Thursday, December 07, 2006

Chalk and cheese

For the first part of this double offering, we begin our journey in the city of Florence - or Firenze, if you prefer to use the local lingo.

The Italians have enjoyed a long love affair with graffiti. They’ve been at it for centuries. Take Pompeii, the Ancient Roman town laid waste by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79AD. Messages scratched on its walls before its destruction can still be seen among the ruins today, almost 2,000 years later. And very colourful some of them are too. Take a look here for translations.

The above image was submitted by Lisbon-based Filthy Pen correspondent Bobby Taylor, who explains in his covering note that he spotted it while on a weekend cultural trip to Florence to see the Gallery of the Accademia di Belle Arti’s prize exhibit, Michelangelo’s David - a big marble statue of a bloke with his knob out. Feel the weight of that irony.

After queuing for 90 minutes for an eyeful of what has to be the most famous penis in the history of art, Bobby couldn’t fail to notice an entire wall nearby that was covered in “the inane scribblings of visitors from all over the planet”, as he puts it. There, among the signatures, dates and countries of origin of countless tourists, this entry stood out. Well it would, wouldn’t it?

In his submission, Bobby wonders whether it was drawn by Swedish visitors Signe or Sandra, or whether someone else drew it and just happened to frame their names, which were already present on the wall. And if it is a self-portrait by Signe, Bobby speculates as to how lifelike it might be. He wonders whether Signe really has his and Sandra's names tattooed on his scrotum. What a disturbing thought.

As Bobby says, not having answers to these questions doesn’t detract from this impressive bit of graffiti, “the simple beauty of which transcends all language barriers whilst challenging Michelangelo's own artistic prowess right on his own doorstep”. It’s hard to disagree with his sentiments. Note the technique employed in its execution - the piece has been sketched out in biro first, and has then been finished off in crayon. Very professional.

Let’s liken today’s images to the runners in a horserace. If the one above – we’ll call it The Italian Job - leads by an impressive distance as it storms unchallenged towards the finishing line, then our second entry in the contest, Numnutz, is lagging well behind and struggling badly: It’s fair to say that Numnutz - which decorates a weather shelter on the promenade at Fisherrow beach, a few miles outside Edinburgh - is not the work of the most talented spray-painter around. Enthusiasm is one thing, but without the creative ability to back it up, it’s bound to lead to disappointment.

We can only hope that the audience of pals who probably goaded the creator of Numnutz into attempting his work didn’t laugh at him too much once they saw his finished piece. It’d be a shame if their ridicule put him off trying again.

Ideally, he’ll learn from his mistake and will improve as a result. You stick at it mate. Remember, from little acorns mighty oak trees grow. Just ask Signe.

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