The Invisible Artist

by Lauren Armenta

Although graffiti is a debated art form, reverse graffiti or clean advertising, has been considered even more controversial. Reverse graffiti is the act of creating images by wiping away the paint from walls, removing grime and dirt, to preserve the original clean surface of the wall. In this art form, artists are not making use of brushes or cans of paint, but instead a wide range of cleaning materials. Reverse graffiti challenges natural causes of dirt and grime and tries to preserve a surface by creating art forms from it. Reverse graffiti artists work hard to scrub down the layers of dirt until the natural color of the walls is revealed.

Paul Curtis, commonly know as Moose, one of the first reverse graffiti artists, creates his art by using this technique of cleaning off dirty walls to create images. Authorities have debated if selective cleaning is a crime.

“British authorities aren't sure what to make of the artist who is creating graffiti by cleaning the grime off of urban life. The Leeds City Council has been considering what to do with Moose,” said Alex Santoso, biochemist and founder of Neatorama, a well-known blog.

Moose not only creates art on the walls of a city but also has been hired by companies such as Xbox and Smirnoff to “paint” messages or advertisements for their brand, which he was fined for back in 2004.

Even with this less destructive form of graffiti, Moose and other reverse graffiti artists have faced issues with legal authorities. “I’ve been arrested a couple of times, once when I was working with Greenpeace, when we cleaned a message into the Thames River wall in London, near the Houses of Parliament. The river police had chased us all afternoon but we had a lookout in the London eye and dodged them every time,” said Moose in an interview with Modern Hieroglyphics.

Reverse graffiti is an art form nonetheless and one that has the same repercussions as graffiti.

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