We love to see street, graffiti and stencil art and we are constantly inspired to see how our work can be utilised in this medium
At Laser Cutting Services our creative expertise means we can make stencils for artists to produce works of any size, broken down into manageable pieces. Over the years we have fabricated many multilayer stencils for artists who create large-scale artwork.
It’s a truly unique and collaborative process that we are thrilled to be a part of. Of course, we are led by our client’s creative vision, but we love to see street, graffiti and stencil art and we are constantly inspired to see how our work can be utilised in this medium.
Perhaps the most famous, and prolific user of stencils in this form is Banksy. The story goes that Banksy was hiding from the police and noticed a stencilled serial number under a van. This gave him the idea that stencilling would enable him to create his artworks at much greater speed, and reduce the risk of him having to leave before his piece was finished. The rest is history, and charts a remarkable rise from illegal graffiti to multi-million pound installations.
Banksy’s stencilled art has garnered attention and acclaim worldwide, but he is far from the first street artist to use stencilling. Whilst graffiti itself has deep roots throughout recorded history, stencilling has been noted since the 1960/70s. It really started to permeate the public consciousness in the 1980s, with artists such as Blek le Rat – a pioneering French street artist who stencilled rats on Paris walls. The rats themselves were said to have represented the urban landscape, as well as the more marginalised members of society. Influenced by punk music and the socio-political landscape, his work continues to call attention to aspects of urban living – such as the plight of the homeless.(2) His style and technique continues to be a major influence for many artists in the graffiti culture.
The UK also has had a thriving graffiti art subculture since the 1980s. Robert del Naja (known as 3D) and Nick Walker have been prominent pioneers of the infamous graffiti scene in Bristol, which proved to be fertile ground, with much collaboration with artists and musicians (3D is a founding member of Massive Attack), who in turn provided inspiration for each other and the subsequent new wave of artists. Nick Walker, known for blending freehand technique with intricate stencilled elements, has produced some enduringly popular yet subversive works, taking him from the streets of Bristol to sold-out art shows, with collectors queuing for 24 hours to get hold of a print. Walker says, ‘the appeal of stencils is that they allow me to take an image from anywhere – dissect any part of life – and recreate it on any surface.’(1) His iconic Moona Lisa, a ‘cheeky’ vantage point for the famous muse, sold over 10 times its estimated value at auction – highlighting the shift in attitude from what was once considered vandalism to highly collectible art.
Much of the work stemming from this era blended elements of popular culture, humour and satire, sometimes to provide social commentary, which has remained a constant theme. More recently, Banksy has used art and humour to create commentary on society. During the COVID-19 quarantine period, he posted to instagram an installation of stencilled rats creating havoc in a bathroom, captioning it, ‘my wife hates it when I work from home’.(3) Another piece from this period was an especially poignant piece of a boy playing with a nurse doll, having discarded former superheroes into a bin. This showed support and appreciation for the NHS and frontline workers during the pandemic.
Whilst some artists are happy to claim fame for their work, others prefer to stay anonymous. This is perhaps to keep a line between their art and their personal life, but it’s also true that in some spaces graffiti is controversial, and even illegal. Certainly, in previous years, a lot of time and resources went into shutting down Graffiti culture; Operation Anderson in 1989 was the largest such operation which famously led to many arrests of suspected graffiti artists in the Bristol area.
The attitude towards graffiti has of course changed with time, but it is important to remember that sometimes such expression and freedom comes with a cost, Sometimes social commentary is not welcomed. Czarnobyl – a Polish street artist – has been creating incredible multilayered stencil art for many years, that at times resemble Rorschach tests. Citing influences such as punk culture and politics, he says that under the communist regime of the time, some such works were considered a political act.(4)
Street art continues to evolve and incorporate technologies and reflect the changing social and political landscape. For some, it will be forever entwined in subculture, and of course in some areas and properties it remains illegal.
But for many it is an increasingly respected and influential form of expression. Many street artists are now getting recognition for their work with galleries, brand collaborations and investors all making it not only mainstream but highly desirable collection pieces.
Stencil graffiti is already being used as striking accents to urban landscaping – more and more towns and cities are using stunning street art and stencilling as a cost-effective, colourful and expressive medium. We love to see investment in this area as it is a great way to diversify and encourage representation, whilst adding beauty and colour to public spaces.
As technology continues to become more accessible, we may also see it integrated into street art installations, creating more immersive experiences in public spaces.
It’s clear that the desire for street art is only increasing, with more bands, brands and collaborations happening between companies and artists, it seems likely that we will see more large-scale guerilla marketing campaigns using walls and floors to take this style of art back to the streets.
Stencils can be made from a great many materials, lending versatility to their usage. We offer card, paper, fabric and plastic film stencils. We work in different thicknesses depending on the surface being stencilled – whether it's the side of a building,or the front of a t shirt. The beauty of each stencil is that it can be made totally bespoke and unique… but once you have it, the reusable nature means the art is reproducible at a very high rate, making it ideal for prints, t-shirts, posters and marketing materials of any imaginable size.
Whatever the future holds for stencil graffiti, we’re excited to see it. As of course, with our laser-cutting services, we hope to be right at the cutting edge.