Anti-Muralism

For the past three years murals, very large multi-story painted walls are the popular form in Melbourne’s street art. Murals are also very popular in advertising and with socialists. Van Rudd says that wants to revive the tradition of political mural painting in Melbourne that happened with Geoff Hogg in the 1970s.

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Murals are seen as community art solution, read Tony Matthews and Deanna Grant-Smith “How murals helped turn a declining community around” in The Conversation, as well as an advertising technique. Dvate’s painted banner for The Lion King in 2015 or HaHa’s 2016-17 3MMM banner at Macaulay railway station, a favourite old haunt of HaHa when he was running around the city getting his name up. Smug’s mural on Otter Street promoting a luxury apartment development, makes gentrification cute. The popularity of murals makes for endless commercial applications.

I think that I lost a lot of my interest in Melbourne’s street art when murals became the dominate form of street art. I don’t like most murals, street art or otherwise, as I have already written about the Harold Freedman mosaic mural on the Fire Station. So I don’t feel as motivated to write about street art, although I have written about Rone and Adnate’s murals.

Rone in Collins Street

Rone in Collins Street, 2014

I’m not sure what it is about murals that I don’t like, after all they are just very large paintings. I do like a few murals in Melbourne. The Keith Haring mural in Collingwood but that is because I like his other work and the mural is simply a large example. I don’t think of the large walls by sprayed with fire extinguishers full of paint by Ash Keating and others as murals because they are just paint whereas a mural is about something.

Often murals are so about something that it feels like you are being lectured or advertised at. I’m not sure that I want the intended message or non-message of a mural and even if I do then what about people who don’t? The intended mass audience of a mural makes is like advertising. Whereas I like art that is aimed at a small audience rather than the lowest common denominator. The bigger the audience does not mean the better the art; size is kind of pornographic.

At other times there is so little content in a mural, like Rone’s faces, that being content free and abstract would have something more than these substitutes for content. For this reason I found Doyle’s Empty Nursery Blue to be more artistic than any and all of Rone’s murals.

I was also wondering if it is because murals lack a human scale. Murals are different to graffiti pieces in terms of scale. The reach of a graffiti writer defines the height of a piece, the arc of the curves so that a piece of graffiti reflects a human scale. Whereas the size of a mural is determined by the size of the wall and the equipment used.

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Cam and Scale, Brunswick 2017

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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

5 responses to “Anti-Muralism

  • Eucalypso

    So glad you wrote about this. Murals are now defining street art in Adelaide and I find them both interesting and irritating. Generally permission has to be sought because of the scale, and that destroys all the beautiful spontaneity and anonymity of street art and graffiti.

    • Mark Holsworth

      Thanks, I had forgotten to mention energy of spontaneity in street art. And anonymity is even more important.

    • Eucalypso

      This is where Melbourne is way ahead of us and probably the other states. You have such a rich history of writers and artists that respect writers, that understand how to layer it all together. Buffing is destroying the integrity of what scene we have. It’s a sign of how strong graffiti and street art is in Melbourne that you critique it.

    • Mark Holsworth

      I’m not fond of interstate rivalry and don’t know enough about what is happening interstate to comment but thanks. I think that we need a diverse cultural ecology of different kinds of writers and artists.

    • Eucalypso

      Not rivalry but inspiration :) Every city needs to develop its own style and we are lucky to have Melbourne as inspiration. Maybe we can send our Council clean up teams to you to learn something (except the Alice in Wonderland arcade floor).

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