Flipping through Matthew Lunn Street Art Uncut (Craftsman House, 2006) is the only way to read it. The book documents Melbourne’s street art scene with lots of pictures and some text. However, there is no structure to the book, no table of contents, a pictography but no index.
Street Art Uncut profiles individual Melbourne street artists and looks at individual pieces and series of pieces. It of explores techniques and themes in graffiti. Street Art Uncut, as its title indicates, has a wider view of street art than just stencils including tagging, advertising vandalism, political graffiti and even handmade house numbers.
In writing about the techniques and qualities of media Matthew Lunn attempts to define the aesthetics of spray paint and other street art. He is not doing this in a dictatorial manner but in an appreciative observant way. He writes about the quality of drips, of paint on different surfaces, of different media and the rich variety of street art. He traces the way that images transform and mutate. And he questions the distinctions between art and vandalism, free art and gallery art.
Another kind of street art that Lunn mentions is trolley art and includes a page of photos of arrangements of supermarket trolleys (p.133). The most complete version of trolley art that I have seen on the street, was “Mobile Home”; a supermarket trolley with a red wooden slate roof. The trolley is hung with lots of keys; inside the trolley is a sleeping bag and lots of cast, clear plastic hands. The message about homelessness is also clear. Mobile Home was by the Artful Dodgers Studios on Gertrude St., Fitzroy. Mobile Home was part of the 2007 Fringe Festival’s Site Unseen program.
Matthew Lunn mentions domestic street art in Street Art Uncut but only in terms of personalized house numbers, car number plates and Xmas decorations. (p.135) He could have mentioned the ornamental welded metal gates that feature in many of Howard Arkley’s suburban scenes of Melbourne.
The text is well written and covers both individual artists and all aspects of street art from tags to street art sculpture. It goes beyond the individual pieces to information on the techniques and the official responses from Melbourne City Council, the police and the Met transport. It does not forget that street art is a mass phenomenon and not just a few famous tags like Phibs, Civil, Ha Ha or Vexta. There is also geographic information about street art including a map of major sites in the city. But mostly it is lots and lots of excellent photographs of street art.
Street Art Uncut is not the definitive book on Melbourne’s stencil art scene; it has yet to be written. The definitive book will be written as an obituary for the street art scene, after the statue of limitations for all the petty crimes, when work can be attributed without fear of prosecution. Street Art Uncut is essentially a picture book for adults; a coffee table art books for the young urban hip.
(This blog entry is an edited version of two entries published in my old blog, Culture Critic @ Melbourne. My old blog has since been taken down for reasons beyond my control but I thought that this entry was worth republishing.)