wash and chemicals. However I guess that when the paint was on a private building it was the owners’ responsibility to get it removed. I assume this because the techniques of “sanitation” would differ from house to house and there was this particular house that stood out among the rest.

It was the house next to mine, a typical one for the neighbourhood; built in the 40’s in a functional modern way with a light yellowish facade. Whenever there would be graffiti on the walls they would stay longer than usual (which would let the overall composition develop over time with different taggers and colours) and when they where finally removed, they would paint over them. You would think they would just paint with the original colour reducing all traces (maybe they intended to but the sun had bleached the facade already) however there would always be a contrast between the new colour and the original.

What I am the most fascinated with is that not only  did they paint over the graffiti in a contrasting colour but they where also very sparse with the paint, painting only just where the graffiti was, so that you where able to see exactly where it had been. The painting survived its removal. And I like to think that the artists who took on this wall were not simply shut up but responded to.



Nina Kihlborg

TipEx. I love TipEx.

David Mabb, lecture on January 26th

Mabb worked with overlayering and making new images by reducing another artist’s work.



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