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Tag Archives: Happy

Melbourne Street Art Guide

Melbourne Street Art Guide, ed. Din Heagney, Allison Fogarty and Ewan McEoin, (Thames and Hudson, 2016) Instead of writing a review of yet another unremarkable publication about Melbourne street art here are six artists who absent from the guide: Calm, DrewFunk, Ero, Ghostpatrol, Happy and Phoenix. I considered if I should ask them same set of questions that Melbourne Street Art Guide asked all the artists but really, the same set of questions?!

Calm mostly does paste-ups but does work in other media. He was included in the Hosier Lane part of Melbourne Now in 2013 so there is community recognition of his quality. See my blog post about his work.

Drew Funk was painting every legal wall that he could with landscapes and dragons, mixing the oriental, cartoons and aerosol art. He was ahead of the current mural scene by almost a decade.

DSC02068Ero is a scruffy New Zealand street artist working in the tradition of Keith Haring, painting simple images in blocky colours. He uses ordinary house paint and brushes rather than aerosol paint. He does piss in his paint cans to relieve himself and water down the paint.

Happy was active a few years ago but hasn’t done anything for many years. This is another problem of Melbourne Street Art Guide, it is more of a fashion snapshot than knowledgable critical guide. This is more or less the reason for not including Ghostpatrol even though he done more recent work than Happy. Happy mostly worked with paste-ups that made ironic comments about the street art scene but some of his sidewalk tags in line marking painting can still be seen.

Phoenix has more of a beatnik jazz style than a skater dad look than most street artists affect. A master of the photocopier Phoenix is serious community orientated man; he is one of the fellows who will stand up to be counted. The kind of man who with loan his ladder to a fellow artist before putting up his own piece. See my blog post about his recent solo exhibition.

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Artistic Laneways

Walking around the city on a Saturday gallery crawl I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to walk down a couple of Melbourne’s more artistic laneways: Union Lane and Pesgrave Place.

Union Lane

A group of guys spray painting along the length of Union Lane, as usual there was also someone documenting it with photographs but one of the artists was videoing himself with a small camera strapped to his head. An artist eye view of painting a piece, Picasso would have loved that technology.

It was J.D. Mittmann and Amanda King who organised the first legal painting in Union Lane back in 2008 as part of the city’s Graffiti Mentoring Project. Somewhere on its walls under years of aerosol paint there are works by Phibs, Deb, Rhen, Taj, Ha Ha and many other artists. Union Lane is currently managed/curated by Signal as part of its street art mentoring project.

Union Lane is a lot narrower than Hosier Lane, it is now just a gap connecting the Bourke Street Mall to Little Collins Street; it is more about graffiti and less about street art but there were a couple of new Junky Projects, now colourfully spray painted with stencil tags.

Presgrave Place

Presgrave Place is the opposite of Union Lane a location for odd street art rather than graffiti, the op-shop frames glued to the wall are still there but most no longer have their old prints in them. There is an old paste-up by Happy of a dead Pinnochio hung with noose made from his long nose and a new Junky Projects.

Junky Projects Presgrave Place

In Presgrave Place there is also Melbourne’s smallest art gallery, Trink Tank, a small glass vitrine outside Bar Americano. Nicholas Smith was exhibiting “Notes on Live Night Parrot Sightings in North-western Queensland” with a model of the last authenticated sighting, a dead parrot (Pezoporus Occidentalis) found on the side of the road.

Nicholas Smith


Poster Bombing 2011

Graffiti creeps up along the Upfield line bicycle path and in recent years there several quality pieces north of Moreland station. Paste-ups have now reached the shoe factory on my block with a well-placed piece by Shark, who appears to be specializing in images of birds.

Shark, flying ducks, Coburg

As if there weren’t enough fly-posters for bands and concerts all over Melbourne there has been a big increase in paste-ups in the last year. Paste-ups maybe popular with street artists but are not highly regarded by the general public, unlike the public reception to the stencil art scene. This is because there often there isn’t much to this poster bombing. An unoriginal black and white photograph is enlarged on a photocopier and pasted on the wall doesn’t impress the general public even if it is really big. Part of the problem is often the only consideration for paste-up placement is access and visibility. The content of many of these paste-ups is just bland selection of sampled photographs images. Many people want the instant fame of street art; years ago Happy commented with his “Instant Fame” series of paste-ups.

Happy, "Get Instant Fame"

Quality paste-ups are cut around the outline of the image, or include, even more paper cutting, like those of Miso and Swoon. Paste-up specialists like Phoenix mounts his paste-ups on cut MDF panels that have been designed withstand the weather.

Baby Guerilla, floating nude women

Many artists and illustrators are using paste-ups to show their work on the street; I keep seeing Baby Guerilla’s floating nude women along on the streets. The Melbourne paste-up artists that I most admire are Phoenix, Urban Cake Lady and Happy. (There are others who I have not been able to identify.) I admire their work because they are produce interesting content; the message and content of the paste-up is more important than the wheat paste technique. Phoenix is interested in the politics and meaning of signs. Urban Cake Lady mysterious red draped woman with stripped stockings along with wild animals. And Happy had a cynical take on both street art and advertising.

Phoenix

Suki

Urban Cake Lady

unknown artist, clothes line

Happy, "toy!"

unknown artist

Who is your favorite wheat-pasting street artist?


Stuck on Stickers

Stickers are a type of communication, a self-adhesive media. There are stickers all over the city, political, religious, advertising promotions, stickers that are peeled off and reapplied by accident or design and street art stickers. With all of these stickers it is difficult to spot the street art amongst the commercial, political and promotional. It is like finding a poem on a noticeboard.

Street art stickers or sticker art have been created to be small graphic works of art with self-adhesive backs. They are quick to apply and can fit on the backs of signs, poles and other surfaces in the city.

Stickers are another form of tagging, especially the ubiquitous “Hello my name is:” stickers with a tag written on it with a fat marker pen. Like tags stickers are often linear, that is they follow a line, along a street, applying a sticker to every suitable pole.

Arrowsoul Warriors in Singapore

Arrowsoul Warrozz (Singapore)

No matter how tough the city authorities are about other kinds of graffiti stickers are around.  Stickers thrive in anti-graffiti environments like Singapore.

Back of sign in Fortitude Valley, Brisbane

Back of sign in Fortitude Valley (Brisbane)

Although Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley is not an anti-graffiti environment like Singapore, stickers also thrive on the back of the street signs in the area. A lot of these Brisbane stickers, especially those of Loki One, Mzcry and ZKLR are created using stencils and aerosol spray cans. I have seen some of the best street art stickers on the back of street signs on Brunswick St, Fortitude Valley.

Stickers are the most collectable aspect of street art because of their size. I have a very small collection of stickers, especially when compared to Michael Anderson who has collected about 40,000. Mostly I just photograph them. So here are some more of my photographs.

Happy - Graffiti Colour My World in Brunswick

Happy – Graffiti Colour My World (Brunswick, Vic)

Happy’s “Graffiti Colour My World” parody of the Crayola Crayon advert and slogan. This is one sticker that I do have in my collection but the photograph is of one in its natural state beside the Upfield train-line.

Still Life in Spraypaint (Fortitude Valley)

Still Life in Spraypaint (Fortitude Valley)

There are many self-referential street art stickers that is self-conscious about its status, or not, as art. I don’t mean self-conscious in the sense of awkward and shy, but self-conscious of its own conditions, media, and quality. It takes street art to a new level, not of quality images, but in the depth of thought. Yes, this is a heavy philosophical way of looking at what is often the lighter side of street art. It is funny because it is deep rather than superficial.

God Has a Plan to Kill Me (Melbourne)

Lister – God Has a Plan to Kill Me (Melbourne)

I like street art stickers, especially the ones with a witty message like “God has a plan to kill me.”


More Street Artists on Exhibition

“The Clan MacLeod” sounds unified – a ‘clan’. It is a group exhibition with some notable names from Melbourne’s street art scene like HaHa and Happy, but the reality is disconnected art on walls joined together into a room above a pub on Highlander Lane. I don’t know if this strange disconnected group exhibition is due to uncritical mateship, commercial desperation or a deliberate agenda of extreme artistic diversity but the whole exhibition suffered from it.

Rus Kitchin’s “The Un-Familiar Series” was the small star of the small show; these digital C-prints are like Berlin Dadaist collages, their silvery blue colours making them appear like strange silver nitrate photographs. The series is the story of a European family’s photographs that include the un-familiar, African masked child of modernism. The European family’s identical faces are overlayed with occult patterns like the ritual scarification on the carved African mask, making the familiar un-familiar again.

Andy Murphy plays with patterns from tartans to zebra stripes but including the JEAN Symmonds (in punning denim) distracted from the quality of the rest of his work.

Matlok’s naïve painting style is as ugly, crude, colourful and brutal as the Melbourne streets that he depicts. His paintings are full of little details, word play and shops. He has a consistent artistic vision (that doesn’t appeal to me but that’s not a reason why someone else wouldn’t like it).

Happy is burning his bridges behind him before leaving the country. Happy was exhibiting photographs of burning one of his “Fame” paste-ups (along with the ashes in a jar) and the spray-can vandalism of his framed drawings (along with the results). This is a potlatch, the ceremonial destruction of value in an economy of excess. “We’ve come to wreck everything and ruin your life” is the title of a zine compilation of Happy’s part of the exhibition. It asks the question, in the ephemeral world of street art, are you happy with the creation and the destruction?

The worst was seeing RDKL shoot himself in the foot exhibiting a toilet seat figure, a demonstration of Arnold Rimmer level of taste of the most mundane and repetitive. The rest of his work is a rough and inarticulate psylocibin insipid drawings and computer graphics.

And there was only one HaHa, a black on white stencil “Ned Kelly”.

Cue the bagpipes and march to the exit.


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