Street artist defends graffiti as 'expression'

A PROMINENT street artist says illegal graffiti can at times look attractive and is often a way for young people to express themselves.

New York-based artist Vexta, who was in Ballarat yesterday, weighed into the debate surrounding graffiti in Ballarat.

Decorating the internal walls at the soon-to-open Mitchell Harris Wines Cellar Door, Vexta said people had always written on public walls – and that would never be stopped.

She said she had not had the chance to see a lot of the graffiti in Ballarat, but said there was always examples of good and bad graffiti.

The former Sydney and Melbourne resident said she would not have become so successful if she had not spent time in her youth with a spray can in her hand.

However, she said there was still a clear distinction between art and vandalism.

“It’s all connected in a way I suppose,” she said.

“I wouldn’t have got into what I do without running around illegally as a kid with spray cans.”

Vexta, who has works on display as far away as New York, Paris, Berlin and London, said graffiti often appealed to younger people not necessarily because it was illegal, but because it was accessible and easy.

The Courier this week published photos of vandals in the process of “tagging” a V/Line train, an incident that triggered uproar within the community.

On the issue of tagging in general, Vexta said it too came down to either art or vandalism.

“Some tags can be beautiful, some can be really ugly. I don’t see much point in people just scribbling their name,” she said.

“The word tag has a bad ring to it, but there are some really nice tags out there.”

Vexta said she had been a professional street and fine artist for about three years and said opening up a public mural for street art could help eradicate Ballarat’s graffiti problem.

“There are artists with real talent out there and they need a proper place to express it,” she said.

Vexta visited Ballarat for two days, where she completely decorated the interior walls of the Mitchell Harris Wines Cellar Door.

patrick.nolan@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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