Street Art as a tool for change

Meet Trevor Loveys, Poole born artist. Trevor works with charities and local businesses and believes that his work should be free for public enjoment. Previous projects can be found on his website: www.positivepaint.co.uk

I’ve been painting graffiti and following the scene since the 1980’s. As a young Poole boy I was inspired and motivated by the graff and hip hop movement which spread from America and reached me and my friends through books like Subway Art and conversations in school playgrounds. We’d take the train to London and take photographs of pieces which have now become iconic images amongst a small but solid community.

During some of the most significant moments in my life I’ve used graffiti to mark moments and spray messages, perhaps most importantly memorials to friends who had died too young. Paintings filled with celebration of their life and sadness for my loss. I was able to paint those messages on behalf of their friends and family, in a way that a small newspaper eulogy couldn’t quite represent their full identity.     

Harking back to the early years of New York Subway art graffiti artists made powerful social and political statements such as Lee Quinones’ nuclear war protest, the iconic ‘Stop the Bomb’ piece, which he painted in 1979.

That train carried his message across the city in a blaze of multi-coloured glory.

Fast forward 38 years, you can stand in any town or city in the world and take a good sniff. Mixed in with the complex aromas of fast food and heavy traffic fumes you will smell the unmistakable sign of nearby spray paint. Graffiti and street art is now being acknowledged as one of the most significant modern art movements of our generation. Just as Lee did all those years earlier, with a can of car paint and a rusty train, so the artists of today express their messages of personal, political or humour. For me there's something so instant and gratifying about using spray paint to communicate one moment in time, my mixture of feelings and an expression of thoughts and creativity. 

Whether you’re in a suburb of London, a favela in Brazil or on a street corner in Calcutta you can find a space to express yourself and paint your vision for everyone to see. I’ve witnessed graffiti engage people of all ages and cultures; emotionally, personally, politically on issues such as voting, the environment and representing community matters like gentrification. When a graffiti artist puts their life, soul, feeling and colour into an empty space that moment creates a new world for people to enter and be part of.

It's an empowering force for those who feel powerless without another way for their voice to be captured. For them to be able to paint out what hides in their heart and for their creativity to be held up and valued as an achievement.

It's great to see how the whole scene has progressed and to see artists making a living and being commissioned to bring their vision to transform unloved spaces into monuments for everyone to enjoy.

I was recently involved in an awareness raising and fundraising project for national children's charity Barnardo’s. My partner Sara is employed as a CSE project worker supporting resilient but vulnerable children who are at significant risk of sexual exploitation and abuse.

The purpose of the art work was to artistically communicate the risks that all children can face from dangerous adults online, so I designed a piece that would convey this message to children, young people, families, child care professionals and the local community.

I was given a 15m long 2m tall wall in Swanage, Dorset overlooking the local skate park. It was the perfect location to reach the young kids that my piece was aimed at; I painted over 5 blustery days, having to occasionally sit in my van during periods of particularly high winds and torrential rain coming in across the Swanage bay. As I painted I was greeted with lots of heart felt interest in what my piece was about. It was amazing to be able to explain the reason for the design to local onlookers and passers-by, but my proudest moment was during the final stages of painting on a sunny Friday afternoon. I heard a group of young people who were all sat watching from the top of one of the skate ramps chatting amongst themselves about the piece and its message. This was the moment when my gesture of this artwork became theirs and I as an artist could walk away hoping in my heart that it could in some way help them to keep safe by sparking their awareness.

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