Great Works: Flaming, 2008 by Zevs

Dirty City Wall, Copenhagen

We are accustomed to the idea of authorised art, commissioned and sanctioned by Church, state or that private individual with the deep Armani pocket.

Such art is entirely within the control of the poker-faced man with the serious purse. This is the story behind the story of the marvels of the Renaissance and after. In his oil sketches, you can see how Rubens danced to the not-so-delicate tunes of his ecclesiastical paylords, aggrandising a donor here, taking an unloved saint down a peg or two.

Street art, on the other hand, is paid for by no one, and it is not for re-sale in the marketplace. It often comes into being thanks to some nocturnal daredevil with a taste for what is often regarded as criminal behaviour. This is art made on the run. The studio is the artist's pocket. The canvas on which he works is entirely unprimed and unready for his assault. The fact that it is at odds with the authorities means that art of this kind often feels hectic in mood, hasty in execution, urgently political in its impulses, and prepared for the fact that it may disappear again just as quickly as it has appeared because those who see it may regard it as an offence to the eye.

Such art has an air of wild chancing about it. It flails out at consumerism, greed, hypocrisy, and the money-fuelled, jibbering nonsense of the art establishment. In a world at the visual mercy of corporate branding, street artists such as Ron English, for example, re-make brand images. His is an art of disruption and violation, an art which exists to do harm to the seductive global culture of corporate advertising.

The best of graffiti art, such as this example by Zevs, often plays with ideas of danger and prohibition. It seems to laugh at what gives offence to those who dislike it so much. Zevs has made this work with the aid of a high-pressure jet. He has cleaned this stretch of unlovely, unacknowledged urban brick wall in Copenhagen in such a way that what emerges from a century's accretion of grime and pollution is an image of wave upon wave of destructively engulfing flames, of which you can see just a fragment on this page. (This can be one of the problems with capturing an image of street art: it is often difficult to contain on the page of a newspaper). No one was ever burnt by an image of a fire. Can you deface a building by cleaning it? Surely not. And yet violence has surely been done to its surface.

Zevs is working with the grain of what exists, the uneven surface of a red brick wall, and what such a material seems to evoke – the wall of a factory building; terraced housing in a poor district. The modulation of tones – black, ochre, red, yellow and many points in between – is replicated in the flames themselves, which seem to emerge from the wall as if they were some spiritual embodiment of its essential nature. This ghostly lashing of flames suggests the vanished might of industry. This lovely, unexpected lash of near-patterning also feels like a heartfelt, no-holds-barred expression of the fundamental energies of art beyond the tamed space of the gallery, art which has the freedom to be and to do whatever it so wishes at a moment of its own choosing.

What is more, it could be endless, boundless, this image. It has no definable, containable dimensions. It could go on and on. It has no beginning and no end. It has taken possession, appropriated this section of wall in defiance of its original relatively humdrum purpose, which was nothing other than to be a wall, that which keeps in and that which keeps out. Now it is both a wall and a space of decorative ardour, engulfed by this greedily licking, fleeting image. We rather wish it to go on and on.

The whole thing feels like a great, anarchic roaring, a wild flinging out of the hands, Rumpelstiltskin's crazy, enraged stamping for the sheer hell of living.

About the artist: Zevs

The French graffiti artist and “urban guerilla” Zevs has disrupted many civic spaces in Europe and elsewhere. His projects have included the “liquidating” of famous brand logos by re-painting them and allowing the paint to drip, thus creating the illusion that the logo is melting. In July, 2009, he was arrested in Hong Kong after a Chanel logo on the facade of a building was given such a makeover.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Novelist Martin Amis at The Times Cheltenham Literature Festival

books
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'

After giving gay film R-rating despite no sex or violence

film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Williams will be given a 'meaningful remembrance' at the Emmy Awards

film
Arts and Entertainment

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Arctic Monkeys headline this year's Reading and Leeds festivals, but there's a whole host of other bands to check out too
music
Arts and Entertainment
Blue singer Simon Webbe will be confirmed for Strictly Come Dancing

tv
Arts and Entertainment
'The Great British Bake Off' showcases food at its most sumptuous
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Cliff Richard performs at the Ziggo Dome in Amsterdam on 17 May 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Educating the East End returns to Channel 4 this autumn

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch will voice Shere Khan in Andy Serkis' movie take on The Jungle Book

film
Arts and Entertainment
DJ Calvin Harris performs at the iHeartRadio Music Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush

music
Arts and Entertainment
From left to right: Mark Crown, DJ Locksmith and Amir Amor of Rudimental performing on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park, Birmingham

music
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Capaldi and Chris Addison star in political comedy The Thick of IT

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Judy Murray said she

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Seoul singer G-Dragon could lead the invasion as South Korea has its sights set on Western markets
music
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

    Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

    Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
    Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

    Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

    So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
    Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

    Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

    Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
    What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

    What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

    Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
    French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

    French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

    The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
    Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

    Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

    Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
    Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

    Radio 1’s new top ten

    The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
    David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

    David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

    A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
    Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

    Florence Knight's perfect picnic

    Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
    Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

    Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

    The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
    Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

    Mark Hix's summery soups

    Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
    Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

    Tim Sherwood column

    I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
    Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

    Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

    Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
    Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

    Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

    The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
    Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

    Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

    The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition