In the past three years since moving to Neukölln I have become increasingly aware of a particular graffiti artist. I cannot remember the first time I noticed the work, but its unique features spoke to me almost immediately. The artist, whom I will refer to by the tag they use, is named Egal. It is the German word for ‘whatever.’ And for some reason I have become obsessed with this person’s work.
But how did this happen? What is it that drew my eyes and unglued my esthetic sensibilities?
Graffiti can appear to be mere noise.
As I am obsessed with line quality my mind starts to look for patterns. Each line quality has its own story to tell. In a short period I start to see patterns that stand out from the noise. I guess I could break the graffiti I see down into three categories:
– Full designs that are consistent and done with a high degree of rehearsed skill
– Unskilled marks that appear to be trying to emulate the skilled ones
The reason that Egal stands out to me is that the mark has an un-rehearsed quality to it. The person is not trying to emulate a particular style. The truth is laid bare in this deliberate mark.
Some things I have concluded about Egal:
– Most of the pieces are small
– Mainly on drainage pipes, side panels of store displays, doors or window sills
– I have not seen the tag anywhere outside Neukölln
Aspects of the work that draw my attention:
– Simple yet deliberately jerky line quality
– The repeated use of one eye with an ambiguous flare above it that could be either an eye lash or eye brow
– An E that looks a bit like a B but still always means E
Within the above there is a good amount of variety between them. No two are alike.
Sometimes the A has several cross bars going through it making it look like an E.
In other pieces the A foregoes its cross bar and becomes a body with a single eye placed just above it, turning the A into a character.
An E can be combined with elements of the G so they go together.
In this instance the E, G and L appear to constitute a squawking figure.
While many artists use markers, Egal appears to favor black or white chalk. Perhaps they feel it best suits their line quality? Larger pieces are always with black spray paint. But these are less frequent.
I am not sure if it was due to my lack of noticing the small Egal pieces earlier, but as I recall the first ones that caught my attention were the large spray painted ones. Below is one such piece that not too long ago was altered by someone I call the ‘silver streaker’, someone who acquired a silver spray paint can and altered a series of different murals in the neighborhood by running and spraying an unruly line across them. I am grateful to have a photo of the unaltered piece.
After noticing these large pieces I started to be come aware of the smaller ones made with chalk.
For the moment I am so obsessed that my eyes constantly scan the surfaces of the buildings I pass by to see if there is a piece of Egal (whatever) that I can document. Oddly, when I am actually looking with some level of zeal, I won’t find one. It usually happens when I am barely thinking about it, whereupon even a small hint of this jerky curve will leap into the corner of my eye, drawing me to it.
There is a bit of curiosity in finding the person responsible for this work. But my overriding feeling is that this experience would detract from the joy of the unknown, transforming something into nothing. What would I say to this person beyond making known to them my admiration for their work? For the moment I prefer the joy of the something that is anything but… egal.