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Category Archives: Street Art

Political Graffiti in 2018

In late April on The Conversation Dr. Flavia Marcello. Associate Professor at Swinburne University’s School of Design, asks “Where has Melbourne’s political graffiti gone?” It is worth asking the question but aside from the yearning for the 70s and the overtly political graffiti of those times there wasn’t much to the article.

The scene on the street is now a more complex system, with greater diversity and more types of graffiti and street art operating. Rest assured Dr Marcello there is still plenty of political graffiti and street art in Melbourne. In all kinds of media from aerosol paint to stickers and even yarn bombing. Some of the best is done by stencil artist like Crisp and paste-up artists like Phoenix.

There is a wide variety of causes being promoted from ending Australia’s abuse of refugees to free West Papua. These causes are now in front of the eyes and cameras of international tourists who throng in their thousands to Melbourne’s graffiti attraction of Hosier Lane. The Free West Papua slogan managed to occupy space in the highly desirable Hosier Lane by using a chainlink fence that the aerosol and paste-up artists didn’t want. Consider the subversive power of a series of paste-ups calling to Free Liu Xiaobo in front of the cameras of Chinese tourists taking selfies in Hosier Lane.

So here is a collection of some of the best political street art and graffiti that I’ve seen in Melbourne in the last year or so. Although I am aware that there are many ways that graffiti and street art can be political, as in, contesting public and private space, I have tried to keep the politics of the collection clear and obvious. 

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Eyes open in Brunswick

I’m keeping my eyes open. I’m looking around. I have not got my face fixed on the screen of my mobile phone as I walk so I notice things on the streets of Brunswick and Coburg. Anarchist posters with anti-religion and anti-fascist graphics and all the beautiful aerosol works down the bluestone alleyways.

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Inspector Gadget over Tinning Street

I hope that whoever is doing the Wandjina spirit in paint, paste-ups (and now in ceramics?) has the cultural authority to use the sacred image. That they are an Mowanjum person from the Kimberley and not some Europeans living in the Blue Mountains, as in the 2017 controversy over the use of the image of the Wandjina spirit. But then this is the street and nobody is meant to know.

Discarded

Discarded

A piece by Discarded along the bike track is less obvious. I can’t be sure that I haven’t overlooked this piece for a year or more. The cast ceramic pieces of discarded items found on the street are collaged together into a new form. The piece is framed by the better brickwork outside the patch. I am keeping my eyes open as I quickly photograph the piece to avoid being run over by a bicycle when I kneel down.

Civil painting

Civil painting in Brunswick

Sometimes it is so obvious that you only have to be there. I see Civil behind a row of orange bollards, half way up another wall in a Sydney Road carpark. He is painting another scene of stick-figure people, dogs and bicycles with a brush. The description of stick-figures sounds crude when the practiced lines of Civil’s figures is anything but crude. They have the simplicity of a figure by Keith Haring or Matisse. The curved  lines arms and active legs along with the simple details of hats, dresses and bicycles.

I saw a lot of new Civil walls for it was only an hour before that I’d noticed that Civil has repainted his old wall in Tinning Street with more of his stick figures but this time against a bright green background. For more on Civil read my earlier post. 

Civil green wall

Another wall by Civil in Brunswick

Keeping my eyes open in Brunswick had its visual rewards.


Ten years of Melbourne’s street art and graffiti

Ten years in the history of Melbourne’s street art and graffiti told with a series of artists, crews and events. Rather than another listical of notable street artists this is an attempt at a kind of chronology that points out peaks rather than beginnings and endings. In it there are artists who opened new directions, who could not be ignored, who reinvented themselves or the techniques and the idea of street art and graffiti. There are artists who have persisted along with artists who for a short time made a big impact. It is a list based on my observation of Melbourne’s street art and writing them in this blog.

 

2008: Drew Funk and HaHa

Drew Funk and HaHa are two affable guys, studio mates and friends on the two sides of the aerosol paint use. Drew Funk’s aerosol art and HaHa’s stencil work were once ubiquitous with the Melbourne street art scene.

2009: Ghostpatrol and Miso

The power couple of the emerging illustrative street art scene. Ghostpatrol’s whimsical character illustrations and Miso’s paper cuts were fresh styles and techniques. Neither does any street art now both quickly moving into the fine art and legal murals.

2010: Yarn Wrap and Junky Projects

Both these artists expanded media of street art. Before Bali Portman and Yarn Corner crew there was Yarn Wrap guerrilla knitting. I was sceptical when I first heard about yarn bombing but I was wrong and the technique quickly became a favourite of city councils. Meanwhile, Junky Projects collecting rubbish from the street and transforming it in the most coherent and long term up-cycling project ever.

2011: The Everfresh and the AWOL Crews

The Everfresh crew of Phibs, Rone, Reka, Meggs, Sync, Makatron, Wonderlust, Prizm and the Tooth have been the most significant crew in Melbourne. The AWOL crew of Adnate, Deams, Itch, Li-Hill, Lucy Lucy, Slicer were not far behind and by changing their styles they sprayed their way to more fame.

2012: CDH and Baby Guerrilla

Two ambitious artists who made a big impact but are no longer actively making art on the streets. CDH was the mad scientist of the street art scene; trying out new techniques using fire, hydroactivated paint and creating conundrums for the NGV with his Trojan Petition. At the same time, Baby Guerrilla was reaching for the heavens, trying to fill the largest and highest walls with her floating paste-up figures.

2013: All Your Walls & Empty Nursery Blue

Both projects buffed the walls of Melbourne’s graffiti central to good effect. Adrian Doyle painted the whole of Rutledge Lane blue. And, as a curated part of the NGV’s “Melbourne Now” exhibition, the whole of Hosier Lane was repainted by some of Melbourne’s best graffiti and street artists in All Your Walls.

2014: Rone and Adnate

In 2014 year both artists painted very large legal murals of big faces on big walls. Everfresh crew member Rone painted women’s faces and AWOL crew member Adnate painted Indigenous people.

2015: Kranky and Tinky

Kranky was a crazy explosion of assemblages, then it stopped; maybe the supply of plastic toys ran out. Tinky used even smaller toys to make her little scenes Along with other artists Kranky and Tinky revived the street art in Presgrave Place.

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Lush’s work in Richmond

2016: Lush and Nost

The most irritating assholes in Melbourne’s street art/graffiti scene where there are plenty of irritating assholes. These two guys have made it a speciality. Lush does have a trollish sense of humour but he highlights a problem that is essentially for so much street art, especially murals, they are just click bait. Nost is a tagger, an aerosol bomber who hates street art.

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2017: Astral Nadir

The art Astral Nadir encouraged me to look down at the sidewalk and not up on the walls. With so many walls already painted and the backs of signs covered in stickers Astral Nadir artistically exploring a relatively unused area in Melbourne.


Laneway tributes to rock legends

Bursting through the bricks of the wall is a giant rock god with shoulder length curly hair singing into a microphone. To make the figure more identifiable he is wearing, unlikely for Bon Scott, an AC/DC belt buckle. This new sculpture was unveiled on Tuesday 6 March. It was widely reported around the world due to the popularity of Bon Scott’s band AC/DC; one of the best reports can be found in Stack.

Makatron, Bon Scott, Melbourne

Makatron, Bon Scott

Why is a twice life-size, Bon Scott should be breaking out of brick wall? Why has he got cracks in him? Why Bon Scott? when there are two aerosol tributes on the opposite wall to AC/DC’s recently deceased guitarist, Malcolm Young. We may never know the answers because I don’t think that anyone has thought beyond ‘cool idea’.

Makatron’s base relief sculpture of Bon Scott in AC/DC Lane is the Melbourne’s first commissioned public sculpture from a street artist. It might be Makatron’s first public sculpture too, as he is more famous for his 2D aerosol murals than 3D work. It is not the first sculpture of Bon Scott; there is one by Greg James standing on an amp shaped plinth at the Fremantle Fishing Boat Harbour in WA, and another holding bagpipes in Scott’s hometown of Kirriemuir in Scotland. None of these sculptures are particularly tasteful, none are nuanced nor deep but then, neither was Bon Scott.

There is plenty of good, even tasteful, intelligent and nuanced street art to see in AC/DC Lane and more was being added when I visited. Makatron is not the first street artist to install a sculptor in Melbourne; there are plenty of un-commissioned examples some can be seen my series on street art sculptures.

Lush, Malcolm Young

Lush, Malcolm Young tribute (not to be implied that I am endorsing Lush’s work as tasteful)

 

There is another Melbourne laneway tribute to a rock singer with Amphlett Lane off Little Bourke St, near Spring Street. The school uniform hanging up is a tasteful tribute to Chrissy Amphlett of the Divinyls; the stack of road-case using the door from the buildings sprinkler-booster box.  Amphlett’s stage costume of a girl’s school uniform was inspired by Angus Young’s stage costume of a boy’s school uniform.

unknown, Chrissy Amphlett tribute

unknown, Chrissy Amphlett tribute


No Face by Sunfigo

Sunfigo’s No Face is an unofficial guerrilla art exhibition. I think that this started when Melbourne based street artist Sunfigo did a portrait of Trump and then crossed it out; more crossed out faces followed, including those of Bill Gates and Betty Windsor. A mirror face, a face obscured by smilie face, along with some older images of heads by Sunfigo. Sunfigo has been doing street art for at least six years now and has established a line in geometric drawing that works for ribbon on chainlink fences, stencils and pieces made of tape.

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This is Sunfigo’s second attempt to unofficially join in Melbourne’s White Night. In 2016 Sunfigo tried to put on a guerrilla exhibition as part of White Night but it didn’t last ten minutes. This time he has been more successful with an exhibition held in Platypus Alley off Lt. Bourke Street. Platypus Alley is a short, dead-end, unreformed and unused, even as a service lane. No-one currently uses the one door that exits onto the lane. The one door is blocked with a part of a granite arch that has been abandoned there.

The exhibition was already badly damaged (yes, No Face was defaced) by the time that my friend Vetti saw it on White Night. I’m not sure how much worse it was when I saw it but about half the art had been stolen. Almost every one of the works stuck up with liquid nails was stolen and only the paste-ups remained. According to the street artist Will Coles people don’t normally steal street art in Melbourne. Perhaps White Nights attracted different people to those who normally explore Melbourne’s laneways. I didn’t know that Sunfigo had so many fans but it is a shame that some of them are greedy selfish bastards.


Street Art notes January 2018

I had low expectations of the city’s first official street art precinct and they were met. The ‘official precinct’ was launched in December 2017. It is just a couple of murals by Adnate, Dvate, Fintan Magee, Rone and Sofles on walls in Lt. Bourke Street before it ends at Spencer Street. Several big heads and a big orange belly parrot.

Adnate

Adnate

 

Most murals in Melbourne serve the interests of property developers or local city councils; similar interests anyway. The realistic images are sentimental, superficial and a distraction from what is happening around the large wall. Murals are anti-graffiti, anti-street art management strategy… but enough about murals (or if you want to read more).

I am look for something else on the streets, something smaller. (The smallest piece perhaps…)

I find a stencil; perhaps, given the geometric lines in the body of scorpion, it is by Sunfigo. A cartoon face by Twobe and one by the internationally renown artist Lister, who blurs the rough line between contemporary art and street art.

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Lov3

An excellent piece and installation by Lov3 in Collingwood. Up-cycling three discarded mattress and using the quilting pattern as snake scales.

Silk Roy

Silk Roy

In Flinders Court I saw a recent piece by local Melbourne artist, Silk Roy. Silk Roy loves painting. Sure many artists love to paint, often painting the same thing over and over again, in that they enjoy that experience. However, Silk Roy’s art shows more than just enjoyment like the conservative mural painters but artistic risk taking, changing and developing. This is graffiti aware of contemporary painting. (Read an interview with Silk Roy on Invurt.) Silk Roy does paint big walls but I doubt that he will be painting a multi-story mural any time soon and that, for me, is a relief.


Intermission @ Collingwood Technical College

Intermission at the old Collingwood Technical College is three floors of an unoccupied school turned into a space for over thirty street artists to paint and install art in. Curated by Goodie the exhibition is a curious mix between contemporary art and the aesthetics of an abandoned building with the tags.

Sofles

It is a huge space and many of Melbourne’s notable street artists had pieces or often whole rooms to work with. It was good to see Astral Nadir working on a large scale. To see LucyLucy again on a large scale without the rest of the AWOL crew. And old faces like those of Mic Porter who was active a decade ago is back.

It had been raining for most Saturday afternoon but that didn’t put the public off. As only 200 people were allowed on the upper floors at a time and the public was queueing up out the building only an hour after it opened. After all this was great free entertainment: on the ground floor there were bands, DJs, VR movies and cans of Young Henry’s beer and cider being handed out. Fortunately it is not a one day only event and Intermission runs until 21 January.

In some ways it was a bit like Melbourne Open House for the old building. The art deco building has been left abandoned for 12 years – what a waste of space! The two bedroom caretaker’s flat on the top floor was a revelation. The event is an intermission as the Collingwood Technical College is about to be turned into the Collingwood Arts Precinct; Circus Oz and the Melba Spiegeltent are already out the back.

The exhibition was better than a whole stack of pieces painted on the walls inside a building as there were artists who had site specific work. Site specific is more than just placing their work in relation to the architecture but creating work that directly referred to the space. Heesco captured the feel of street artists painting in an abandoned building in his combination of installation and wall painting. 23rd Key referred to the location in a mural that mixed the face of Keith Haring with the Apollo Belevadere in tribute to Haring’s surviving and restored mural on outside wall of the Collingwood Technical College.

The inside and outside of a building might raise ontological issues between the words ‘street art’ and ‘urban contemporary art’ but I’m going to call it all street art rather than creating a useless lexicon and pretending that art and artists are always classified in a logical and accurate manner. After all abandoned building are a traditional site for graff and street artists to paint. As street art it was impressive and fun but it was weak as contemporary art. Sometimes it felt like a funky installation at an art squat in Paris or Berlin while at other times just another great Melbourne wall.

 


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