Sunday, February 13, 2011

New book documents history, evolution of graffiti in Toronto

While it may be illegal, graffiti art has a lot of interesting stories to tell, said Dundas Street East and Broadview Avenue resident Yvette Farkas.

"I find it beautiful, inspiring, unapologetic and brave. It's raw creative energy," said Farkas, who spent 10 years photographing the controversial art form and two years interviewing those behind it for her recently released book, Toronto Graffiti: The Human Behind the Wall.

"It takes a lot for somebody to go out and put their art up in public. It's not necessarily sanctioned, but you're putting a part of yourself out there for the world to see."
With her camera in tow, Farkas said she's explored Toronto on foot, bike and public transit snapping thousands of images since 1999.

"If I heard through the grapevine there were some new paintings I'd go right away and check it out," she said, adding her friends even started to call her up when they spotted a new or unique piece.
"You never know what you'll get. It's an unexpected surprise."
A part-time yoga teacher who works full-time as a graphic/web designer for a charitable organization, Farkas doesn't claim to be a writer or a journalist but an everyday Torontonian with a passion for graffiti.
At first, she said she started snapping pictures of graffiti and archiving them.

"I worked from home in the evenings and weekends going through photos and compiling information," said Farkas, calling the project "a real labour of love."
By 2008, curiosity got the best of her and she starting approaching the artists behind the tags to pick their brains about what motivated them and what they felt should be included in a book about graffiti in Toronto.
"Each artist is unique and has different perspectives, inspirations and motivations. It's a whole sub-culture," she explained.
"It's also a very complex, hierarchical culture."

Farkas said the best part of the project was the new 'graffs' that constantly popped up.
"The memoriam pieces kind of stick with you. I also felt touched by pieces that bring the community together," said the 18-year downtown resident who grew up in Scarborough and Flemingdon Park.
Thousands of photos and dozens of interviews later, Farkas recently self-published a 480-page anthology of the history and evolution of Toronto's graffiti scene over the last 30 years. The book also takes a closer look at the legal, health and safety issues associated with the art form.

The 30-something Torontonian, who came to Canada in the early '80s from Budepest, Hungary, said the response to her at-times controversial book has been "overwhelmingly positive."
And for those who view graffiti as vandalism above all other things, Farkas said, regardless, it's an issue that is relevant to any taxpaying citizen of Toronto.
"You might be surprised by what you read," she said.
The City of Toronto is aiming to eradicate all downtown graffiti by the spring.

For now, Farkas said she plans on taking a little time off but said several future projects are already percolating.
"I would definitely do it again but I'm also really glad the book is at a stage where other people can enjoy it," she said.
A launch party for Toronto Graffiti: the Human Behind the Wall was held Jan. 28 in Parkdale.

Taken from: Inside Toronto

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