‘Baby Guerrilla’ is the recipient of their inaugural art prize, Two Years on the Wall. Two Years on the Wall is a $9000 prize biennial art competition for emerging artists working in mural designs. The winner has their work on the feature wall space at Union Dining Terrace where their work will be displayed for two years, receives a $7500 monetary prize from sponsor TarraWarra Estate and a $1500 celebratory dinner at Union Dining. The restaurant, Union Dining is located in the heritage-listed ‘Union House’ in Richmond.
“The piece I have done for Union Dining Terrace is influenced by life and people around me, as is all my work. The eagle to me represents life, it’s so quick, it’s cruel, but it’s beautiful. I’m the women in the picture, most certainly, but I really trust my subconscious and work very instinctively, so it’s then hard to put into words what the work means to me,” Baby Guerrilla comments on her winning entry.
Two Years on the Wall is not exclusively a prize for street art but street artists have an advantage because of their experience with wall pieces. So it is not a surprise that it’s first winner is a person whose work has spanned both the galleries and streets.
Baby Guerrilla is best known for her paste-ups of floating figures high up on walls. I’ve been watching guerrilla territory for years growing on the walls of the city, Fitzroy and Brunswick. I had seen her paintings on exhibition at the City Library and so in 2010 I knew where the illustrations that started being pasted up around Melbourne’s laneways came from. I had been impressed with her early figurative paintings; her painting was good but her subject matter with references to genetic modification was a bit odd. Still there was the image of floating figure of a woman in the exhibition that is now the central to her work.
Her early paste-ups were very “toy” both in the graffiti sense of the word, as in, someone toying at the scene, and in toy scale: “my first ‘paste-ups were tiny, about 20 cm long”. At the time Baby Guerrilla had her studio at Blender Studios. And as Blender Studios maintains a mix of gallery and street artists had lots of contact with Melbourne street artists and lots of encouragement to work on the streets.
Baby Guerrilla persevered working in the streets; she increased the scale of the figures and was much more daring in positioning her figures high up the wall. (There is a formula here kids – keep working on an image and do it large.) But what really makes the art of Baby Guerrilla is the image that her art presents of a Nietzschean avant-garde artist, full of the will to transfigure the city, bravado, adventure, fearless and indifferent to life or death.
Baby Guerrilla’s prize win is part of a trend of street artists winning mainstream art prizes or at least being in the prize exhibition, like E.L.K.’s entry in the Archibald prize last year.