"In the environmental movement, every time you lose a battle it's for good, but our victories always seem to be temporary and we keep fighting them over and over again.” David Suzuki.
Welcome to the world of reverse graffiti, where the artist’s weapons are cleaning materials and where the enemy is the elements: wind, rain, pollution and decay. It’s an art form that removes dust or dirt rather than adding paint. Some find it intriguing, beguiling, beautiful and imaginative, whereas others look upon it in much the same way as traditional graffiti – a complete lack of respect for the law. Reverse graffiti challenges ideals and perceptions while at the same time shapes and changes the environment in which we live, whether people think for the better, or not.
We thought we’d compile a collection of some of the most incredible works of reverse graffiti and the artists behind them for your viewing pleasure.
1. Big Brother Eye etched on to road sign, Leeds, UK.
Moose: The Original Reverse Graffiti Artist
Real name, Paul Curtis, Moose is the grand-daddy of reverse graffiti. He’s been cleaning the streets of the UK and beyond for around ten years.
2. Reverse Graffiti Project, San Francisco.
Using detergent and a wire brush, the tools of many a cleaner, graffiti artist Moose works with advertisers to create innovative clean messages and slogans that inevitably turn into works of art.
3. Reverse Graffiti Project, San Francisco.
One of Moose's more recent works, the Reverse Graffiti Project, was on San Francisco’s Broadway tunnel in conjunction with Green Works, to promote a plant-based cleaner.
4. Reverse Graffiti Project by Moose in San Francisco.
A statement by reverse graffiti artist Moose.
5. Reverse Graffiti Project in San Francisco by Moose.
6. Reverse Graffiti Project in San Francisco by Moose.
7. Reverse Graffiti Project in San Francisco by Moose.
9. Reverse Graffiti Project in San Francisco by Moose.
10. Reverse Graffiti on a wall in the UK by Moose.
11. The one and only, Einstein.
Scott Wade: Reverse Graffiti on Cars
Taking the scribbles of many a budding graffiti artist to new heights, Scott Wade decorates the back of dusty car windows with much more intricate works of art than the usual ‘Wash Me’.
12. Mona Lisa as you've never seen her before.
Scott Wade lives very near a dirt road covered in caliche – a mixture of limestone dust, gravel and clay – which, when driven over throws up a fine, white dust, covering the cars which he then decorates using plain, ordinary artist brushes, and the effects are amazing.
3. Close-up of the Mona Lisa reverse graffiti by Scott Wade.
14. Mona Lisa just as it starts to rain. The rain seems to almost enhance the image.
15. Vermeer's Girl With a Pearl Earring.
16. Football legend Ronaldinho by reverse graffiti artist Scott Wade.
17. The infamous Poker Dogs redone by reverse graffiti artist Scott Wade.
18. Final version of Poker Dogs by reverse graffiti artist Scott Wade just about to be washed away by the rain.
19. The child trapped in the car is reverse graffiti artist Scott Wade's daughter.
20. Pets go crazy by reverse graffiti artist Scott Wade.
21. Etching skulls on the side of the tunnel with nothing but water and a cloth.
Alexandre Orion – Skulls in Sao Paolo
Hailing from Brazil, Alexandre sees his art work as a way of getting an environmental message across to those who ordinarily wouldn’t listen.
22. A chance to see the skulls up close.
A few years ago, reverse graffiti artist Alexandre Orion adorned a transport tunnel in Sao Paolo with a mural consisting of a series of skulls to remind drivers of the detrimental impact their emissions have on the planet.
23. The artist in action.
The Brazilian authorities were incensed but couldn’t actually charge reverse graffiti artist Alexandre Orion with anything so they instead cleaned the tunnel.
24. What happens when caught in the act.
At first they cleaned only the parts Alexandre Orion had cleared but after the artist switched to the opposite wall they had to clean that too. In the end, the authorities decided to wash every tunnel in the city, missing the irony completely, it seems.
Reverse Graffiti from the Public
25. An innovative advertising campaign for Freshaire Choice, an eco-friendly paint brand.
26. Detailed painting on the back of a truck, Trafalgar Square, London.
27. Professional illustrator, Rabia, takes to the streets and cars of Israel and Amsterdam to produce some fun reverse graffiti.
28. 'Don't Litter' etched on the side of a dirty bus, Auckland, New Zealand.
29. Something so beautiful created from something so dirty, in New York City.
30. So plane mechanics do have a sense of humor. A 'Wash Me' sign is written in the dirt of a plane wing.
31. More from Rabia.
33. Grrr, scary dust monster on the loose next to Gallery Lombardi in Austin.
34. Surfer or snail? Not sure.