FARMINGTON — Most people hear the term graffiti and immediately think vandalism.

They envision random streaks of colors, vulgar phrases and gangs marking their territory. Spray paint splattered on buildings, railroad cars and traffic signs.

Elaborate designs and artwork with vivid textures and rich tones seldom comes to mind.

But Tim Clorius and Matt W. Moore, two artists in Portland, are working together to redefine those perceptions. They want to break down barriers attached to the term graffiti and arrive at a unique artistic style that they hope will change how people view spray paint cans forever.

That’s how Clorius, 36, and Moore, 32, described their most recent project, “Free Form Flow: A Celebration of Collaboration.” Their artwork is being displayed at the University of Maine at Farmington Art Gallery, in an exhibit that is running through April 5.

The pair of artists, who met 10 years ago while attending Maine College of Art in Portland, spent Tuesday afternoon hanging their artwork and preparing for an opening reception later in the day.

Piece-by-piece, they unpacked large square panels covered in bright greens, oranges and blues swirls. Each canvas panel came together like a puzzle with intricate spray paint designs connecting seamlessly, forming a single painting that covered nearly the entire wall.

Several smaller canvasses nearby had pink colors and textures depicting a woman’s lips and children’s faces. Paintings of mackerel and rock bass, each shaped like the particular fish, sat on the wooden floor waiting to be hung from a wall.

Each painting represents a unique artistic style, drawing inspiration from a broad spectrum that ranges from contemporary graffiti art to classic oil paintings, the artists said.

Clorius, who grew up in Heidelberg, Germany, looks at the project as discovering a new art form. He added that it’s is part of a movement among young artists seeking to break free of traditional artistic labels and styles.

The wall-sized painting, for example, brought together Clorius’ background in oil painting and Moore’s experience with graphic design. The artists, who both contributed to the piece, pointed to the contrast between an oil painting’s flowing strokes with solid lines and shapes commonly seen in graphic designs.

Clorius and Moore, however, are worried about misconceptions tied to how graffiti art styles influenced their work, along with other new artistic styles.

Some people don’t understand the history behind graffiti art, which has evolved from its illegal origins as an urban artistic expression to inspire new directions among contemporary artists, Clorius said.

Spray paint is a challenging artistic medium, forcing artists to control paint shooting out of a can. Today, it’s being used to create artwork previously only seen in more traditional mediums, which means there are very smart and hard-working artists wielding spray paint cans, he said.

Clorius and Moore both said graffiti art remains an illegal underground movement among many artists, but they noted that many communities are also commissioning graffiti art murals.

The pair doesn’t quite really know what to call the artistic style of their paintings that hang in the gallery. They look at it as an abstract aerosol art form that is constantly changing, Clorius said.

“We’re kind of making up the terminology as we go,” he said.

The problems with graffiti art arise when people spray-paint public and private property without permission, according to Farmington police Deputy Chief Shane Cote.

There have only been a few cases of unwanted graffiti showing up in town, with at least one person who was arrested and charged with criminal mischief in recent years, he said.

For law enforcement, graffiti ranges from “tags” left as a signature for a particular artist or gang affiliation to large murals done without permission.

There is a graffiti mural on the wall of the former movie theater in downtown Farmington, where the building’s owner gave permission to the artist, Cote said, referring to the legal way to practice the art form.

The UMF Art Gallery is at 246 Main St., behind the admissions office. The exhibit will run from today to March 25 and March 31 to April 5. There is no cost for the exhibit and the gallery is open to the public from noon to 4 p.m.

David Robinson — 861-9287

[email protected]

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