British artist Ben Long uses a surprising medium for his reverse graffiti artwork – the grime that builds up from exhaust emissions on traveling cube trucks. Using only his finger, the artist has created a series of ephemeral drawings of children, birds and other animals in the layers of dirt. The project, called “The Great Traveling Art Exhibition,” is an ongoing series that takes over the back of commercial trucks, which are usually emblazoned with advertisements.
Long uses a subtractive process to create his detailed characters. That is, he carefully etches away the built up film of exhaust on the truck’s surface to create his figures. The “clean” areas become the lines and details of each piece. The resulting works are made through the cleaning and removal of dirt.
Each of the pieces is made on a commercial truck that is in use, so naturally the trucks drive all over, showing Long’s work to many different people throughout their runs. Yet, being a moving vehicle that is in commercial use, the pieces are impermanent, vulnerable to rainstorms, vandals, and the owners’ desire to wash them. Long creates these temporary pieces on trucks because it is a way for people to see his art without the need for a studio, gallery or financial backing. All he needs is an idea and a cup of water to get started. The drawings in dirt are captured in photographs so that Long and his fans can appreciate each art work long after it has been washed away.