Category Archives: Street Art

Melbourne’s Weather

On Thursday, taking advantage of one of the last sunny days of autumn, I bicycled along the Merri Creek to the old Kodak Bridge on Edgar’s Creek. I didn’t expect to find street art in the wilds of North Coburg but the pillars underneath this unused bridge is an excellent location. There above a couple of superb graffiti pieces with gold paint splatter highlights was a whole set of paste-ups by Phoenix.

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The graffiti writers below had carefully buffed their undercoat around Phoenix’s skull.

The remains of a camp fire under the bridge reminded me that although there are still pleasant days like this, the nights are getting colder. I’ve been resisting commenting on this for over a year now. I heard about Elmor Leonard’s rules for writing a novel – never start with the weather. Weather is dull conversation. However, Melbourne’s weather is part of its psychogeography, it influences the way that we move about the city, and it influences the writing of this blog.

Terry, the postman had a story for me about delivering mail in the city. “Looked out the back of the building it was all sunny, looked out the front of the building the city looked all sunny. Went outside and it was raining, directly above. Typical Melbourne weather.” That night we had the strongest winds in thirty years.

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Looking through my notes from January: “Street artists painting in the heat of the day. Too hot for me to attend; there is a heat health alert in the city with a maximum of 36 degrees is predicted. I feel like I have become a vampire living in perpetual twilight – the sun, it burns! It burns!)” This extreme weather does effect the culture, artists living in rural areas have to prepare their art collections for bush fires.

Melbourne’s weather influences when I choose to go out. September and October’s uncertain weather are Melbourne’s choice for arts festivals. You roll the dice, you take your chances, it could be good, it could be fantastic, it could be horrible. Melbourne’s population are tired of the bleak wet and cold winter weather (now for my Canadian cousins when I say cold I’m not talking about freezing, sub-zero Celsius temperatures that you would call cold – Melbourne’s cold is a freezing wind coming off the antartic ocean with or without rain).

Then the are the heat waves of extreme baking heat, days above 40 degrees and nights where the temperature does not get below 30. There is no humidity, the sun bakes the leaves on trees and bushes to a brown crisp. After a sever heat wave lasting for days there is a feeling like jet lag as your body deprived of adequate sleep catches up with the rhythm of the day.

Although Melbourne’s weather is a major topic of conversation there is very little contemporary art about the weather. It is not as if there isn’t modern and contemporary art about the weather; consider Duchamp’s Unhappy Readymade exposed to the Parisian elements or Joseph Beuys’s claim of artistic responsibility for any snowfall in Dussseldorf during February 1970. The artists who do comment on Melbourne’s weather are the paste-up artists, including Phoenix whose street art paste-ups warn about global warming are exposed to the elements.

Phoenix Kyoto t-shirt


Ten Great Street Installations

I have love street installations. I write about street art installation in my book on Melbourne’s public sculpture because street installations, although not officially sanctioned, are still seen by the public.

Junky Projects, All Your Walls, 2013 (2)

The new Junky Projects that is part of All Your Walls in Hosier Lane is the largest that I have yet seen on the streets, becoming more abstract in his compositions. It a Dadaists/Futurists.

Pop Cap, All Your Walls, 2013

The Lego men in also All Your Walls by Pop Cap.

Will Coles, Nothingness

Will Coles, Nothingness, does anyone notice if a pigeon dies?

psalm-rainb2

Photograph that Psalm sent to me, this urban Rainbow is some of some of his fine work. Showing that he can do installations and other street art.

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Another photograph by Psalm of his work, Drain, its an old gag but worth doing well.

GT Sewell, Clown Serpent, 2013 (2 Blender Alley)

A great serpent clown by GT in Blender Lane.

Tea pot CBD

Yarn bombing referring back to the tea-cosy. Is yarn bombing trying to make the city more cosy?

Les Futo's spiral of lighters

A temporary installation; Les Futo’s great spiral of used lighters, presented at the Brunswick Festival in 2008.

Buckets in AC:DC lane

Can fling-up be art? In 2009 these buckets appeared in AC/DC Lane.

B1 Crucified, Brunswick

B1 Crucified in Brunswick in 2013. Is this a reference to cuts to the ABC?


Bigger, Biggest

Rone’s new mural, L’inconnue de la rue (unknown girl in the street) on the wall of the building at 80 Collins Street claims to be the largest mural in Australia. I don’t want to get into a mural measuring competition but I counted nine stories for Rone’s new mural making it larger than Adnate’s new five-story mural in Hosier Lane. (I used to live near a business that claimed to be “the biggest laundromat in the southern hemisphere” over in West Brunswick.)

Rone in Collins Street

Rone in Collins Street

Rone is from the Everfresh crew and Adnate is from the AWOL crew. The Everfresh and AWOL crews have been in open competition since 2011, when they were in a competition for the space in the NGV’s studio. Everfresh won that round and had an exhibition in NGV’s Studio. The next round in this competition are two giant murals by first Adnate and now Rone.

Everfresh are the established masters of Melbourne street art based in Collingwood with heaps of reputation on Melbourne’s streets. AWOL, the new comers from Brunswick, bring both ambition and a willingness to change and develop their style. The only member of the Everfresh crew to really change styles has been Reka, Makatron has developed but after seeing about a hundred Phibs on walls, boards, tattoos etc. his style isn’t that fresh anymore.

Adnate at work in Hosier Lane

Adnate at work in Hosier Lane

It is good that Melbourne’s street artists are now being offered such large walls; they have been crying out for large walls for years. Neither of these huge murals are great works of art, except in their size, as they are both thematically and artistically far to simple. Their style goes back to the hand painted painted advertising billboards of the 1950s and 60s, that many commercial artists used to paint, including James Rosenquist before he turned to Pop art.

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There are a couple of holes with Rone’s new mural; the most obvious is that bit of old wall that has had concrete sprayed on it. Why wasn’t that part painted over? Why is it there to begin with? The other problem is that the image distorts as you look up from the lane way; the perspective of the face only works when viewed from a certain position near Nauru House. Simply scaling up an image to fit a wall this large is not enough.

I’m looking forward to seeing what the next round of this creative competition between these two crews will bring but I just want to point out that the biggest mural in Melbourne was Adrian Doyle’s Empty Nursery Blue in 2013 that covered both sides and the paving of Rutledge Lane.


Adnate, Bigger and Better in Hosier

Tuesday morning 8:30am and half-way up the spray paint encrusted Hosier Lane, amid a cluster of cameras, Mayor Robert Doyle is talking with street artist, Adnate about his almost completed mural. Adnate and Mayor Doyle are obviously enjoying their conversation and I can hear snatches of it amid the sound of the cameras.

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“I love paint, I paint 7 days a week, 365 days a year…” Adnate explains to the Mayor. “You don’t want to become too attached to your work because then you don’t progress… Aerosol spray paint, the background is acrylic…dodgy paint roller… texture…”

It is the media preview of the still unfinished multi-story mural commissioned by Hosier Inc. and paid for through an arts grant from the City of Melbourne. The mural is the face of a a local aboriginal boy from Melbourne’s northern suburbs gazing towards Birrarung Marr.

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Adnate has been up on a scaffold painting for three days and will be working up there again today. (See my post PaintUp!) Five years ago Adnate was just another graffiti painter doing pieces with the AWOL crew along the Upfield line. Then he started painting faces, not the unusual graffiti characters, not stars but the faces of children of indigenous peoples. Adnate is now represented by Metro Gallery.

Five years ago conservative politician and former State Opposition Leader Robert Doyle had just started his first term as Lord Mayor; he was elected on the 30 November 2008. He had come to the position with a conservative attitude to graffiti but Melbourne’s street art started to change his mind.

This is not just a story about a new mural in Melbourne but about people changing their minds and then changing the world around them. Part of it started in 2012 when the Melbourne City Council proposed CCTV cameras in Hosier Lane to reduce crime in the area. This proposal was successfully resisted by the street art community (see my posts To CCTV or Not CCTV 1 and 2). The City of Melbourne has since revised its policy on graffiti management and Hosier Inc. was formed. Hosier Inc is a community organisation of interested people formed not to manage the anarchic lane way but to provide a hub for communication about the lane. It hasn’t been the perfect solution, there are still problems in the lane, but has improved the lane and its street art.

Mayor Doyle and Adnate spoke to the media and the trio of television cameras. Mayor Doyle described the mural as an “important and large work, more permanent, not a forever work, but more permanent than the other art in the lane.” Change is constant in Hosier Lane; it was once part of the garment district, from 1936 to 1939 Melbourne’s Communist Party Headquarters was at 3 Hosier Lane. Now the lane is street art destination and tourist attraction.

Mayor Doyle departs, Adnate poses for a few more photographs and then gets back on the scaffolding to start another day painting.


PaintUp!

For the last two days Adnate, from Melbourne’s AWOL crew has been up in the heavens painting on the rear wall of McDonald House that faces in Hosier Lane. Adnate will be up there painting for a few more days to come.

McDonald House (no relation to fat food empire) is a seven story building built in the Chicagoesque style. It was originally built in 1921 as warehouse but has since been converted to offices. The wall overlooking the lane has not been painted before because it has been too high and inaccessible.

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The current painting was made possible because the cement rendering on the wall of the building was being repaired and the scaffold had to be installed. Adnate’s giant piece was commissioned by local community association Hosier Inc. and funded by the City of Melbourne’s annual arts grant program. Hosier Inc. say that is the first instalment in a series of major artworks for the lane.

Ink & Clag in Hosier Lane

Ink & Clog in Hosier Lane

Down below in the lane the tourists come, take photos and go. At the Flinders Street corner a notice that the Ink & Clog, a crew from Singapore has been painting. (I’ve had a long interest in Singapore Graffiti). Near the Flinders Lane end two guys, both named Dave, are sitting on stacks of milk crates watching Adnate paint. One of the Dave’s is better known as Phoenix, whose paste-ups can be seen in Flinders Lane and other places around Melbourne. The other Dave is David Russell who is photographs Melbourne’s street art scene and whose photographs are regularly seen on Invurt. The location was a difficult one to photograph and David Russell was preparing to go up on top of various buildings around the lane to get photographs of Adnate’s progress.

Melbourne is now following the example of many European and South American street art of very large legal murals to bring art and colour to a giant run-down and drab wall. I can’t tell how Adnate’s mural will look when it is finished, hopefully it will be as good as the face that he did in an earlier piece with the rest of the AWOL crew in Fitzroy.

AWOL Gertrude Street

Adnate with the AWOL crew, Gertrude Street


Love & Flowers on the Streets

For Valentine’s Day I’m posting love messages seen on the streets of Melbourne; the romantic gestures, the love poems written across the city wall. It is not that all of these images have been created for Valentine’s Day this year; there are love and flowers in the streets of Melbourne all year, if you look.

Heart Centre Place

There is a marvellous love story about the Sacred Heart of Centre Place that was told by Melbourne walking tour guides (See Demet Divaroren’s Blog for the legend). My photo is from 2009; the box is barely visible now – covered in multiple layers of paint. I don’t believe the legend, maybe I’m too cynical and I’ve looked carefully at the construction of the box, the lock can’t unlock anything.

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throw-up flower, Coburg 2011

There are plenty of painted flowers growing on the walls of Melbourne’s lanes. Stencil flowers on the bluestone paving stones of Hosier Lane. There is a free hand aerosol flower on the lane in my street. So many different flowers I don’t think that they are all by the same artist.

Georgina King Prahran

Painting on the walls of Union Lane in Prahran in 2012.

Makatron - Heart skull - Hosier:Rutledge

Makatron – Heart skull – Hosier:Rutledge

These are all pretty and simple but some street artists take hearts to a whole new level. Makatron’s demonic skull heart was in Hosier Lane in 2012 (it has since been painted over many many times) reminding the romantics that there are two aspects to the heart. In 2013, as part of All Your Walls, F1 painted a giant tree holding a huge heart in Rutledge Lane and Civil painted a traditional heart with an arrow entwined in foliage in Hosier Lane.

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Civil Heart All Your Walls

Give me a sign of your love written in the street for all to see. Public proclamations of love; people used to carve their signs of love into trees – street art is a massive improvement on that. (See my 2011 post “Messages of Love” or 2012 Bitten By the Travel Bug posted “What Melbourne’s Street Art says about Love”.)

Occupy the Love

Occupy the Love


Buffing & Christianity

Recently I saw some Christian buffing in Coburg. What is “Christian buffing”?

Christian buffing Coburg cross

The painter had painted the whole wall except for a stencilled crucifix that had neatly been painted around; you can see the white paint splatters on top of the black spray paint. Buffing the crucifix was refused on religious grounds. It would be an act sacrilege for a Christian to erase a crucifix by painting over. It didn’t matter for the Christian buffer that the original stencil included the blasphemous remark “LOL”; that was removed in the buffing.Lol cruxifition

The issue of buffing is more complex that even I had thought; with this example raising the complex issue of iconoclasm. Iconoclasm is the religious or anti-religious destruction of religious images. The complexities and paradoxes of iconoclasm were explored at a symposium at Newman College that I attended in September last year. It covered iconoclasm from the Biblical to the Renaissance idea that early Christians had an antipathy to the visual arts and to the destruction of petroglyphs on the Burrup Peninsula. I’m sure that the political realities of buffing are more complex in a more religious place than Coburg. I should be writing an academic paper about this and not just a blog post – “iconoclasm and graffiti”, or “urban street iconoclasm”.

Christian buffing coburg whole wall

Meanwhile on the streets of Coburg, after the wall had been buffed someone else had added more graffiti and so the cycle goes on.

Other interesting piece of buffing, that I seen on Melbourne’s streets:

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In a city lane there was buffing around an early Baby Guerrilla paste-up.

Altered buffing, unknown artist, Brunswick, 2011

Altered buffing, unknown artist, Brunswick, 2011

 


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