Changing hands from imperialism to communism with foreign rule in between, Taiwan is a cultural mishmash with its own unique ideology and ruling system. Some of today’s hottest taggers in street art hail from this island. The Neverland of the art world, Taiwan is resplendent with painted trees amid a concrete jungle, bedazzling the urban scene.
It would be unethical to say the motherland has lost all its heat by outsourcing the graffiti. Urban expressions are fresh yet classical in Taiwan, where street art has been leering at passersbys since the times of the Paiwan woodcarvings. World War II left a mark on the island too, but holds less prominence than the latest political trends on the street art front. Today’s urban youth take no time to mobilize and let the world know their sentiments, so take a generational lens to Taipei and watch the voice of the city evolve on its walls. The parties responsible make damn sure you know it.
Virus No. 6 Crew
Common as dumplings and little more satisfying, it’s tough to bounce around Taipei without running into the work of this talented crew. Inspiring a double take from the bus window, their work is courageously large and ceaselessly original. Dabu’s pieces alone are underground hits and warrant a good gawk.
His name comes from “big brother is watching you” and his art is very political in nature. His pieces are best recognized by their pencil sketch-like quality achieved through using kindergarten level crayons, amongst other, less kid-friendly tools. A big fan of pushing the boundaries of graffiti away from vandalism and toward artistic expression, he throws up his (often graphically violent) paintings as a nod to the “pictures speak louder than words” ideals of Taiwan's recent history of censorship.
This example of stencil mastery would make any grown man cry. Spare us the tales of salty epiphanies while checking this guy’s artwork - we know. Colasa’s vision plasters Taiwanese walls, illustrating the intricacy in bringing forth the darkness of the soul. It's a little gruesome, so don't crap your pants. Black and beautiful, this guy walks the walk in a way few can.
Another trip into tradition, Spooz follows the “Bigger is Better” mantra. Huge walls and tunnels are among the canvasses that fall victim to his artistic fluids. Iconic and classical, his perceptually deep works feature graphics as well as landscapes. Anywhere from Taoyuan to Ho Chi Minh City, keep your eyes dodging around for Spooz’ displays.
Step back, child, because this shit’s already in your face. A Taiwanese art scene stalwart, Tooya! is the primary resource for the collective perspective of Taiwan’s urban art community. With links to many of the country’s artists and connections to the latest in this little nook of the art world, Tooya! will rock your membrane like some hydroponic poetry.
The arts are alive in Taiwan. Since graffiti in Taiwan falls within a gray area of legality, the police has yet to decide whether graffiti is vandalism (bad) or art (good). If no one complains, the police doesn't respond and as such, artwork can be found all over the country. Some key places to scope:
Although it is a more traditional setting for viewing art, the Taipei Fine Arts Museum is home to a huge mural painted by Bbrother in 2008. To go a little outside of the uber-legal, check out the Ximending neighborhood. Most of the streets are sprayed with art and the neighborhood is full of young energy.
Kaohsiung is the industrial artery that supports Taipei. The streets are gritty, grimy and smell like pollution; the graffiti is exquisite. If you've got spidey hops, you can check out the rooftops in this area for large amounts of paint. Otherwise, the street level is big on stickerfitti and huge block lettering.
Whether casually you're strolling along the highway or lost in a narrow alley, art pops up, in all its vivid, animated glory from every crevice of Taichung's convoluted streets. Animated characters, traditional name tags and murals with messages will surround you. Frequented by the Virus No. 6 Crew, Taichung graffiti is neither commissioned nor sanctioned by the government; it's raw, real and ridiculous.
OTP Tip: The government has designated several areas in Taiwan as “graffiti zones” allowing artists to paint within the confines of those areas. Often construction sites, temporary fencing and other usual eyesores are structures the government wants covered in graffiti for beautification purposes.
Nationwide efforts toward artistic expression means public art is all over Taiwan. Cross the street to the flashing of a Zebra’s ass, or eye local artworks at the train station. Less underground, but still funky and original, Taipei is a place of impending transformation and the arts are at the forefront of this blossoming country. Artists are being commissioned left and right to bring the city to life, building bridges between culture and subculture. A move for the better? Get yourself there and be the judge. Just look both ways at the blinking ass.