Graffiti in the garden

Kelburn Castle. Images by flickr user guinavere.

Kelburn Castle. Images by flickr user guinavere.

My local council detests graffiti artists. A rapid response team in CBRN Suits (chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear) soon arrives with tanks of noxious chemicals. Understandably, allowing citizens to paint wherever they wish without permission is an unworkable situation and definitely not one I am going to argue for.

However, sometimes I feel too little thought is put into whether the environment has actually been improved with the odd dash of new paint here and there. So, I was delighted to find a more-enlightened attitude on the Glasgow Riviera. Kelburn Castle has been in our Garden Finder for ages, without being on many people’s must-see garden lists for Scotland. Then they employed Brazilian Graffiti artists for a paint job. Now it’s a real spectacle. On cold winter days Kelburn blazes on the landscape as though on fire.

Is it Art? Or should someone call the CBRN guys as soon as possible? Peronally, I love it.

16 thoughts on “Graffiti in the garden

  1. stefan

    that is great!

    making a train journey through Bradford the other week i was suprised how many abandoned and derelict had been enlivened by graffiti. paradoxically, when the coucils clamp down on graffiti we are often left with the half finished half hearted attempts that do look ugly, either that or someone scrawling ‘jane is fit’ on the bus shelter walls! but when the people doing this stuff are allowed to let rip, the results can be exuberant

  2. christine

    Is it Art? Always a big question….

    The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy says of the constraints on the defintion of Art;
    “Any definition of art has to square with the following uncontroversial facts:
    (i) entities (artifacts and performances) intentionally endowed by their makers with a significant degree of aesthetic interest, often surpass that of most everyday objects, exist in virtually every known human culture.
    (ii) such entities, and traditions devoted to them, might exist in other possible worlds.

    [Personally I find the ‘Other Possible Worlds’ theory is sometimes useful, but mostly – and in this context – dubious?]

    (iii) such entities sometimes have non-aesthetic – ceremonial or religious or propagandistic – functions, and sometimes do not;
    (iv) traditionally, artworks are intentionally endowed by their makers with properties, usually perceptual, having a significant degree of aesthetic interest, often surpassing that of most everyday objects
    (v) art, so understood, has a complicated history: new genres and artforms develop, standards of taste evolve, understanding of aesthetic experience and aesthetic properties change,
    (vi) there are institutions in some but not all cultures which involve a focus on artifacts and performances having a high degree of aesthetic interest and lacking any practical, ceremonial or religious use,
    (vii) such institutions sometimes classify entities apparently lacking aesthetic interest with entities having a high degree of aesthetic interest.”

    I would say however, that these examples, although they may not be to everyone’s taste (ie. graffitti art as a genre) nor on canvases that everyone would agree with (ie. If I wanted to live in Kelburn Castle the first thing I would do is repaint th exterior! But I would probably photograph or video document its current incarnation) – do have A HIGH DEGREE OF AESTHETIC INTEREST.

    I wonder, and it will be interesting to see, how long the Boyle family will decide to ‘live’ with the Graffitti Project? Another interesting question going to the heart of the genre is: is this only a ‘back of house’ paint treatment?

  3. rochelle

    I love it too…I have had a graffiti in the garden article for my own blog rattling around in my head for a while I will definately mention this when it is all put together. Great find.

  4. Nancy

    I am an artist and garden designer who is all for graffiti artists letting it rip, just not on castles. As an American raised amidst tawdry suburban architecture and too many billboards that look like this, my first reaction was to wonder why on earth you would do that to an historic building! Even just solid bright colors would be interesting (but still a stretch).
    The watery doe-eyes really amp up the ick factor for me–sorry.

  5. josh

    graffiti – urban lichen,

    the expression of the up and coming on the economic edges, no worse than the neon signs of the payed up markets.
    tags can be a drain, but fine when pride creates the thought out work next and over he top of. I especially love good work surrounded by vegetation

    wrote this on train to rondane in norway:

    At the same space as fathers of industry and commerce raise neon signs and brash trade ownership names, giving presence and identity; whilst the sons of powerless, explore the same through a more landed pastime to presence and identity, Rounded graffiti shapes sprayed up in care on concrete overspill, human scale like to reassure and make identify. Artistry to the industrial oversight tract tagged sketch next to tailored faced masterpiece, expressions outside calibration to commodity. Silver plates spun to concrete, turned round and warmed to edge at round of arm grassed to garden fresh colour, in best framed by plants to arcadian antiquity.

  6. ann

    I’m afraid i agree with responder no.6 – come in no.6!
    ……it’s the doe eyes……

    actually i think that Graffitti Art has a fundamental role to play in Society and we would be impoverished without it – the intelligent Art that is; the stuff that works is a powerful socio-poltical sub-culture of thought and commentary that Forces us to Think, yes forces us because Graffitti Art, by its very nature is designed to be ‘in your face’, subversive often/mostly and it works brilliantly from deft hands on a rugged wall, a bridge, a dustbin……yes, get the picture, discarded …..un-used, un-appreciated, un-noticed places! Where it doesn’t work is where it’s largeness intrudes and distorts it’s very concept with an emptied-out or bambied-up image, all cutey and squirmiable (for me i hasten to add!)…….and a castle is not an un-place unless it was disused, derelict and ripe for an extension or translation even transmutation of meaning……

    ……and, while i get carried away i do think it’s a shame so much grafitti is sprayed inconsequently onto any available wall using a ready made catalogue of images and styles without real thought beyond the Gaz woz ere to i luv….with the ubiquitous heart whose love will no doubt soon disappear along with the paint …..and i guess the wall!

    Let’s see more designated underground spaces and ?community projects to work with the amazing enthusiasm and time that is often spent by the individuals creating the work; some artists, night tutorials and free paint…..that would be great for us and them – i hope!

  7. Liz M

    Definitely icky doe-eyes!

    Graffiti, beyond the territorial + heart junk truly can bring a bleak urban spot to life. We should encourage artistic expression in communities where there are not nearly enough schools or opportunities.

    While the Kelburn design is so twee as to call into question artistic merit, I am reminded of how Ancient Egyptian architecture, whose ruins we today view in sandy tones, were brightly painted in their prime.

    Some cities, including (nearby, for me) St. Louis, Missouri, have buildings painted in interesting ways, including Trompe l’oeil architechtural details on otherwise plain brick. Our own city of Columbia has been a great supporter of many local artists, whose work can be seen on the streets, buildings, houses, and gardens of business, recreational, and residential areas, alike.

    While we’re not graffiti free, Columbia seems to have the 2 usual types plus political graffiti. As the city-sanctioned art is apolitical, we have regular weekly demonstrations at a major downtown intersection on Wednesdays and the Post Office on Saturdays, as well as situational ones, and the graffiti. Especially the Anarchists.

  8. Tom Turner

    I’d like to hear more about the weekly demonstrations by anarchists outside the Post Office on Saturdays. Regularity seems at odds with spirit of anarchism! And are you using ‘situationist’ in the sense of the Situationist International?
    I like the idea of Contextual Graffiti Art having an artistic pedigree as well as a history.
    Malcolm Muggeridge, when serving in the Western Desert, found some graffiti by a Roman Centurion. It said, if I remember correctly, ‘There are only two things in life: love and power. No man can have both.’

  9. Liz M


    Tom, not to be too picky, I didn’t say that the anarchists were holding regular demonstrations, just that they contributed to much of the local graffiti.

    “Situational” means acting on a particular situation. For instance, demonstrating at the point of a certain number of American casualties in Iraq, versus demonstrating weekly against the war and U.S. military policy in general.

    Sorry, perhaps in search of brevity I was too vague.

    1. Tom Turner

      Sorry re the anarchists – the idea of them meeting outside a post office every Saturday made me laugh! I’m glad to hear that enthusiasm for protests is flourishing. I’ve never seen any figures but there do not seem to be as many protests in London now as there were in the 1960s – despite the fact that pedestrianization of the north side of Trafalgar Square (and provision of toilets) has made it a much better place for a protest than it used to be. I’ll try and remember to do a post about Trafalgar Square.

  10. Liz M


    By the way, if you’re ever in Missouri, we have some wonderful gardens here. St. Louis has a great botanical garden; Columbia has Shelter Gardens; and there’s an annual water garden tour held the last Sunday in June in and around Marshall MO. There are also many native species gardens, state parks and forests, and conservation areas that attract native fauna and human visitors alike.

  11. Liz M


    I agree, the image of an anarchist checking a wristwatch for time to start the protest provokes giggles! One of the anarchist jokes here is “How do you tell cooperative anarchists from regular anarchists? Cooperative anarchists draw the A within the circle, regulars cross the lines!”

    I’d love to see a piece on Trafalgar Square! I spent 2 separate years in Manchester, one on exchange at the University, but did get to see some of the rest of Britain while I was there. I did get to London several times, but didn’t get to stop at Trafalgar, although I did get to pass through in traffic.

    Columbia MO has a university + 2 colleges (U.S. style, as compared to U.K. definitions). It leans a bit to the left of the rest of the Midwest. In a state that has voted “red” (how did red come to stand for the right-wing I just don’t know!), St.Louis, Kansas City, + Columbia generally go “blue.” Municipal priorities + regulations show a marked difference from rural + statewide ones. Mind you, the economics are somewhat different, too. Columbia, along with other cities, draws kids estranged from conservative rural culture in from the rest of the state. The University of Missouri itself draws people from all over the U.S. + the rest of the world. That kind of influx of ideas, beliefs, + experiences makes for an exciting cultural + political environment.

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