Germes Gang are one of the most creative, outlandish and innovative of Portugal’s artistic collectives. A country with a rich history of graffiti, from the subway cars of Lisbon to the meandering streets of Porto, Germes Gang have managed to stay true to that school, whilst injecting it with a contemporary sense of fun cultural criticism.
One thing that’s instantly recognisable about a piece by one of the various members of Germes Gang is that you’ll recognise it. That might sound contradictory, or strange, but what I mean is that the group are deeply impacted by 90s and contemporary culture, so you’ll see a lot of it appear in their works. Most of it is instantly identifiable.
Written in a rough, naive and almost childlike way, their pieces transport us all back to a time when drawing and art was fun. Just like a kid runs without thinking of their heart-rate or the distance clocked, they also draw like nobody else is watching, or criticising. This carefree attitude leaves Germes Gang unbound by the stringest judgements of graffiti in the 21st century.
If they want to draw a character from Dragonball-Z in an old 90s Italian football shirt, then they’ll draw it (they already have, by the way). There is a perceptible nostalgia in these works, the kind of cultural mish-mash that we are weened off of doing as we grow up. Over the course of years, we begin to think of things that ‘make sense’, rather than just doing what we want.
Having such a formulaic worldview often means that artists are enslaved by this mentality. Although their work is creative, it isn’t pioneering or unpredictable. These two words can be applied to almost all of the works produced by the collective, even when it’s just a plastic Tesco bag they’ve scribbled down.
As is the case with iconic brands and television stars, bedecked in Gucci and bejeweled in bling, the lampooning doesn’t stop with them. Lidl and Tesco feature, alongside drunk or smoking comic characters of our youth, underpinning the kitchen sink sense of reality, when celebrities aren’t worth celebrating, or super heroes aren’t actually that super. This is graffiti with no pretense.
Incorporating these disparate aesthetic remnants of the vivid 90s and early 00s visual culture as they do, Germes Gang embody a genuine ‘anti-style’ style of art. They’re not toys, but respected members of Portugal’s graffiti and art scenes. First learning the rules before breaking them, parodying the popular hipster aesthetic of ‘ignorant’ art by questioning the role of the artist through many of their self-referential posts on instagram (@germesgang), they stay one step ahead of the game (and their critics).
By turning themselves into a meme, as well as creating meme-able art that borrows heavily from the contemporary culture that memes use, their project is something funny, intelligent and as meta as graffiti could be. An in-joke you can look at and laugh, but never truly understand.
The only certainty is the uncertainty of what comes next. The best way to stay in the loop is through their socials.
More like this:
Please, check your email.