Tag Archives: HaHa

Walls in the ‘Hood

Looking around the streets of Brunswick and Coburg and glad to back in the neighborhood after all my recent travels. I try to see some exhibitions and do see some new street art. That’s the thing about street art, it makes the city more dynamic, it is constantly changing and so the familiar bike ride into Brunswick is always changing.

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The car park wall at Sparta Place now has more local indigenous heroes commemorated on it in the “Brunswick Kind” series. Turbo Brown and Florence ‘Dot’ Cheers join Peter “Cocoa” Jackson on the wall.

I could feel the artistic vibe coming off Victoria Street. Comic drawing classes were being held at Squashface Comic Studio and there were life-drawing classes at Art Health Australia. The now old-fashioned looking stencil covered front of Han’s Café.

There is an install at Brunswick Arts Space, White Elephant was empty but Tinning Street Presents.. was open. “Future Clean Up” is a group exhibition by artists involved in a rocking zine scene, hence the art on exhibition graphic and often over-the-top style. Leagues, one of the artists was drawing and gallery sitting. I could tell it was Leagues because of his recognizable style of using drips and eyes.

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Quality fresh aerosol paint now covers the upper part of the lane that Tinning Street Presents is on. Previously the street art had stopped at Tinning Street but now it continues for the whole lane. Is there any where in Melbourne that Lush hasn’t been? I’m in the taxi going home from the airport and the first piece of graffiti that I see is by Lush and here he is again in Coburg.

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After that I spotted some recent HaHa stencils on a Coburg wall. Although some of his stencils are from work in his recent exhibition at Dark Horse Experiment they aren’t attempting to reproduce the multiple layers and multiple images of HaHa recent gallery work. They are old-fashioned stencil like he used to do a decade ago.

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Famous Faces

Aung San Suu Kyi stencil

You haven’t really made it unless your face has been celebrated with an aerosol stencil on the streets of Melbourne. (See my blog post on Portraits of Julian Assange now with even more portraits.)

Famous heroes but not celebrities - Firemen and fire truck by HaHa

Various Face Blender Lane

Rolf Harris - trust spray paints ... sure can

Dame Edna (Barry Humphries)

It helps if you look good in high contrast black and white. Who is this guy?

You know that you are really famous when HaHa does a stencil of you – then it looks like full colour because he uses so many layers of stencils and different densities of spray.

Kurt Cobain & Michael Jackson by HaHa

Various people by HaHa in Stevenson Lane

Chopper Reed by HaHa


The Conspiracy of HaHa and other tales

Conspiracy theories are kind of scary; like when Regan offers to fill a data stick with conspiracy theory stuff the quantity alone is scary. So I unwrapped and read The Conspiracy of HaHa with some trepidation and I was relieved to find that the The Conspiracy of HaHa was more illuminutty than illuminati. A good laugh is better than a good conspiracy. Coincidentally I have been reading Umberto Eco Foucault’s Pendulum (1989) – the ultimate conspiracy theory book (aside from Robert Anton Wilson’s Illuminati series).

“There exists a secret society with branches throughout the world, and its plot is to spread the rumor that a universal plot exists.” (Foucault’s Pendulum p.317)

The Conspiracy of HaHa is an illustrated book by Kieran Mangan and Regan Tamanui (Silent Army, 2011). The comics vary from Kieran Mangan’s multi and single panel cartoons featuring HaHa as the main character to the punk cartoon scribbles by HaHa featuring Braddock as the main character. As each artist takes turns to take the piss out of the other.

The book has a limited print run of only 200 editions as Regan wanted to keep it exclusive. Exclusive or not it is being merchandised with images from the book on t-shirts and badges available at the Blender Artist’s Market on Saturday.

Artist's Market at Blender Lane

Doyle, the manager of Blender and Dark Horse Experiment appears as a cartoon character in The Conspiracy of HaHa as bathos, he is the abrupt appearance of the commonplace. When I last saw Doyle he asked me why I don’t write about Dark Horse Experiment more? Does he think that I’m part of a conspiracy to ignore him – no; he just wants more online exposure. Then he tells me that inspired by suburban dreams of fame is working on his reality TV show and shows me a rough edit on Vimeo. Reality TV makes UFO conspiracies comforting.

I started to think that I had ignored the connection between comics and street art for too long. Sure I’ve seen all the cartoon characters on the walls but I had thought of them as pop references rather than statements of ambitions. So I while I was at the Blender Artist’s Market I bought a copy of the first issue of Dailies (also from Silent Army), a magazine of comics and illustrations by local artists printed on newsprint in tabloid format. I like the old fashioned style of cartoons on newsprint. There are pieces by many notable Melbourne street artists: Heesco, Civil, Shida, Ha-Ha, Baby Guerralla, Psalm, Kieran Mangan… to name but a few. Along with many other Melbourne cartoonists: Bernard Caleo, Jo Waite (to be expected) and Michael Managhetti (surprising as he does performance art).

Meanwhile in the chthonic lair of the Knights Templars…


End of 2011

During the year I have reviewed about 70 different galleries (only about 30% of the total number of galleries in Melbourne) and even more exhibitions. I have tried not to have a favourite gallery; I have tried (unsuccessfully) not to review the same gallery or artist more than once. And there are more to see and write about than just art exhibitions; there is the street art, fashion and other aspects of Melbourne’s culture.

Statue of Sun Yat Sen, Little Bourke Street

I saw a new public sculpture only this week when I walked through Chinatown – a bronze statue of Sun Yat Sen standing in Cohen Place Plaza on Little Bourke Street. Fortunately this is only a life-sized statue and not the 3.7-metre statue first proposed by Melbourne’s Chinese community in 2008. Why a statue of Sun Yat Sen in Melbourne? Well there are memorials to JFK, Elvis, Robbie Burns and General Gordon in Melbourne, so why not Sun Yat Sen? (The name of Cohen Place Plaza is coincidental and does not refer to Sun Yat Sen’s bodyguard “Two Gun” Cohen.)

It is an exhausting activity, all this writing and research – it is sort of masochistic. So I can understand why Deidre Carmichael has decided to stop writing the Art in Geelong blog at the end of this year. It is almost exhausting just reading and looking at what Arty Graffarti and Melbourne Street Art on Facebook add daily. Both have plenty of photographs of Melbourne graffiti and street art on a daily basis and Arty Graffarti does review street art exhibitions.

I met some of the people behind Melbourne Street Art on Facebook at the Blender Studios Christmas Party – that was a great party, art, music, open studios and fantastic people. It was an excellent way to end the year.

HaHa, Stevenson Lane

Between Christmas and New Year most of the galleries in Melbourne are shut but there is still plenty of great art to see in Melbourne’s laneways both the official, Melbourne’s Laneway Commissions, and unofficial Melbourne’s street art. When I was in Chinatown I found Yhonnie Scarce’s “Iron Cross” in Brien Lane. It is a symbolic memorial to the 50 years that her family’s life was controlled by Christian mission where “they were told what to wear, how to speak and when they were allowed to leave the settlement.” This year the Laneway Commissions were all by contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists.

Yhonnie Scarce, “Iron Cross”, Brien Lane

Near the beginning of this year I re-branded this blog to “Black Mark – Melbourne art and culture critic”. It wasn’t a very painful process except when it came to being indexed by PANDORA, Australia’s Web Archive; for some reason the name change caused lots of confusion there. I would like to thank everyone who has read Black Mark and especially Evangeline Cachinero, Peter Symons and Catherine Voutire for their help and encouragement over this year.

Looking forward to 2012. Happy New Year everyone.


Pop of Pop

Richard Hamilton, the pop of Pop Art, lived a great life reaching back to the Dada of Marcel Duchamp and looking forward to fun future for art. This is not an obituary – there is an excellent one in The Guardian. Considering the life of Richard Hamilton lead me to thinking about Pop Art and, in particular the impact of Pop Art in Australia.

Maybe Pop Art first came to Australia with Martin Sharp. Maybe it was here already with Barry Humphries 1968 screenprint of the infinite regression of Willie Wheaties on a cereal package (but Barry thought it was Dada when he did it). In the 1990s Howard Arkley’s celebrated the images of Melbourne suburbia with spray paint. And there are still many artists in Australia doing Pop Art including David Bromley, HaHa Maria Kozic, Christopher Langton, Dennis Roper and David Wadelton. Melbourne even has a Pop Art sculpture, “The Public Purse” by Simon Perry in the Burke St. Mall. The sculpture is based on Claes Oldenberg’s idea making giant sculpture versions of everyday objects.

If Pop Art is about the art of ironically sampling the visual clutter of the modern world then it is definitely still here and bigger than before. The cultural influences celebrated by Pop Art; rock music, celebrities, advertising and pop media images, have continued and even expanded in our society. Pop Art ended the division between high arts and popular arts; it looked at the Mona Lisa and Mickey Mouse as equally recognizable images. Artists like Jeff Koons were clearly continuing the techniques and imagery associated with Pop Art in the 1980s and 90s. Pop Art might now be so big that we might not be able to see it anymore because it almost completely fills our vision. Is street art, especially Bansky and all the other stencil artists, another part of Pop Art?

Was Pop Art just another one of the modern art’s “isms”? Has the style bubble burst with a snap, crackle and pop. Is Pop Art a dead, historical art movement? Or has it continued as major movement in the contemporary world? In a narrow sense Pop Art, Neo-Realism, Capitalist Realism, whatever you want to call it, is a defined movement in art history from the 1950s and 60s. But the style continues – the art history books that we grew up with got it wrong. When a future history of 20th – 21st art is written where will Pop Art be located? There are precursors to Pop Art in Dada and clear decedents still making Pop Art today.

But this might just part of the long tail of Pop Art, like the long tail of Impressionism, where the style became more commercialised and the domain of amateur landscape artists. Pop Art is incredibly popular; that isn’t tautological, Pop Art could be unpopular. Pop Art is popular because it is fun and recognizable, it doesn’t threaten, it isn’t seen as ugly. And this popularity has made features of Pop Art into a kind of folk art and a design style.

However Pop Art is a significant art style not just for art history; it also caused major thinking of the philosophy. Pop Art provoked responses by philosophers on both sides of the Atlantic: Arthur Danto and Jean Baudrillard. Both philosophers were deeply impressed by Andy Warhol’s art. For Danto Pop Art raised issues about what art is and for Baudrillard about reality and simulacra.

Pop Art half a century later and still wow.


More or Less Ephemeral

There are many new tattoo parlours in the northern suburbs and their presence has reminded me to write about the connection between tattoos and street art. Street art may be easier to remove or buff than a tattoo but that doesn’t make it ephemeral. Street artists may be realistic and stoic in the face of buffing or capping of their pieces. Some street art may not last that long but this is circumstantial and not an intrinsic quality and some pieces for years.

“Ephemeral”, “transitory”, “fad”, “fashion” are these words are applied to street art in the hope that it will all go away? Ephemeral means that it is lasting for only a short time; it was first used for plants or insects that live for only a short period of time, like mayflies. Collectors of ephemera collect items that were designed to be short-lived use like postage stamps, postcards, tickets and movie posters. Compared to the lifespan of these items street art is hardly ephemeral.

Phoenix, Less Ephemeral More Ephemeral

The transitory nature of street art is occasionally referred to in the art. Some street art is self-consciously designed to only last a short period of time, like Gav Barbey’s “Hate Love”, two coloured ice blocks melting in Hosier Lane. “Less/More Ephemeral” by Phoenix a series of letters that have been slowly wearing away on a wall in Little Lonsdale Street. These works are the street art equivalents of the auto-destructive art of Gustav Metzger or Jean Tinguely.

Lasting for years is hardly an ephemeral quality, more like an annual or biannual but not ephemeral. The people who object to graffiti do not consider the marks to be ephemeral but rather permanent. Street art may be one of the most permanent art movements, considering all the digital photographs of the street art preserved somewhere on a computer. And the street art style tattoos are permanent.

Ars langa, vita brevis (art is long, life is short) – Hippocrates


3 Portraits of Julian Assange

Anon, stencil of Julian Assange, Coburg

Melbourne street art has a tradition of doing stencil images of famous people so it was no surprise that images of Julian Assange of Wikileaks started to appear late last year. Some of the artists have made political comments like the anonymous stencil that calls for “Free Speech” under his image. Much of it is also about the fame of the face depicted; a movie or TV stars are more likely than a political figure. As his fame increased a number of Melbourne street artists have depicted Julian Assange.

Phoenix, “Julian Assange”, Hosier Lane, Melbourne

Phoenix looks at the deeper issues behind the arrest of Julian Assange and creates an image of global oppression, quoting Rousseau: “born free but everywhere we are in chains.” Phoenix’s paste-ups have a political or social comment – they are multi-coloured works with shape cut MDF backing and a coating of polyurethane that makes them both weather resistant and difficult to remove.

HaHa, “Julian Assange”, Hosier Lane, Melbourne

HaHa, following the Pop Art tradition of repeating the images of celebrities as contemporary icons stencils, has depicted many famous faces. From bushrangers, to gangsters, to whistleblowers Julian Assange is yet another famous criminal that HaHa has portrayed. It is all about fame just as graffiti is all about fame and notoriety. HaHa stencil has three or more layers, it is repeated in a grid in various colours in a reference to Andy Warhol’s silkscreen celebrity portraits.

P.S. I found more street art portrait of Julian Assange.

Calm pasted one just below HaHa’s multiple stencil portraits in Hosier Lane.

Calm, Julian Assange, 2011


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