It is an attempt at sorts of reclaiming public space, dressing it up a little and reminding people that they are in an urban setting. Personally I dislike most tagging - it's obnoxious and crass, and unthoughtful - except when the artist is given a little more time and colours to create something worthwhile.
I adore stencil art though. Stencil art on the other hand is tagging's shy little sister. Hardly noticeable, except when you're up close. Stencil art is usually quite thoughtful - sometimes political, sometimes rude but always entertaining. As with tagging, if the artist is given a little more time to add more layers - they look even better - but unlike tagging it is possible to look good after one quick spray.
Unlike most public art, which requires commissions or grants - stencil art is open to everyone (well everyone who doesn't mind taking the risk of getting caught). It's possibly one of the more democratic forms of art - much like blogging is to writing and journalism.
Sometimes it is the stencil art alone that makes a laneway interesting, although most of the time these clever images actually simply add more to the character of a laneway. Side note... three more lanes have been added to my lanes blog. Lately I've taken to doing a number of lanes in the same block all at once - saving time and energy.
Anyways... back to stencil art - I'm planning on attending some of the Melbourne Stencil Festival which starts on Friday. I will no doubt be the uncoolest person there but I hope I can make up for it with my enthusiasm. See this flyer for more info.