Sunfigo emailed me.
For years I have wondered about Sunfigo’s art. The first work that I saw in 2012 was the Banksy Little Diver tribute was such a masterpiece, a tribute not just to Banksy but to that era of Melbourne’s street art. Since then I have been looking for more. I have been rewarded by a rich variety of experiments in media, image and message.
Sunfigo wanted to have an exhibition.
I tried to help but unfortunately I am amongst the least powerful people in Melbourne’s art world. I am just this blogger, part-time artist writer. I don’t have much money because I write about art, mostly for free in this blog. I don’t have an art gallery, nor as it turns out do I have much influence with anyone with a gallery, after these eight years of blogging. I kept on asking people but I wasn’t making any progress.
I wasn’t making any progress on gleaming any details about Sunfigo from my exchange of emails. I mean nothing; you will notice that I am avoiding pronouns in this post. In the emails Sunfigo was always “Sunfigo”.
I was also starting to wonder if Sunfigo’s art would work in an art gallery. Would it be the equivalent of the Urban Cake Lady’s gallery exhibition and fail to rise? Is Sunfigo’s art at its best in larger spaces with chainlink fences? Or finding a small paste-up neatly placed in an obscure location?
It turns out that Sunfigo really wanted an exhibition, enough to have a guerrilla exhibition in Melbourne’s gardens. On Saturday the 20th of February, the day of Melbourne’s White Night festival, Sunfigo put up a marquee with an exhibition of his work inside. I didn’t see it, it lasted about ten minutes before Sunfigo was ordered to take it down. You have to love the audacity of street artists.
I emailed Dean Sunshine, who like me, loves Sunfigo’s art. Dean doesn’t have an art gallery but he does have laneways and can throw a great party. I will report on any further developments.
At one end of the Coburg mall, strung between two trees there was the banner announcing Ben Landau’s Coburg Quest, at the other end stood Dan Goronszy’s large chalk board, The Launching Board on its platform. In between them, the usual crowd of activity in the Coburg mall: tables of people drinking coffee and eating, small children playing and a woman busker singing folk songs with a strong vibrato voice.
Some people in the mall also noticed the paste-ups by Larissa McFarlane, A Ritual of Handstands in the walls running off the mall. The paste-up of the walking stick leaning against the wall was particularly popular. An elderly Greek man gestures at it, “Somebody leave this behind?” he says and laughs. Coburg Mall and the laneways around Coburg are generally too far north for the street artists and these paste-ups are also part of MoreArt program for 2015.
The MoreArt program is Moreland City Council’s annual public art show. This year there is a theme “Participation: Real or imagined, conjured and or discovered, a shrine, a monument, a ritual, a tribute, a custom”. There may have been themes in the previous six years but never has it been so clear in the art. The theme makes it clear that this is show is not simply art in public space, nor art for public spaces but that the public actively engages and participates in creating. This opens the program to multidisciplinary artists like Dan Goronszy and Ben Landau.
Ben Landau’s Coburg Quest required more time and participation than I was willing to devote, with multiple individual tasks and two Sunday afternoons involved in this art/quiz/game.
Dan Goronszy’s large chalk board, The Launching Board had the question “What does peace mean to you?” on both sides of the double sided blackboard. Containers for chalk are built into the blackboard. Most people who stopped to look just read the few responses but every now and then someone would write something. A group of men on bicycles arrive in the mall, they stand around and watch as one of them writes: “Stop bombing the **** out of Syria” on the blackboard.
I am involved in MoreArt this year. I am part of a panel discussion on public art along with Geoff Hogg, Louise Lavarack, Dean Sunshine, Laura Phillips and Aiofe Kealy: Making it in Moreland.
Duckboard Place and its partner in the crescent, AC/DC Lane, are far less famous than the nearby Hosier Lane. Along with the usual aerosol art walls, stencil graffiti and guerilla installations, Duckboard Place has work by many notable paste-ups artists like Barek, Baby Guerrilla, Calm, Minou, Phoenix, Swoon and the enigmatic, Sunfigo. There is also this fine mosaic of beer bottle caps pasted up on a wall.
Duckboard Place was named after Duckboard House on the corner of the lane. It was built in the interwar period and served as a World War II entertainment venue for the troops, later a branch of the Melbourne RSL and now has a number of fine restaurants.
The Cherry Bar in AC/DC Lane now has its own lighting bolt wall of fame for all people and bands that helped them raise money for soundproofing; it was a particularly successful crowdsourcing campaign. The soundproofing was required by all the recent development of apartment building in the area, Melbourne is, according to the latest Bureau of Statistics, the fastest growing city in Australia adding an extra 95,600 inhabitants in the year to December.
Whereas Phoenix’s paste-ups have a clear message and is well known in the street art community, I’ve been following his posts on Facebook about the construction of his milk crate, Sunfigo remains an enigma. I’d like to know more about Sunfigo, I guess that other people do too because of the number of searches for his name on my blog. I once received an email from Sunfigo but communications ended there. I hesitate to guess anything about Sunfigo and the email gave nothing away.
I should just look to Sunfigo’s art, the selection of images, the limited palette of colours, the use of various other media, and try to make some conclusions from that? The geometric outline illustrations in tape or plastic ribbon strung through a chain link fence are a novel way of drawing. Are those lions and other images Rastafarian references? Or is Sunfigo claiming to be the king with the lion, putting a lion sign up in Hosier Lane above the door way to the now defunct Until Never gallery? There is not much to go on, unlike Phoenix, there hasn’t been much of a message in the work. And it is odd that Sunfigo started big with his Little Diver tribute and various works in diverse media and has become more specialised with smaller works. I was beginning to wonder if it was worth writing about Sunfigo and all these little images until I saw Sunfigo’s parody film poster (not in Duckboard Place).
I was disappointed when Voller’s giant colour paste-ups on the public toilets came down but then MoreArts is only a temporary urban art exhibition. Voller’s paste-up on the industrial rubbish bin at the station carpark, although slightly damaged, is still clearly visible and creating a wonderful illusion. Now there is a new image of another house by Voller on the public toilets, appropriately for Melbourne’s summer, it has a stripped awning.
James Voller is a photographer from New Zealand who is now based in Melbourne furthering his studies. His urban interventions with paste-ups the cover the whole surface make powerful works of art.
In 2011 I saw James Voller’s exhibition “Constructing Site” at Beam Contemporary. Voller’s photographs his urban interventions that used architectural paste-ups the play with the size and meaning of urban objects. I didn’t get around to writing the exhibition at the time, it was just some interesting photographs and I’d seen big paste-ups before.
Now that I’ve seen Voller’s work on site regularly in Coburg, very regularly, just about any time I go anywhere, as I pass by the public toilets opposite the mall or see the bin on the way to the train station, I think they are fantastic.
What I find fantastic about Voller’s urban installations is that suburbia is often used as a metaphor for dull and unattractive and Voller is one of the few artists who can make impressive art about the subject. Public toilets are rarely seen as the site for art, although see my post on the Russell Street Sculptures, but we all need public toilets and rubbish bins.
Voller’s two installations improve this with flare. They have done so much to improve the ugly heart of Coburg, the massive stretch of tarmac supermarket parking lots around the railway station on the second block west of Sydney Road.
Eight of my recent photographs along with notes and comments about paste-ups, aerosol pieces, street art sculpture, stencils, stickers and yarn bombing that I’ve seen on the street in the last couple of the months.
Walking around Coburg I spotted Chromatovore putting up this paste up; he was pushing a baby buggy containing his two kids and paste-up materials. Excellent placement and a cool way for a busy dad to do street art.
Thanks for the ‘warning’ Whop Taps (also in Coburg). Do people read? Do people think?
Although these funky sci-fi street art sculptures (there are two of them) are hanging on the railway Ansty Station in Brunswick they have not been removed by the railway staff.
A great aerosol piece in Brunswick – this skull wears the crown. Along the Upfield bike path just up from Brunswick Station, next to a very old face by Mic.
Stencils in Hosier Lane by PD027. You don’t see that many stencils around Melbourne anymore.
Radical cross-stitch and yarn bombing by Yarnonymous. I hope that the Australian government is convicted for their crimes of against humanity.
Inviting comments on Gertrude Street, Fitzroy: “Before I die I want to…” I assume that the cafe provided the chalk.
I have to ask is this old piece in Collingwood a portrait of Geoff Newton, the director of Neon Parc gallery, because if it isn’t then we have found his long lost twin.
This is a story about a shy suburban guy living the suburban slumber of the sedated lifestyle waking up. He doesn’t go wild and try to stay wide-awake all the time. He just calmly looks around at what is going on in the big picture, tries to find a voice and then uses his voice get involved. What more can be expected in a life?
Calm found his own voice with first with a mock Neighbourhood Watch poster featuring a Planet of the Apes gorilla and the slogan: “control the human pests”. He has gone on to more paste-ups with his pertinent satire in Melbourne streets.
Calm is a Melbourne street artist who has been working on the street for the last three years. Married with three children, unlike many other street artists he does not have an art school or design background. He is still refining his spray-painted multi-layered stencilled techniques that often does on paper before pasting them up in the street. He has been in a few group exhibitions mostly for charities and was involved with CHD’s Trojan Petition in 2012.
It isn’t often that you hear an artist talk about the work life balance, sometimes you are just amazed that they have a life. It is not that Calm is prolific, he doesn’t do massive runs and paste-up everywhere, but the quality of the work makes it stand out and he is happy with the balance in his life now. There is a balance in his art, it is not all political, there is also his Toucan spray-cans.
Calm’s pop political posters of current political figures satirize and comment on the media’s current cast of heroes and villains. The simple form and the few colours keep the design clear and concise. Calm’s satire doesn’t preach or rant but has a cool, wry and ironic quality. Often there a few different angles; referring to his Bradley Manning in football uniform, Calm points out that there are a few quarterbacks named Manning in the NFL.
When I mentioned that his Murdoch swine was a bit vicious compared to his lighter touch with other work, Calm replied, “Sometimes you’ve got to do it.” It was saying what everyone was thinking of Murdoch after News of the World.
Calm see his street art as a way of breaking the advertising monopoly on public space and the public conversation. Calm’s images are like single panel editorial cartoons on the pages of the city.