Graffiti in Scotland - Creative writing

  • The List
  • 14 May 2009


From Loanhead to Glasgow there’s a rich heritage of graffiti art in Scotland. We speak to two of the key figures on the scene Elph and Derm

When prolific Edinburgh graffiti artist Elph started out 20 years ago, there weren’t many others doing it in Scotland. ‘Derm was probably the only guy I knew here, him and the Fallen Angels crew. Mak1 had a huge influence on Glasgow graffiti, and there were a few in Dundee. Most graffiti then was influenced by the breakdance scene.’

Elph’s style developed from tagging bus stops in Drylaw where he grew up, into painting bigger murals under bridges and on building sites.

‘When you’re 11 or 12, you don’t really have a voice, so spraying your nickname is a way of leaving your mark.’ He also started drawing at home and sticking pictures on doorways around town – to add to ‘the street furniture’.

Now Elph’s art has been exhibited in shows in New York, Berlin and London, alongside artists like Banksy and Adam Neate. But he still likes taking his spraycans to the capital’s cycle paths to paint with the other members of the Many Styles crew. (Spie, Skote, Casp, Sole, Aser, Nyte, Beat, Ego and Odes.)

‘Loanhead’s quite popular for painting, because stuff stays up for longer without getting painted over. Obviously there’s more graffiti in Glasgow, because it’s a bigger city, but also because there’s a big train network, which means lots of tracks to paint along.’

Through in Glasgow, artist couple Ali Wylie and Amy Whiten run Recoat, a gallery showcasing street art from new talent alongside that of established graffiti artists. Ali, aka Rekor, started painting aged 13.
‘I was heavily into skateboarding so you would always see stuff at skate parks and in magazines, and I thought it looked cool. So I went into the garage, found some old cans and started painting. I haven’t stopped.’ He describes his current work as, ‘a big mash up of ideas, characters, shapes and forms, patterns, typography, symbols and graphics,’ while Amy, aka Syrkus, mainly draws characters and ‘weird looking folk’.

For people looking for good graffiti, Ali says skate parks are a good place to start, and the one in Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Park has a regular turnover of pieces. ‘Tristan Manco’s books on graffiti are good too and feature some Scottish writers.’

‘There are too many good Scottish graffiti artists now to mention,’ says Derm. ‘Elph, Sole, Smog and Pure from Edinburgh; Smug, Estm, Theme and Rogue from Glasgow; and Lyken, Vera, Soulrelics and nwsk from Dundee all show originality. Personally, I like writers who are not scared to try new styles.’

Focal Range, a solo exhibition of Derm’s work, Pageant, Edinburgh, until Sun 24 May; Lest Bogles Catch Us Unawares, Elph versus Robert Burns, Henderson Gallery, Edinburgh, until Sat 6 Jun. For more Scottish graffiti:,,,,

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