In the mossy, dirt covered tunnels of Leeds, England, Paul Curtis, known as “Moose” used a sock to scrub away the grime and create pictures in the contrasting white tile. And the eco-friendly new graffiti art known as Reverse Graffiti or “Scrubbing” was born.
Reverse Graffiti has been around for a while–in 2006 the New York Times interviewed Curtis about his “controversial” new art form: “It’s refacing, not defacing. Just restoring a surface to its original state. It’s very temporary. It glows and it twinkles, and then it fades away.” In 2008, Moose brought his work to San Francisco for a documentary called “The Reverse Graffiti Project.”
And now a new group in Durban, South Africa is taking a page out of Moose’s book. Martin Pace began his tagging with a 17 meter filthy freeway wall in which he etched a pictorial timeline of the town’s architecture using only a metal scrubbing brush (most reverse graffiti artists use high pressure hoses and home-made stencils). He was later joined by his friends Stathi Kongianos, JP Jordaan and Nick Ferreira and they became Dutch Ink.
While some may call them vandals, there is really nothing illegal about cleaning a wall. Pace commented on the interactions between the group and the community:
“That’s the beauty of the whole project. We have had council guys in police cars stop us in the middle of the day while we are working and asking us if we have been commissioned to do this and when we answered no, they gave us thumbs up and said keep doing what you are doing.”