Contemporary Graffiti as a Tool for Studying Prehistoric Art - a Few Examples

This post is about an example of how modern graffiti can help the study of some aspects of prehistoric art.
Published in Arts & Humanities
Contemporary Graffiti as a Tool for Studying Prehistoric Art - a Few Examples

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The post will give an example of how to research some aspects of prehistoric art according to the developed classification in the article: Zagorov, V., Hristov, H. Contemporary Graffiti as a Tool for Studying Prehistoric Art: A Classification Attempt. Hu Arenas (2023). 

The classification has 8 main categories and 26 subcategories, which indisputably shows that in terms of results, proximal factors often prevail over talent and schooling. Arbitrary grouping of individual categories and subcategories in practice helps to describe the widest possible number of actions in the realization of contemporary wall work, and the questions to these actions aim to guide researchers of prehistoric art in their scientific work (Table 1). 

So we will take un examples with fresh graffiti pieces from the city of Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria. The first one is "Hugging Donkeys"  ( Fig. 1). According to the classification it statues is  A is "Pejorative" - the newly elected mayor of Sofia declarer a "war" against people who paint illegal on public and privet walls. The piece was made by a Solo writer (B. 1) Spontaneously (C. 1).

Fig. 1 Poduene Train Station subway graffiti

The status of the spot is very interesting. It was made in the mane subway of the Sofia Poduene Train Station next to the security pavilion with a 24-hour security presence. The place was entirely renovated several years ago and there are several CCTV cameras in the area. In addition, 24 police presence is registered in the area. From a public safety perspective, the area is also problematic. In these conditions, the Localization of the creativity act can be described as D. 3 - High-risk spot. The author obviously doesn't have the skills to use a spray can (F. 1.  Amateur) but presents on the wall a very original idea (G. 3 Improvisor) far beyond the main public opinion that graffiti expression is related only to the marking of territory - "I was here". We can speculate that there are few elements of the so-called "Ant style" (grotesque and deliberate distortion of letters and images) - the author is certainly not skillful at spray painting. Still, the poses of the heads and arms of the two embracing donkeys show that he has an idea about the perspective used in art and painting. The lack of tag and other pieces with the same characteristic, the spontaneity and quality of the painting lead to the conclusion that the writer is sparing spontaneously so far - H.1.  The author definitely wants to attract attention, which is evident from the choice of location. He declared himself despite the existing security measures. It is also obvious that he is learning and practicing spray painting - that is, tentatively, he is in the process of „education”.
The Chavdar brigade is part of the train infrastructure of the Poduene Train Station. Recently to block accusations that he is obstructing art, the newly elected mayor of Sofia (November 2023) has declared the area under the bridge a "free wall" - a zone for legal graffiti painting. With this action, the Mayor drew a clear line between illegal graffiti and street art. So to celebrate the invention a huge graffiti festival with the participation of one of the famous Bulgarian Graffiti artists was organized in May 2024. Here one example will be given from this event (Fig. 2).

Fig. 2 Piece from Chavdar bridge festival, Kotk 3.3.

Presented Peace is the work of Kotk - a well-known writer - whose futuristic style is known far beyond the borders of Bulgaria. How his work will fit in the classification. The artwork is legal and the social attitude is positive - A. 2. Despite being a member of the specific crew - B. 3, he collaborates with a group of hilly professional Bulgarian and International graffiti artists (in this case: Jermain and Stenduc) - B. 4 (Many crews). Kotk writes a symbol presenting belonging to a certain group.  The other positions in the classification are stable in the upper part of the table. Kotk can be described as an artist who works with Preparation planning with funding (C. 4). His works are on legal spots - festivals, free walls, and public and private procurement (D. 4). He is a Graffiti artist (E. 5) and Professional (F. 3), and like to improvise in his works (G. 3). As a professional he practices his skills almost constantly (H. 3). 

So we have two contrasting in it differences art creators who are positioned in the contrast parts of the classification from bottom to top - the anonymous unskillful gay with the spray can who, after all, is demonstrating his presence on the wall and the highly skillful professional Kotk. We do not know if the random spraying gay will continue with his attempts but it should be noted that at the beginning the Kotk profile was identical or similar to him. We know that some writers and artists are better in their skills and imagination than others, but everyone certainly has a period of adaptation and education - this means he creates artworks in different conditions and, especially importantly - with different quality, which is improving with the practice.

Let's take an example now from the Prehistoric period with the cave of Pech Merle, France. As in the example above, in this cave, one can menschen in the same place for different types of artwork. On the "Mammon wall" (Fig. 3) we have a drawing of mammoths who pose characteristics of the two donkeys from the subway - they look unfinished, quickly and roughly scribbled by a man trying to train his hand. The whole wall is very similar to the spots where young writers go to perform at the beginning of their careers. On the opposite not far away from this place is the famous painting of the "Dappled Horses of Pech Merle" (Fig. 4). Same as Kotk the prehistoric artist considered and planned the space on which he painted and composed his work, he probably prepared a sketch of the work and certainly prepared painting materials (instruments and several colors, light, food, and a team of people who helped him. As contemporary artists practice, their prehistoric colleagues mark their presents on the wall signing the peace.  

Fig. 3 Classification: A. 1 - Unknown; B. 1 - Solo; C.1 Spontaneous; D.3 High-risk spots; E.1 Random; F.1 Amateur; G.3 Improviser; H.1 Sporadic
Fig. 3 Classification: A. 1 Positive (there were a logistic support and no body cross it);  B.3
Crew member (hypothetically the hands are showing crew relations); C.4 Preparation planning with funding; D.3 High-risk spots; E.5 Graffiti artist (composition and skills) ; F.3 Professional (skills); G.3 Improviser (use of the rock shape); H.3 Constant (quality of the work) 

So, researching contemporary graffiti is a useful approach to understanding some peculiarities of prehistoric art. It is definitely that after finding such similarities you can always take an interview from the present days' writers and search for an explanation of prehistoric ones. 

The fruit of such observation and direct conversations is the finding , for example, that a large number of contemporary graffiti artists combine other creative professions, one of the most related being tattooing - where you can transfer your ideas from the wall to the skin and vice versa.

If it is not considered an idea and a creative impulse, the presented article can help to a considerable extent in the study of the technical execution of prehistoric drawings. The final goal of this post is to stimulate prehistoric art specialists to try the approach on the PEDS which they already working with. 



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