FOR six months, the Capital’s road signs were embellished seemingly unnoticed by anyone - a one-way arrow piercing a heart here, a sumo wrestler taking on a no entry sign there.
Amid a flurry of social media intrigue, Italy-based street artist Clet Abraham stepped forward as the mystery “hacker” on a one-man mission to “criticise the strictness of signage.”
Now the debate has moved on to whether his quirky amendments can or should be kept - pitting city chiefs against their own authority in the process.
“I enjoy Clet’s work & love capturing #streetart,” tweeted Tory Cllr Mark Brown, in response to council concerns the edited signs are illegal. “Be a shame to see them taken down.”
And he later added: “It’s a joy to see more examples of street art popping up across Edinburgh nowadays. I’ve become a bit of a connoisseur of street art whilst on my travels and it’s quite something to have the likes of Clet Abraham making his mark in the capital.
“I think these visual treats are to be savoured, not censored or removed. I hope they remain in situ and enjoyed by many – it might even encourage folk to look up and enjoy what’s around them too.
“And wouldn’t it be great if Edinburgh could become something of a ‘Scotland’s Shoreditch’ for street artists to come and show off their creative flair.”
Cllr Brown’s guerrilla art appreciation, seemingly at odds with his party’s usual line, was too good an opportunity to pass for some light-hearted trolling.
“Headline - Tory Councillor Demands no Action on Graffiti Shock,” replied Labour’s Cllr Scott Arthur.
Even SNP council leader Adam McVey waded in with an emoji-laden tweet: “STOP! And have a look at the guerrilla art in the Capital! Love it! thanks Clet Abraham.”
And Cllr McVey went on to say: ““The buzz around Clet Abraham’s work is adding to Edinburgh’s image as a vibrant, modern city. We’re now considering options around how best to use our new guerrilla art.”
But while consensus appears to be reached over the aesthetic merit of Mr Abraham’s work, concerns over confused drivers persist.
Edmund King, AA president, said: “As Banksy has shown, street art can be fun and adds a splash of colour to sometimes dour environments.
“However, it would lead to anarchy in the UK if we allowed a free for all on road signs.
“One person’s spilt red wine might be interpreted as another’s non-alcohol zone rather than No Entry which might lead to artistic confusion. Signs need to be unambiguous and clear. Art is art.”
As for the man himself, Mr Abrahams feels such worries could amount to heading, well, down a blind alley - and talks up the contribution to safety made by his work.
“Official surveys on road safety demonstrate that road-traffic accidents are mainly caused by lack of attention,” writes the 52-year-old, in an open letter to the council.
“On the contrary, my work on road signs recalls the drivers’ attention by evoking their sympathy rather than scarce attention or even rejection.” Quite.
The fine art graduate takes between two days and two years to come up with each design before hand drawing it and then putting it onto a computer to make a sticker for the sign.
His work has been spotted in some of Europe’s greatest cities including Paris, Rome, London, Turin, Milan and Barcelona, while he was reportedly arrested in Japan.
Even if removed, the city council is understood to want to preserve the 20 or so altered signs spotted in South St David Street, Thistle Street, Union Street and elsewhere.
Should his work be scrubbed from the streets, fans need not despair, however.
Mr Abraham buys signs from councils which take them down and makes extras before flogging them to clients for up to £10,000 a pop.
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