Saturday, 4 August 2018

lost horizon

During my recent trip to Manchester, I spent the first afternoon exploring the Rochdale Canal east of the city centre. At some point, I must have strayed away from the canal, and in the course of doing so, I came across a ramp leading down to a subway, with a corresponding ramp coming down from the opposite direction. To my great delight, the walls enclosing these ramps, and the subway, were covered in graffiti, the best examples of which I present below in the order in which I photographed them.

The first example seems to be showing signs of wear and tear, judging by the condition of the paintwork:

The next photo is a closer look at the graffito seen on the right in the previous photo. It shows what appears to be one graffito painted on top of a pre-existing tag. The offending overlay isn’t remotely as good as what has been destroyed:

The next graffito also appears to have been painted over a pre-existing work—by ‘the vanilla killa’—but in this case the previous work has been almost completely obliterated. The graffito that has replaced it is crude but is nevertheless more interesting than the previous example:

Part of this graffito can be seen on the opposite wall in the first photo above:

…while this graffito is located on the wall directly opposite. There is nothing striking about the lettering, but there are a lot of small details to add interest:

This is the first example of a ‘jagged’ tag, but what strikes me about this graffito is just how much of the wall has been left untouched by paint. I imagine that the artist decided that the colour balance was fine as it was:

The next image represents a quantum leap in artistic imagination, although it does feature commonly used motifs such as bubbles and glints of light:

I should draw your attention to the subway on the left of the photograph. It shows part of a graffito, a photo of which I’ve included below even though the severe glare made it impossible to take a good picture. This photo provides a more accurate impression of the colour balance in this work.

I’m not sure whether the next photo includes two separate graffiti or whether this is all the work of a single artist. The lettering style and colouring is different in the two lines, but the dripping paint in the lower line matches the background colour in the upper line:

This is the graffito at the entrance to the subway that I referred to above. It turned out to be impossible to avoid the glare, but I’ve included the photo anyway because this may be the most impressive of the graffiti in this location:

Glare also affected my ability to take a reasonable photo of the graffito on the opposite wall of the subway:

Note the wavy outlines, a style that I first drew attention to in The Writing on the Fence.

The next graffito also employs this style. And it too appears to have been painted over a pre-existing work:

The basic graffito in the next photo is dramatized by the dripping paint. The black and yellow highlighting along the top seems to be part of the design, although it also seems rather incongruous:

The next graffito also features black and yellow highlighting, but the lines are curved rather than angular. The body colour has been applied quite thinly, so that whatever is underneath can still be seen faintly, offering opportunities for the imagination:

Not a curve in sight:

Two faces back to back? There is a definite aquatic feel to the next graffito, with its fin-like extensions—and of course the colour. And the bubbles:

The last five photos were of graffiti on the left wall of the opposite ramp. The next two graffiti are located on the other wall. I consider the next graffito to be the best in this collection:

…apart from, possibly, this one:

I’m not sure what the first of these is meant to be depicting, although the imagery does look vaguely anatomical. I’ve included the inane scribbles on the left because they were clearly done after this painting, showing utter disrespect for what I think is a great piece of art, which must have taken hundreds of hours to execute. Because of the difference in light intensity between the left and right sides of the image, it has been difficult to get a good tonal balance, but I think the photo gives a good idea of the complexity.

I have a feeling that the second graffito was painted by the same artist as whoever was responsible for the graffito that I introduced in The Writing on the Fence with the invocation ‘Calling occupants of interplanetary craft…’.

And this is what the subway looked like from the other side:

In fact, the subway led into a small area of parkland, away from which led three other subways. This is the next one:

Around this time, I began to notice that my camera battery was running low—not at all surprising given that I’d already taken more than 200 photos that day. This meant that within a few seconds of extending the lens, it would retract automatically and I would be unable to take a photograph. When this happens, I can usually coax two or three more photos out of the camera before it shuts down for good.

This is a spectacular graffito that I photographed next to the second subway:

This one is crammed with common motifs—heartbeats, bubbles, glints of light—but also a new one: parabolic nets. The pink squiggles appear superficially to be nothing more than vandalism, but they may be part of the design and are intended to represent an extremely large number with a lot of zeroes.

The next photo is a general view looking up the ramp reached via the second subway:

I managed to take one final photograph, which I’ve included here even though I didn’t quite manage to get the full design in the frame:

I wasn’t particularly bothered about not being able to photograph all the graffiti here, because I could come back the following day, having charged my camera overnight. There was just one problem: I couldn’t find the location again.



  1. I love the graffiti. It spices up the walls and makes them more exciting.

    1. I agree. And there is just so much of it.


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