Introduction to Ghent graffiti
In 2013, I kind of accidentally got involved in Ghent’s graffiti scene. At school, the margins of my notebooks were always covered in sketches and I followed a part-time course in animation drawing. When I started drawing letters, I thought: ‘This could be graffiti’. That got the ball rolling. As a young guy in the scene, I felt I was in a bit of a vacuum. I came after a generation that had already moved on to studio and exhibition work, and others were busy painting trains.
I wasn’t satisfied with my work yet, so painting illegally wasn’t worth the risk to me yet. Fortunately, Ghent already had a few legal graffiti areas where I could practice. In 2015, I established Wallin’ vzw to support artists who had the same opinion as me. Our activities are multifaceted: we organise legal areas and graffiti jams, get walls for our artists, fund projects, organise graffiti walks and workshops and supervise commissioned artworks.
Ghent owes its flourishing street art scene to generations of artists rebelliously doing their thing, often in empty properties.
Ghent’s street art scene is booming, that much is certain. What characterises the scene? It is a melting pot: artists from Ghent, but also from larger cities such as Brussels and Antwerp are active here. What strikes me is that the figurative style is strongly represented in Ghent, which can lead to more mutual cooperation. It’s the perfect style to create stories. In some larger cities, you see graffiti artists spraying their names on walls everywhere. Those are more individual works.
Street art tourism
A lot of Ghent’s street art results from a culture of unoccupied buildings: buildings from lost industries were reclaimed by street art. The City is evolving considerably, so certain spaces where creativity could flourish are disappearing. Fortunately, many artists find their way to permanent walls in the city and new legal areas are popping up. Corridor in Gentbrugge, for example, has already become a new site of attraction. The rise of street art tourism is also giving our scene the attention it deserves.
Street art as a catalyst
My favourite street art area in Ghent? It has to be the Nieuw Gent area. Through the Goldmine project, Wallin’ created a new artistic hotspot there. Large murals of local and international talent adorn the social housing neighbourhood. It shows how street art can intrinsically change a neighbourhood by upgrading the living environment. And thanks to the project, the Nieuw Ghent neighbourhood is becoming a new attraction, as the neighbourhood was unknown territory to many citizens of Ghent for a long time. The fact that our work encourages people to rediscover their city and break the routine is great.
A lap of the R4 ring road
In the historical centre, the neighbourhood around Ham is also a must-see. That’s where the first edition of the ‘Sorry, not Sorry’ festival, took place. The area of the Old Docks, with a mix between work that was created spontaneously and work that was created specifically for the festival, is and remains a must-see. Would you like to take a look at the work of the new generation? Then drive down the R4 – Ghent’s city ring road. Especially in the Zwijnaarde area, you can see the work and the drive of raw talent.
From electricity to street art
Ghent can boast some impressive street art names. The most famous artist is, without a doubt, ROA. He was formed by the culture of unoccupied buildings in Ghent, started travelling and made a name for himself internationally, returned to Ghent and has never been more relevant than he is today. His work for the Van Eyck year, his art for the GUM – the Ghent University Museum… A personal favourite is Resto, an artist who has been around for years and has always been local. He created his personal illustrative universe through his work. It’s impressive how he watches over his own style. And two contemporary, very active artists I love following are Kiuw and Arrf the Wolf.
In 2013, Rick Molyneux sprayed his first spray cans empty as a graffiti artist. In 2015, he established Wallin’ vzw and created an organisation providing opportunities to street artists: connecting artists to walls and clients, funding projects, organising graffiti jams and workshops. This how Rick and his companions literally make the world a nicer place.