Graffiti wording is one of the most recognizable aspects of street art. Highly stylized letters and words have become an intrinsic part of the street art and graffiti culture, so much so that learning to letter properly is often seen as an important stepping stone in any artist’s career. It’s a place where people can start to experiment with their own true style and many artists end up creating a definitive signature that is the result of everything they’ve learned about graffiti lettering, often very early on in their career. You can see it on most street art, in fact, a small but perfected signature of the artist on their piece. No matter where their work has gone, that small homage to the graffiti letter will always remain.
But such widespread popularity has made graffiti lettering an often ignored or reviled aspect of the street art scene. Indeed, many people can list off examples of lettering that they would consider crude graffiti, not art, scrawled to announce graduating classes, love, or simply to write profanity in a certain way. It appears on bridges, in subways, and all over, and most people would prefer to ignore it.
Enter Canadian street artist and graffiti lettering lover KWEST. The Toronto-based graffiti artist has mastered the art of lettering, as anyone in Canada’s largest city can attest. His beautiful and distinctive renditions appear all over the city, from Kensington Market to GO Station rails, and is some of the most accomplished work in the entire city.
So when KWEST (pronounced “quest”) was invited to a European music festival that has a large dedication to art, he decided to take what he does best and make it so no one could ignore it. The result is his biggest project to date, a series of graffiti letters made from wood that looked like they were scrawled in Toronto, but were actually freestanding at the Roskilde Festival in Denmark.
The process of putting together what has been called “the world’s biggest graffiti letter sculpture” started in a warehouse near the festival, where KWEST and his team were given hundreds and hundreds of pieces of wood to make the letters. Working together over the course of a few days before music lovers showed up to the festival, they carefully carved, cut, and sanded the pieces into the perfect shape. The entire process looked like the team was making an abstract skateboard park more than graffiti letters and it wasn’t until they were up and painted that the project began to take shape.
KWEST does all of his graffiti writing free hand with spray cans and he wanted to give that style to the letters, but also give them considerable depth. So, with the help of some of his friends and co-artists, they decided on a colour palette that gave the pieces an even larger, more pronounced look. The result was a sculpture that commanded an audience, impossible to ignore and breathtaking in scope.