Askew, a New Zealand-born artist, has worked with both graffiti and street art. However, he considers his own work “post-graffiti”. Often tossed under the label of street artist, Askew argues that there is a definite distinction between street art and graffiti. Askew also views large scale muralism as a category of its own, rather than either graffiti or street art.
He claims that graffiti differs from street art in that it is a wholly dissimilar experience and lifestyle from street art. Askew says that young graffiti artists respond to very specific energies and situations that comprise a distinct experience that is not often found through street art. Many early street artists in Auckland seemed to have a formal art education, while many graffiti artists did not. In addition, many street artists include characters and other public friendly images, while graffiti artists tend to shy away from characters. Instead, they create the illusion of characters through the contorted shapes of the letters. However, this often leads to the public hating the work of graffiti artists, applauding the more relatable wheat paste and stenciled images of street artists.
Perhaps the largest difference between graffiti and street art is the risk factor. Much of street art is prepared elsewhere and then applied, whereas graffiti artists create their work in the moment and with much higher risk due to its illegality. For Askew, graffiti is associated with intense pressure, high risk, violence, paranoia, loss and heartbreak. Success is fleeting, and the sacrifice is immense – there are many broken people in graffiti. Furthermore, success in the graffiti world often doesn’t transfer to success in the art world or even in society, and you get no recognition except from the few others in this small world.
Askew claims that the term “Street Art” is too liberally applied, and it doesn’t reflect the entire scope of graffiti, street artists, muralist artists and others who work outdoors. He hopes that “festival organisers, curators, galleries, academics and the media become a bit more respectful of these distinctions”.