Graffiti art has long divided opinion but has, at the same time, been gaining recognition as a legitimate form.
And two Jeddah-based artists are further changing people’s perceptions of this colorful street style.
Sami Alamoudi, who goes by the street name “Muso,” and Firas Bawazir, aka “Frop”, have wowed the Saudi city with their colorful works.
The prolific pair have produced some iconic graffiti works that are striking both visually and in the ideas expressed.
Sami, 36, who is from the Philippines, has a design background; Indonesian Firas, 30, specialized in engineering.
The journey of these two artists started about five years ago when they met and found out how much they had in common.
They both studied in the UK and – more importantly – shared a passion for art that brought them to work together. They both felt the need of an escape from their full-time jobs, and it was through urban art and its lifestyle that they bonded. This resulted in their very own street names, Frop and Muso.
“Getting into graffiti was something interesting. Although we have kept our regular jobs, we still found ourselves feeling a blank which art filled and brought satisfaction as well as a sense of achievement,” Firas said.
The pair describe their work in two words – “crooked” and “random”. Firas commented further: “Our work is interpreted in different ways as we mix many of our previous experiences into a drawing. Basically, we feed off each other’s imaginations and push ourselves to come up with something different.”
The places where they paint graffiti include donated walls and private residences. They are commissioned for different events and specific places, and the pair emphasized that whatever work they do is legal and not, as with some other graffiti artists, painted on public buildings without permission.
Although both have full time jobs, Firas and Sami are still more inclined to their artistic passion. “Definitely our weekday schedule is tough. But having creativity and talent as diverse as our personal and professional backgrounds and a fierce passion for expression keeps us motivated and enthusiastic,” they said. “Besides the satisfaction is increased when we get a positive response from others, which also helps us to forget our hectic schedules and create something new.”
On being asked about their inspiration, they mentioned: “To be frank, it’s boredom. We tried many activities in Jeddah but this is the one we stuck to. It is also very satisfying to express ourselves on a paper or wall; you forget about the rest of your problems.”
Discussing the development of their artistic talent, Firas said, “I draw a little and pass it to Sami and then he draws a little. We keep doing that until we have a finished product that we are happy with and, in the end, we start spraying. What we’re doing now is just a part of the evolution from our earliest work. Although our present art is still connected with the style that we always follow, it has some new designs, letters and characters.”
Everyone has a different reaction to the kind of work the artists do, but it always starts with a confused look on their faces, something the two men find entertaining. Reactions to their work are always down to the viewer’s individual perceptions; some people love their art, while others don’t get it at all.
“We like it that we get both positive and negative feedback. It motivates us to enhance and improve ourselves and helps us to work further on our graffiti. Art is subjective, so we always welcome all kinds of feedback,” Sami said.
One of the challenges they face however is finding a public space to spray their work on, in addition to finding all the materials.
Commenting on the role graffiti has to play in society and whether it can be utilized to bring about positive change, the artists said that they believe it goes along with people’s perceptions. If people are open to it, then it can be used in many ways, particularly beautifying and creating spaces so that people appreciate art and broaden their perspective toward art. It takes people away for a moment.
This form of colorful art can also play a positive role in terms of the message conveyed – a message that is instantaneous and can be communicated easily.
“Although many (people) often question the meaning behind it, graffiti brightens up the lives of those who see it,” the artists said.
“As long as art, in general, grows in KSA, graffiti will follow. As long as people are open to new ideas and perspectives, this form of art will keep growing and hopefully become more accepted by the majority.”