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Tag Archives: ghostpatrol

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.

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Shopping Centre Art

What was I doing at a VIP event at Barkly Square shopping centre in Brunswick?

What has happened at Barkly Square is that the service lane that bisected the shopping centre running parallel to Sydney Road has been change from a problem into a feature. The lane has become, according to the media release, “… a new arts and entertainment precinct which will celebrate the artistic and culinary soul of Brunswick.”

Ghostpatrol Barkely Square 9

A collaboration between Ghostpatrol and Bonsai fill two sides of the wall of the lane. Kyle Hughes-Odgers, a Perth based artist, has a wall with a brickworks reference as Brunswick once had a brick making industry. On another wall there is a giant owl by Twoone.

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It is not all street art, Tobias Horrocks, a local artist work with a post-minimalist ideas and cardboard. This was his first permanent installation. The basic cardboard form is repeated blocking and filtering the light from the window above the entrance.

Barkly Square is just a small inner-city shopping centre, a bland location for a few chain shops, near the beginning of the Sydney Road shopping strip. It is not the first shopping centre in Melbourne to feature street artists on its walls; QVC and Southbank both invited street artists in years earlier.

Media maker and festival director, Marcus Westbury has, what he describes a “strange obsession” with “he fate of old suburban shopping arcades.” He explains why on his blog. “I am, as far as I can tell, pretty much alone in believing they’re a rich vein of untapped urban and suburban gold. Or, to put it in language that hipsters, planners and local politicians can reflexively and instinctively respond to they’re kind of like lane-ways.”

In this case the it not so much as trying to artificially reproduce the iconic Melbourne lane but assimilating the rest Brunswick into the shopping centre. The usual mall food court has gone from Barkly Square, now there are cafes with outside seating in The Laneway, as it has been prosaically and practically named. The transformation of the area is the usual mix of work by street arts, planters, bollards, bike racks and funky design elements. It is still a working service lane but now is a mix use urban area.

Shopping centres need to reinvent themselves, in the wake of on-line competition, they need cater for more than just shopping. The holy grail of urban design to create a ‘meeting place’.

Samuel Louwrens, the Operations Manager for Barkly Square Centre Management is feeling inspired at the art and developments on the lane. He is enthusiastic about his new lighting for the art and was waiting for more suggestions from the public about what could be done with the lane. He pointed out that there are still more large blank walls at the far ends of the lane.

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At noon on Wednesday there was a launch of the lane in a temporary VIP area outside a cafe in the lane listening to a guitarist, Grey Milton launching Barkly Square’s busking program. Grey finished his set. There were two short speeches from the corporate investment manager of the property group that owns Barkly Square and then the Mayor of Moreland. Then the Melbourne Ukulele Kollective took over by this time there weren’t just invited guests but a small crowd of people enjoying the spectacle. To have about a hundred people in the lane showed that, at least for the moment, the plan was working.DSCF0329

Ghostpatrol Barkely Square 0


Collingwood Galleries – Civil & Ghostpatrol

It was a beautiful winter day to be exploring Collingwood galleries. The Keith Haring on the Collingwood TAFE wall has been carefully covered up in preparations for renovations. Lots of great street art and Civil was up a ladder spray-painting the wall of House of Bricks. He was up a ladder because the Council had said no to the scissor lift for some reason and because Civil is exhibiting at House of Bricks. Ghostpatrol has an exhibition at Backwoods Gallery.

Civil paints House of Bricks

Looks like Shini Pararajasingham got it right when she opened Off The Kerb on Johnston Street opposite the Tote. Back then I thought she had the wrong area, too far north, shows you how much I know about Collingwood. But then I rarely go to Collingwood and I don’t think I’d been in Collingwood for about a year.

Another shop front galley, Egg Gallery has opened up right next to Off The Kerb and in the small streets behind there are several galleries: House of Bricks and Backwoods Gallery and Lamington Drive. These are all warehouse spaces with studios and workshops attached. Not the greatest of spaces, make do kind of spaces with all those limitations.

So that is 3 or 4 galleries that I can tick off my list of Melbourne galleries – I have a hopeless ambition to visit all of the galleries in Melbourne. I have been to galleries in these Collingwood warehouses before; Backwoods Gallery is in the previous location for Utopian Stumps.

“Reboot” by Sharon McKenzie was the only exhibition of the three exhibitions at Off The Kerb that I enjoyed.  McKenzie’s drawings depict artefacts of modern world as if they were covered in lace doylies. It is a frighteningly beautiful vision destroying the clean modern design of computers, floppy disks, clocks, typewriters, headphones and Dictaphones, with lace decorations.

I suppose that was to be expected as Collingwood galleries have a reputation for showing contemporary illustration and drawing. There are more quality, contemporary, street-influenced illustration next door at Egg Gallery. “Sleep & Wake” is small exhibition of illustrations and a bit of an installation by Hollie M. Kelley and Ryan McGennisken. (See Invurt’s interview with Ryan McGennisken.) It is the current fashion for contemporary illustration exhibitions to combine a bit of an installation into the exhibition space, scatter some old stuff and a few dead leaves. Everyone is doing it, and not just the art galleries even the Collingwood furniture showrooms.

Backwoods Gallery

Ghostpatrol vs Civil, it is a battle of almost comic book proportions and a salutary lesson style and content. Civil and Ghostpatrol are legendary names from Melbourne’s streets. There is plenty of their work on the streets; more Civil now than Ghostpatrol, there are lots of new Civil pieces and I haven’t seen that many new Ghostpatrol pieces (maybe I just haven’t been in the right areas). Both Civil and Ghostpatrol have an appealing graphic style that translates well into a number of a media.

The problem for Ghostpatrol is that his pictures have nothing but a fading hint of magic. It was this nostalgia for a fading childish magic that gave Ghostpatrol’s work its charm. But this kind of charm is fleeting like childhood, and seems to limit Ghostpatrol’s growth as an artist. Childhood themes are so common; Ryan McGennisken was showing drawing with childhood themes too. Civil is working on firmer ground with people, politics and now nature as his themes. These things are timeless. And Civil has grown in both his themes and the range of media.

Ghostpatrol’s exhibition was over blown – the canvas’s were too big and there was nothing to them other than the scale and arrangement of his iconic images. There were only 5 large paintings and the installation in the middle looked like a post-minimalist sculpture from Ikea. The tiny addition in one piece of timber of a carved pond with a tiny kappa riding a carp could not take-away from this big ugly object.

In contrast Civil’s exhibition was understated and there were too many compromises with the warehouse space to allow it to really shine. Still there were plenty of small woodcuts and other pieces with an expanding repertoire of images and themes. The exhibition had the aesthetics of a shed and dead leaves, pinecones and other old things were scattered around. This was referred to in the old beer bottles that Civil had etched and the old wooden tabletops that he had carved.

It appears Ghostpatrol is stuck in the past magic whereas Civil has made preparations for the future. I’m sure others will have their own opinion on these exhibitions – what are your thoughts?


Melbourne Street Art Reading List

Here is something for all the students and teachers out there.

Jake Smallman & Carl Nyman Stencil Graffiti Capital Melbourne (Mark Batty Publisher 2005) See also their website.

Matthew Lunn, Street Art Uncut, (Caftsman House, 2006) (see my review)

Duro Cubrilo, Martin Harvey and Karl Stamer, Kings Way – The Beginnings of Australian Graffiti: Melbourne 1983 – 93 (The Miegunyah Press, 2009) (see my review)

Alison Young, Ghostpatrol, Miso Street Studio – the place of street art in Melbourne (Thames & Hudson, 2010) Design and layout by Timba Smits. The book has interviews with Neils Oeltjen (aka Nails), Tom Civil, Tai Snaith, Ghostpatrol, Ash Keating, Al Stark, Miso, Twoone, Mic Porter, and the Everfresh Crew. There is an excellent review of this book on Hyperallergic.

Dean Sunshine’s Land of Sunshine – A Snapshot of Melbourne Street Art 2010 – 2012, (Brunswick, 2012) (see my review)

As well as these books, I must also recommend, even though it is not about Melbourne graffiti – “How to read Graffiti” by Jason Dax Woodward (13/6/99)  This well written introduction to aerosol graffiti is worth reading for people outside of graffiti culture. The article is strictly about old school aerosol graffiti but it is good to start at the beginning.

In the beginning was the word. The word was often a name, a tag, repeated, endlessly, like Taki 183 who is often cited as the first graffiti artist. “After working on the tag form for an indeterminate period the writer inevitably beings on developing a piece style. This process might involve working on throw ups first or straight into rounding out the tag into a piece form.” (p.4) The enlarged tag refined, areas of colour are filled in, clouds or other background are added, along with highlights and a “keyline” running around the outside of the piece. The addition of characters, cartoon or realistic, further completes the background of the piece.

These words, the basic vocabulary that Jason Dax Woodward explains are the way graffiti or street art is defined, described, designated and denoted. It is the ghostly theory, the invisible culture behind the visible images that allows them to mean something, to be compared, even, to be discussed. These verbal definitions run like a “keyline” in the mind around graffiti.

Please add to this reading list in the comments.


Ghostpatrol @ No Vacancy

Opening night crowd at Ghostpatrol's exhibition

On a cold and wet Thursday night in Melbourne a large crowd of people quickly fills No Vacancy gallery at the QV. It is the opening of Ghostpatrol’s first solo exhibition in Melbourne “warp points and seed vault save points”. Amongst the crowd of people there are many men with beards, one of them, a young man with a beard, neck length hair and hooded jacket is Ghostpatrol.

Ghostpatrol first came to the public’s attention on Melbourne’s streets. His particular aesthetic and illustration style making him stand out from the rest of Melbourne’s street art scene. Ghostpatrol’s illustration style meant that he also rode the wave of illustrations that rolled into Melbourne’s galleries in recent years. His coloured ink drawings of children in animal costumes are not realistic; they have the style of children’s book illustrations. His figures are engaging because they are engaged in mysterious activities.

Ghostpatrol’s particular aesthetic of childhood imagination, like the book “Swallows and Amazons” by Arthur Ransome. It is the aesthetic of the tree house, cubby houses, reading books by electric torch light in a tent made of blankets. It is full of the magic and make-believe of childhood exploration. Ghostpatrol’s style and aesthetic translates well into a variety of media from drawings, paste-ups, street art, textiles, video, paper cuts and installations. It is an escapist aesthetic that is retreating into childhood games, even the exhibition title, “Warp points and seed vault save points”, sounds like a video game.

Inside Ghostpatrol's tent

In the gallery Ghostpatrol has made a large tent. Inside the tent there is a pile of cushions, made of fabric printed with his figures, on a rug before a triangular, like a psychedelic altarpiece of framed drawings, paper cuts, a video and objet trouvés. It is like many bedrooms in shared houses that I’ve known. There is a wall painting and a few other works outside the tent; Ghostpatrol told me that he set the exhibition up early last week and spent part of this week sewing and drawing in the warp point tent.  The found objects, like a brass paper knife with a monkey handle set on a triangle of wood, pinecones and plants growing in a book. These objects are not for sale, except for “Two approaching”, the bundle of sticks with two tiny figures painted in the cut surfaces of two of the sticks. As in other exhibitions Ghostpatrol is creating the exhibition as an installation to leave the exhibition visitor with an experience. It seemed like the gallery was only a third full of works by Ghostpatrol, including the objet trouvés (found objects), like a contemporary scatter style exhibition. It leaves me wanting more.

Ghostpatrol's installation style

I asked Ghostpatrol why he hadn’t had a solo show before? Ghostpatrol replied that he’d actually had his first solo show in Adelaide earlier this year, but that the real reason was that he enjoyed the experience of collaborating in group exhibitions too much because working with other people improves his techniques. I also asked Ghostpatrol about translating his work into textiles. He told me that he had fun doing the textiles and breaking away from his usual techniques. (See Invurt for a longer recent interview with Ghostpatrol.)


Triforce Advances @ Gorker

“The triforce advance team promise to deliver a set of new work to help you hyper-teleport to other dimensions. 
As well as a new set of individual new work form each artist there will be a set of unseen collaborative pieces set amongst large treehouse installations.” – Quoted from Ghostpatrol’s email.

They were still washing the glasses from the wine tasting the night before when I visited Gorker on Thursday afternoon. On the black walls of Gorker’s main gallery there were over 60 small images along with three wooden “treehouses”. There was a crash of glass coming from the kitchen. In the white kitchen there were more works.

Triforce Advance are playing their exhibition, “The Neverending Masterquest” like a video game with a “Bonus Level” along with a wine tasting on Wednesday night. The “Bonus Level” is another new set of watercolor collaborations by Acorn, Nior and Ghostpatrol, works by the newly formed “Forest Force collective” (Acorn, Alpha-ray and Ghostpatrol) and a triptych by Sean Wheelan and Ghostpatrol. Collaboration is a very important feature of their creative process, a street art process that Ghostpatrol has successfully brought into the gallery.

Ghostpatrol, Acorn and others spent the last two weeks out in the country collaborating and creating these new works. There is real depth to all of the collaborations in the exhibition. The artists play with each other’s images; the hand-shadow puppets and other images unite the exhibition. I am not familiar with his collaborators but I have been seeing Ghostpatrol’s work on the street for many years. And Ghostpatrol is the uniting force behind both “Triforce Advance” and the “Forest Force collective”.

Like Ghostpatrol, Acorn and Noir are both skilled illustrators. Acorn creates landscapes with techno-savage child inhabitants. And Noir specializes in depicting animals along with geometric forms.  Their individual styles are clear in their collaborations but a shared childhood aesthetic unites their efforts. This not a cute childhood vision but something closer to savagery of William Golding’s Lord of the Flies.

The “treehouses”, cubby houses, the childhood forts are symbols of the temporary autonomous zones of children. It is this wild-child freedom is the inspiration for Acorn and Ghostpatrol’s aesthetic – Ghostpatrol has named his studio “Mitten Fortress”. The “treehouses” have pitched roofs and are beautifully constructed from old wood and other found material. They contain all the equipment, the collections, the weapons, and the trophies, the drawings needed for life of freedom and art. One of the tree houses contained an animated digital picture of Ghostpatrol’s drawings.


Paper Cuts

Last night the ABC showed, in their Artscape timeslot, Tony Wyzenbeek’s Paper Cuts – the Art of Ghostpatrol and Miso. This 30-minute documentary concentrated on the street artists, Ghostpatrol and Miso, their art and attractive photography of the streets of Melbourne. Director Tony Wyzenbeek previously directed The Art of Bill Henson, (2003) and was a producer of Love is in the Air (2003) a six part documentary series on Australian popular music. In Paper Cuts, like his documentary on Bill Henson, Wyzenbeek concentrates on the artists and their art in a calm, meditative exploration.

The documentary does mention both the illegal nature and the economics of some of Ghostpatrol and Miso’s activities. However, it does not explore either of these subjects, as neither are normal topics for arts documentaries.

The ABC was more concerned with warning people about “language” than the issue of the documentary facilitating and promoting minor illegal activity. I don’t know if it would have helped Paper Cuts to include the views of any of the many politicians who support of the current draconian anti-graffiti legislation. But to avoid this issue distorts the background; just as a history of art in Australia in the 1950s that failed to note Menzies had banned the importation of modern art distorts the story by that very omission.

The subject of money was also hinted at but the documentary chose to focus on the gratuitous side of Ghostpatrol and Miso’s activities. This is unfortunate as the story of the how these two young professional artists make a living is different from the usual economic plan for artists and incorporates making free art for the community. Currently Ghostpatrol has two large furry creatures with child’s faces in the window display at fashion boutique, Meet Me At Mikes, 63 Brunswick St. Fitzroy. Ghostpatrol’s style translates well from the drawings to 3D fabric creations. In the display one of the creatures has a newspaper crown tied around his head; the hierarchy implied in this image is that of a game’s as the crown is an improvised affair. Window dressing is only one of Ghostpatrol’s diverse income streams that include illustration work, along with the traditional commissions and gallery sales. Street artists, unlike their contemporaries in artist-run-spaces, are not afraid of working in shop windows, along with the shop’s stock, whereas, their contemporaries in artist-run-spaces have a royal dislike for common commerce.

For more about Ghostpartol read an interview with him by blogger, Steve Gray.


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