Friday, 8th February, eight graffiti artists are painting the grey sidewall of Faster Pussycat, on the corner of Lt. Napier St. and Gertrude St. Fitzroy. The artists were hard at work spray painting the very large wall. Some are up ladders, others are on the street and one is up on the awning writing the name of the shop. This is a legal piece being painted in daylight with a few spectators, like myself watching.
It must have been a bit like this in the Renaissance churches and palaces as people watched the master and his apprentices up ladders working on frescos. Frescos are, like aerosol spray-paint, a fast medium as the artist has to finish painting the section before the plaster dries. So it would have been exciting to watch the paint going on and the image emerging. Except at Faster Pussycat on Friday, there were eight masters and no apprentices. And, unlike, the Renaissance there were two women artists painting as equals with the men.
Eight masters on the one wall might sound like a clash of the titans but there is a harmony, amongst the diverse styles in the use of green as the main color. And there is a diversity of styles, from the rocker and tattoo through to comic book and freestyle graffiti.
I went back a week later to see the finished work and to make enquires to whom to give credit for this great work. I asked at Faster Pussycat and was told that Caleb from Tattoo Magic was behind it; I asked at Tattoo Magic but Caleb wasn’t in. It reminded me again of the Renaissance. Vasari writes “…one day he (Michelangelo) went along to where the statue (the Pieta) was and found a crowd of strangers from Lombardy singing its praises; then one of them asked another who had made it, only to be told: ‘Our Gobbo from Milan’.”
The wall of Faster Pussycat is now a magnificent work of street art, our equivalent of the frescoed walls of a Renaissance cathedral. But it is not unique; there are many such excellent pieces around Fitzroy and Collingwood. As I was walking around I saw another very large piece on the side of a garage in Sackville St. Collingwood.
In the city I saw some odd and un-attributed street art in Donaldson Lane large, very professionally painted on shaped MDF and screwed onto the wall. These are homage tributes to illustrators and comic books as varied as Dr. Seuss to Frank Miller’s Sin City. The Sin City one has a fun operational peephole camera attached.
In a side note to the commercial value of street art, a shot of graffiti in Melbourne’s Hosier Lane is used in the 2008 Mazada Two TV advertisement. So we know that, in the opinion of Mazada’s Australian marketing, graffiti helps sells cars.