‘Calligraffiti’ is the lovechild of the two most recognisable written art forms: calligraphy and graffiti. It takes traditional calligraphic letter forms, remixes them through a street-art lens, and throws them back up on city walls, graff-style.
European graffiti legend Niels ‘Shoe’ Meulman helped popularise the term in streetart with his 2007 exhibition of graffiti/calligraphy-inspired work. And since then an entire movement has blown up out of it. In April 2015, Shoe handed over the reins of the official Calligraffiti Facebook group to a hand-picked team of calligraffiti ambassadors, and the group has now racked up over 850,000 fans (and counting).
Part of the reason for this explosion of popularity is that, actually, there have always been calligraphy-inspired graff artists, and calligraphers with street-art sensibility. But before they had the ‘calligraffiti’ moniker to describe their work, they were often operating in isolation, as a fringe element of either calligraphy or graffiti. In a relatively short space of time, this assortment of artistic nonconformists has rallied around the calligraffiti banner, creating a huge global community of artists and fans in the process.
The sheer diversity of the artists in the movement, with different artistic backgrounds and cultural approaches to calligraphy, has led to some fascinating meeting of minds – like the image above, taken from an experimental calligraffiti series by Mexican artists Said Dorkins and Leo Luna. Created using light and long-exposure photography, the series is part calligraffiti, part performance art; designed to be an exploration of the memories held in Mexico City’s sites of traditional spiritual importance, otherwise supressed by commoditisation.
With 50 ambassadors to choose from (51 including Shoe) as well as some awesome up-and-comers, there are plenty of artists in the movement to inspire you (or to seek collaborations with). But to get you started, here’s a partial glimpse at some of the best of this fascinating, emerging art form.
Jiwoo ‘Psycollapse’ Park
One of the latest crop of calligraffiti ambassadors, Psycollapse is a Korean artist, based in Seoul. Her work consists of dense, gothic letter forms, sometimes used as a fill (like the picture above) or a base with which to ‘sculpt’ shapes or designs from. Her recently posted collaborations with artists such as Geuni kim and HandScanner have been nothing less than spectacular.
Niels ‘Shoe’ Muelman
No piece on calligraffiti would be complete without looking at the work of the guy that started it all, Niels ‘Shoe’ Muelman. Since handing over control of the Calligraffiti community page, he’s spent the last year developing a more experimental, abstract style, inspired by plants, trees and foliage. He’s also said he’s open to collaborations if “the project’s right” so better get practising! To keep up to date with his work follow him using any of the links below:
Anaroop is a calligrapher based in Mumbai. His work falls more on the calligraphy end of the calligraphy/graffiti spectrum, but his pieces are anything but conventional in their composition – sometimes perfectly circular ‘calligrams’, sometimes intentionally ‘glitched’ by dropping water onto the still-wet ink. Check out his Facebook and YouTube accounts for some awesome video examples of his penmanship.