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Women of Paste

There are all these women in Melbourne’s streets doing amazing paste-ups.  I’m only commenting on their gender because for years males have dominated Melbourne’s street art scene. What few women street artists there were in Melbourne were often notable not for their art but for being female. Now there are so many note worthy women doing street art in Melbourne and their talent is obvious to anyone, although their sex might not so obvious. (I had no idea that Kaffine was a woman – not that it is an issue anyway – I was wondering why broos, goat headed people, a common RuneQuest monster were appearing on the streets of Melbourne albeit with a stag’s skull head – even more frightening). Most of these women concentrate on paste-ups (wheat pasting).

Baby Guerilla – has been pasting up her drawings of women, men and birds floating for years. How she gets her paste-up up so high must be how she has got her name, climbing like a baby gorilla. (See Invurt’s interview with Baby Guerilla.)

Baby Guerilla

Klara – I thought Klara was a one-image artist just doing faces until I saw her self-referential paste-up at Dean Sunshine’s warehouse.

Klara

Be Free – images of a little girl has justly received a lot of praise and attention for her combinations of stencils, playing card collage and paint. (See Invurt’s interview with Be Free.)

Be Free

Urban Cake Lady – the woman stripped tights, the red cloak and the animal familiars are the legend of the Urban Cake Lady.

Urban Cake Lady

Suki – clearly inspired by Miso, Melbourne’s first woman of paste, not that that’s a bad thing, although people, including myself, have misattributed Suki’s work to Miso. (Miso hasn’t been doing any paste-ups on the streets for over a year now.) Suki’s women are beautiful water bearers with long hair. (See Invurt’s interview with Suki.)

Suki

Bubbles Unknown – text based and hand written pages with small illustrations.

Bubbles Unknown

“I & The Others” – also inspired by Miso, “I & The Others” produce some fine paper cutting.

"I & The Others"

Kaff-eine – paste-ups figures of children and a stag skull headed figure, along with working in aerosol paint, marker pen, up-cycling and other street art activities.

Kaff-iene

Precious Little – first came to notice for her poetry on laneway walls printed with an old fashion Dymo label maker but has since moved into using aerosol paint. (For more on Kaff-eine and Precious Little see my blog post about their exhibition, Urban Scrawl, at the City Library earlier this year.)

From Jenny Holtzer to Miso and Swoon and this current generation of paste-up artists: why are paste-ups attractive to female street artists?

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About Mark Holsworth

Writer, independent researcher and artist, Mark Holsworth is the author of the book Sculptures of Melbourne. View all posts by Mark Holsworth

18 responses to “Women of Paste

  • CDH

    You could also add The Doctor to your list.

    I have a theory on your last question: Women rarely come up through tagging culture (that identifies with aerosol). They come into street art as u-grad arts students inspired by Swoon and Banksy. Paste-ups are low risk but they’re also easy and that’s appealing to people who might not have experience with aerosol or might be risk averse.

    Also, women probably don’t know about the raging erection you get inhaling aerosol fumes.

    This prompts another thought: Aerosol artists are likely to have started making street art in high school. Paste-up artists are likely to start making street art post high school.

    • Mark Holsworth

      I know that Baby Guerilla was an art student – are all the others art students/ graduates, as well? If so, it is interesting to note that a street practice has become a common adjunct to a fine arts education.

  • KLARA

    There seems to be alot of gaps in your knowledge of female street artists and their practice. I’d like to see how this post would’ve looked with a bit more research.

    Personally, I haven’t been to ‘school’ since I was 16.

    • Mark Holsworth

      Agreed, I thought that I would post this introduction to spur some discussion and get some more information. I only know what I see on the streets/galleries and what I read online. Good to know that you aren’t another art school student doing street art and I really liked your work at Cocoa Jackson Lane/Dean Sunshine’s warehouse.

  • KLARA

    Is that a good thing??

    Dean Sunshine, Street tart1, Fitzroy Flasher and Arty Graffarti cover some great work by the ladies.

    Glad you liked my work, have a look at my blog. There’s alot more to Klara than you’ve seen… thisisklara.com

    • Mark Holsworth

      It is good to know that you aren’t another art student because it fills out the story. I don’t know if this is a good thing for you but I like to see diversity in street art, so I would be disappointed if a part of it was entirely dominated by art students.
      All those blogs have great photographs but not much else. They help me connect names with images.

  • KLARA

    Then you would have seen that I have many images, not just one, both paste up, freehand aerosol & brushwork, ink, collage, photography based etc etc.

    And that Precious little is doing some kick ass freehand with aerosol and ink, along with her fine poetry/word based works and colabs with Kaffeine.

    Kaffeine rarely works with paste ups currently, mainly amazing freehand works in aerosol and ink. Doing some awesome installations too.

    I & the Others works with all sorts of mediums also. Many graphics based, collage, installations and fine freehand detailed work. check out iandtheothers.com

    Basically, each artist you’ve mentioned, their work is so much broader than you have described or even what I have described.

    But hey, like you said, thats why you posted this introduction? And I’d like to see other views on the topic. Because this is just my perspective.

  • KLARA

    PS. Just informed the photo you included of Bubbles is not her work…

    • Mark Holsworth

      I wonder who it is then? I’ve seen a few pieces like this and thought that they were similar to a piece of Bubbles that I saw on Arty Graffarty but using the search term “Bubbles” anywhere didn’t help.

  • thefitzroyflasher

    The gender of all of the artists cant be assumed either ;)

  • preciouslittleremains

    Just adding my voice to this too!

    I think this is a really sensitive terrain to tread, because white, heterosexual men who make art always have the privilege of being merely ‘artists’, not ‘male artists’. So any discussion around ‘female artists’ always feels othering, imbalanced, and a little patronising.

    Don’t get me wrong—I appreciate the shout out, and I’ve often found your comments about gender and street art to be insightful (thinking specifically of your discussion around Deb), and I realise it’s a fine line to tread. This was actually a hot debate around the time a bunch of the artists you listed (myself, Kaff-eine, Suki, Baby Guerilla, Be Free) were involved in the Fibre Femmes show at Surface Pop, and I feel like we walked a fine line between othering ourselves and celebrating the contributions of women in a really male dominated arena.

    So I’ll try to be as succinct as I can:

    – It’s risky business to make assumptions about an artist’s gender. Just like Kaff-eine is often assumed to be male, I can say for a fact I think you’d be surprised about some of the other artists on this list ;)
    – I think your first commenter got it right on the knocker. For the record, I do think a lot of women are doing paste-ups, but I think it’s much more helpful to think about it in the context of a largely ego/turf driven, male dominated graff culture and the different social spaces men and women inhabit rather than any reductive, binary-fuelled ideas about the masculine/feminine. As the first commenter said, I think men and women often just come to the same place from different directions, and many of the artists you’ve listed are not ‘paste-up artists’ but artists who have done paste-ups at some point as a stepping stone to dope, freehand aerosol work and other really multi-faceted stuff. Kaff-eine’s latest aerosol work is simply exquisite (just posted some on my blog) and such a far cry from the really early paste-ups you provide an example of.
    – Just as some insider information, a lot of the grrls who have emerged as pasters in the last year or two (some of whom have gone onto freehand aerosol work) were all friends prior to their collective street art odysseys, and influenced each other’s journeys a great deal. In the early days, I was an art school dropout with some tight skills in more traditional mediums (charcoals and inks predominately) who used to run skill shares and painting/pasting days in my studio space with other grrls with diverse artistic backgrounds who were similarly interested in experimenting with street art mediums and techniques. I know similar groups of grrls were simultaneously and independently getting immersed in the same thing. So there’s something you can factor in too!

  • preciouslittleremains

    I’m not trying to be combative or difficult by the way, I know that gender and street art is something you seem to be interested in, and I like the discussion :) Fitzroy Flasher actually wrote a really awesome response, which help me gather and articulate my thoughts. I guess what I’m saying is that positioning paste-up as a women’s medium creates false dichotomies, and is also quite reductive and dismissive of the amazing contributions of men doing paste-ups and the grrls who get raging lady boners from the smell of aerosol (I’ll put my hand up for that one). hah.

    • Mark Holsworth

      Yes, I was just looking for a way to tie this group of paste-up artists together and gender was an obvious way. I think that issues of gender and street art are worth discussing but didn’t want to suggest that paste-ups was women’s street art, it is just that there are a lot of women currently doing paste-ups that are worth taking notice. I’m not surprised that there is a group that emerged onto the street together – there is a bit of group style – but trying to name and identify that would be a much more error prone task that grouping by gender.

  • preciouslittleremains

    I hear ya mate. I suppose for me, the more obvious link would be ‘artists who paste/have pasted on Melbourne streets’. I got a bit carried away and verbose in my response, but essentially, my point was that it’s problematic terrain because
    a) male artists are never grouped by gender and
    b) grouping street artists (who deal in anonymity) by gender IS largely error prone because it requires assumptions that are often incorrect, and I will reiterate: there are entries on this list that would surprise you!

    At any rate, good discussion :)

    • Mark Holsworth

      I have discussed male gender and its relationship to street art several years ago in https://melbourneartcritic.wordpress.com/ 2009/09/28/gender-street-art/ so I thought that this might be an opportunity to look at women. And I wanted to provoke a discussion on the subject so that’s been excellent. After making the mistake with the artist who is not Bubbles I wouldn’t be surprised if I’d made a mistake in gender. It is an interesting game to play identifying artist’s gender by their art but it is not a certainty – so I wouldn’t be surprised if I made one error out of eight.

  • The Dame

    Dearest Black Mark,

    You pose the question “why are paste-ups attractive to female street artists?” I ask you: why not?

    With all the respect that is due I fear you may have come off a little like a dude and less like a fellow art follower. Gender is besides the point, especially when it comes to street art.

    Gender and its societal connotations have leapt forward in recent years. Gender no longer means man or woman, female or male. Gender is social construct and a learned behavior. Sex being the genitals you are born with and gender being who, what and whatever you feel you are. Regardless of pointless gender binaries that have been imposed on us for hundreds of years.

    Art, along with so many other sectors of our lives has been male dominated for far too long. When I say male dominated I mean outwardly. There have been women across many generations producing work that is not only of historical value but tells a very important story. Looking back on the creative pursuits of our predecessors for example, many women have had to fight for the basic right to be ‘allowed’ to contribute to a field of work that is rightfully theirs to share.

    A prime example of this would be Marinus who concealed their sex in order to become a monk and true to form when her sex was revealed as being female she was cast out and it was not until her death that she was hailed a saint and to this day is much revered.

    James Barry was another example. Forced to assume a male identity in order to become a military surgeon and in fact performed the first successful Caesarian section by a British surgeon. This could not have been possible if Barry had lived as a woman.

    There are countless stories of discrimination and gender bending throughout or sordid history. This would not be the case if the myth that men are the more dominant sex was continually perpetuated. Generations later we still see men adhering to banal and quite frankly boring stereotypes regarding sex and gender.

    The point to consider here is why even make reference to an artists gender? Especially considering in this particular scenario it is the least notable thing about the art. Is it because street art is seen as a risky act that only men would dare to do or is it that women may just be too busy with other gender stereotypes to be out on the street creating art?

    I understand your piece was probably not meant to be condescending nor offensive but unfortunately fierce women like me exist. Once we get a hint of sexism we jump on it like barbie at a cosmetics sale. You are brave to put this out there and I commend you for inspiring debate.

    I do strongly feel, however, that you may need to do some more research as previously suggested on this topic. The insinuation that women try paste ups rather than can work is more than mildly insulting. Agreed that paste ups are a quicker and more precise medium. I do enjoy doing them as I can take my time drawing up my work and not worry about restrictions on the street. This does not mean I can’t do cans or don’t have the skill.

    I get a hard on from smelling freshly pressed nozzles oozing with colour. Don’t for a second think “women probably don’t know about the raging erection you get inhaling aerosol fumes.” CDH as you are way out of line.

    Also to address your theory that “Aerosol artists are likely to have started making street art in high school. Paste-up artists are likely to start making street art post high school.” Are you for real? What a ridiculous over generalization sir. I started drawing when I was 7. I started selling work at 9. I grew up tagging and was around 12 years ago when paste ups and stencils broke through the Australian street art scene. I think you have mistaken the surge forward into fine art on the streets as the token whim of an art student.

    This is a new wave my friend. Being projected forward by female and male artists alike. Art students and 50 year old retirees alike who hated their day jobs and decided to do what they always wanted to do…..art….on the streets.

    Bottom line here is that gender is of no consequence and to assume makes an ass out of U and ME. Lets focus on the art shall we. After all it is called street ART not street GENDER.

  • CDH

    Wow, this is getting a lot of interesting comments.

    I think context matters in art. Art isn’t created in a vacuum so things like gender, identity and the cultural background of an artist can change your interpretation of an artwork, so it’s worth seeking out.
    Yes, it’s problematic when artists are anonymous but I find Mark’s articles generally well researched. It’s not always easy for the unpaid street art blogger either and I think he’s taking some unfair criticism here.

    There are many female aerosol artists in Melbourne like Jianna and Deb. But I think there’s a commonality to the fibre femmes and a few other paste-up artists in Melbourne (who happen to be women) which is culturally distinct from a lot of other street art. I mean that in a complimentary way. I think it’s obvious that many of these artists didn’t arrive at street art at the end of a prolific 10 year tagging career. That makes them more interesting because it offers a new subcultural group with a unique voice and motivation. For example, I don’t think your average tagger has done a few units of feminist theory in a u-grad arts degree. Someone called it a new wave and I think that’s apt. Mark has dubbed this collective the ‘Women of Paste’ for want of a better term.

    Yes, the complex of white, male, middle class ideologies tends to be defined as the normative social consciousness and women, adolescents, ethnic minorities are often labelled as ‘other’ is a derisive way. But I don’t think Mark’s doing that here, any more than Fibre Femmes were when they billed their show as ‘all female’.

    Not specific to anyone here, but I think paste-ups often end up being the choice of hipster dilettantes who want to opt into street art but have no interest in honing a craft. Most paste-ups in Melbs are ultra derivative. I had to teach myself to arc weld for a single project, so that might make me more punchy on this issue.

    For the record, when I breath ironlak, my dick doesn’t actually go hard. I get fucked up, but it’s not a good high… Just a shout out to the kids, chroming is no viagra substitute.

  • tryannasourus

    Wow how did this discussion become about CDH?

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