Tag Archives: paste-ups

Calm Collected

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 Toucans

Calm Toucans

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 - Captain Assange

Calm – Captain Assange

Calm - Wanted Paul Watson

Calm – Wanted Paul Watson

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.

Calm - Bradley Manning

Calm – Bradley Manning All-American

Calm - Murdoch Swine

Calm – Murdoch Swine

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.


Not Gangnam Style – Korean Street Art

There isn’t much Korean street art, not that I saw on my recent travels. Most Korean graffiti is traditional, back before old school; people writing on the wall with pens. There is nothing about the small amount of aerosol graffiti or street art that is due to Korean respect for property; Koreans are writing on the walls.

Korea graffiti wall

Writing on the stone of Inwangsan Mountain, Seoul

Writing on the stone of Inwangsan Mountain, Seoul

There is even traditional Korean writing on the rocks of Inwangsan mountain in Seoul.

Isadong wall, Seoul

Isadong wall, Seoul

In Seoul I actually saw more street art than old school aerosol graffiti and I saw more aerosol art in the lanes of Gyeongju that I did in Seoul. I’m told there is some in Seoul but Seoul is a very big place and although I followed up some leads and looked down many streets and lanes, I never saw it. This post comes with my usual caveat about commenting on the graffiti and street art of other cities applies here; I probably didn’t know the best locations to visit, that street art is ephemeral and I was just seeing what happened upon during my travels. Normally I see some graffiti along the railway tracks when I travel by train but there was none in Korea. I saw some in the many laneways of Seoul and Gyeongju.

Gyeongju wall

Gyeongju wall

Paste-up in Bukchon, Seoul

Paste-up in Bukchon, Seoul

I saw a great paste-up (wheatpasting) in the Bukchon district of Seoul. There were also some stencils and other work in this attractive and cultural significant area.

Bukchon wall, Seoul

Bukchon wall, Seoul

Of course there was some tagging and stickers in Seoul – mostly by Zacpot, he is everywhere with stickers and pens.

Zacpot sticker, Seoul

Zacpot sticker, Seoul

There is lots of potential for some truly great street art in Korea, there are a lot of great walls it just needs artists who want to do it (along with better cans and caps).

Merecat stencil, Seoul

Merecat stencil, Seoul


Sexy Girls, Girls, Girls

Yes, lots of young, beautiful, sexy girls with big round tits all over Melbourne.

Sofles & Deb in Hosier Lane. Photo by Kevin Anslow

Sofles & Deb in Hosier Lane. Photo by Kevin Anslow

Photo by Kevin Anslow.

Photo by Kevin Anslow.

Photo by Kevin Anslow.

Photo by Kevin Anslow.

Kevin Anslow, who created the Melbourne Street Art 86 site, sent me these photographs of the paste up dialogue attached to Sofles and Deb’s new piece on Hosier Lane. (Thankyou Kevin.)

“Hey babe does it worry you that exaggerated, big titted girls like us are saturating street art iconography these days?” the speech balloon puts these words in the mouth of Sofles girl.

And Deb’s girl replies “No silly. From Rone to Adnate to Herakut, empty portraits of young girls with big eyes are the best way to make it commercially. Think anime or porn culture or fashion photography; this is about rehashing the most palatable mainstream motif. It’s not about finding beauty in new ways, it’s about reconstructing beauty in the most standard and insipid way. So girlfriend, stop trying to use your brain and just look pretty. Tee-hee.”

The speech balloon dialogue caps Sofles and Deb in the best possible way because it improves the work and opens up an interaction that wouldn’t be allowed in art galleries. The paste-ups are a wonderful piece of Situationalist provocation detouring and subverting the cartoon images. The dialogue is not puritanical; I enjoy porn and fashion photography but I wouldn’t want to look at them all day (I hate anime but this involves a reaction caused by an over-exposure to anime). Like me the dialogue is worried about “saturating” with over-exposure and not about the images themselves. It is calling for more progressive street art and attacking the conservatism of commercial art (the old school tattoo, comic book and fantasy art the influences street art). It is also a challenge to think about the issues of gender and commercial art.

Looking for the vocabulary to write about street art illustration work like Rone, Sofles and Deb, I turned to Japanese art and find bijinga (beautiful-girl picture). I was happy to find the word for there is little else to these bijinga pictures except for a beautiful girl. They are just, in the words of the speech balloon, “rehashing the most palatable mainstream motif” with different themes and in different styles. As art these bijinga pictures are simply eye candy and the artists who create them will enjoy ephemeral fame.

But what are the consequences of this abundance of images of wide-eyed buxom girls? Will people become bored with them and cause an opposite reaction in images?  Will girls follow their example?

P.S. Later the speech balloons were revealed to be the work of Melbourne street artist CDH, see his webpage for more about it.


Baby Guerrilla Wins

‘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.

Baby Guerrilla at Union Dinning Terrace

“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.


Ashes to Ashes

One of the most clearly political street artists in Melbourne is Phoenix. His paste-ups are the visual equivalent of a play by Bercht; they always has a message but you to think for yourself. In the case of Phoenix you have to look at the play of words and images in his paste-ups.

Although I write about the politics and street art I haven’t mentioned Phoenix’s work that much because the message is always so clear. But if Phoenix’s work were only political messages there wouldn’t be much art to them. The collage overlay method that he uses to create his images throws up many surreal combinations. The shapes and use of primary colours only make his work instantly recognizable even though there is no tag or other signature.

Phoenix’s paste-ups have a wooden backing and are coated polyurethane that makes them both weather resistant and difficult to remove. There is another reason why his paste-ups are seldom removed, even when the rest of the wall is buffed, and that is the obvious quality and workmanship in every piece

The same artist? Melbourne

Phoenix, t-shirt face, 2010

I first noticed Phoenix’s paste-ups when he was using t-shapes and then I met up with him when he volunteered at Sweet Streets. Phoenix is a thoughtful guy; he is not the art student type, and older than the typical street artist, more of a cheerful eccentric. His art reflects his thoughtful approach to life and street art.

Phoenix, spraycan hand, 2012

Looking back on the war on terror: I was alert to the anti-war stencils and street art but not alarmed. It was a war with many different sides fighting a propaganda war and Melbourne’s street artists were mocking the official line. Mockery the one thing that really works – laughing at the enemy. The propaganda war continues on the street with street art and stencils.

Phoenix, Osma Scare, 2011

Pheonix, statue of liberty, 2010

Phoenix’s art roses from the ashes of a studio fire and now disintegrates on the streets in a loop of creation.

Phoenix, Less Ephemeral More Ephemeral, Melbourne


Little Diver Remembered

Melbourne’s street artists have been recreating it in tributes ever since Banksy’s “Little Diver” in Cocker Alley was destroyed in 2008.

Cocker Alley Banksy Tributes – Sunfigo above, Phoenix below

The first artist to document create a paste-up tribute images was Phoenix. Phoenix created an identically sized Little Diver figure that was revealed by the dripping paint that destroyed it. Phoenix continues to refer to the Banksy’s Little Diver, this time with a cross over reference to Warhol “Famous for 15 minutes comments.” (See “The Resurrection of Banksy’s Little Diver” by John Raptis.)

Earlier this year Sunfigo remembered Banksy’s “Little Diver” in a work that parodied the Melbourne City Council’s Laneway Commissions. Sunfigo is a good multi-layer stencil maker and knows Melbourne street art and graffiti history including references to HaHa, Hugh Dunit, Sync, Phibs, the notorious CCTV, and others, as well as, Banksy.

Melbourne street art performance artist, Bados Earthling has been creating his own tributes to Banksy with performances and songs. When a Banksy rat was destroyed in Prahan in 2012 Bados held a candlelight vigil in Prahran to mourn the loss. Bados Earthling and his band the Wild Audio Society’s have a Banksy tribute songs: ““Be Like Banksy” with the chorus “Where’s the Banksy?” Bados Earthling says “the most comonally asked question I get from the general public is where are all the banksy’s located… They never asked about any Austrtalian street artist.” (You can enjoy Bandos’s performances on YouTube.)

In 2010 another Banksy rat was destroyed in Hosier Lane, local street artists reproduced it and added other work commenting on it. (See my blog post: Street Art Notes July)  Do all of these tributes to Banksy really contribute anything to Melbourne’s street art? Even though the tributes to Banksy by Phoenix, Sunfigo and Bados are all quality and nuanced works of art but repeating the legend of Banksy is not the subject of significant art. Apart from serving as a reminder of the hypocrisy of Melbourne City Council towards street art – and politicians eat hypocrisy for breakfast. There is an element of the cultural cringe in both the council and Melbourne street artist’s continual celebration of a visiting British artist.

Rather than dwelling on the past maybe these artists should think about the future of street art in Melbourne. Street art is ephemeral and has little room for history – maybe it’s time to forget about Banksy.


Melbourne Flâneurs

“If someone had one day in Melbourne they should wander the streets.” – Wonderlust

(Everfresh: Blackbook – The Studio & Streets: 2004-2010, The Miegunyah Press, 2010 p.36)

I am one of the wanders, the flâneurs, the urban explorers, the ghost-sign hunters, the psycho-geographical explorers of Melbourne walk its streets. I love to explore Melbourne. The city is an endless mystery, a muse that inspires me, a great cybernetic organism that reorganising, regenerating, growing and dying and constantly moving.

We who are also constantly moving no longer desire a walk in park, we don’t want designer urban environments with organized space. What we want is the disorganisation, the contrasts, the contradictions of the city and humanity. We want the sense of discovery. The designer environments shopping malls of Docklands or Southbank are too sterile compared to the culture along the long shopping strips of Sydney Road, Chapel Street or Brunswick Street or the network of lanes through the inner city.

Melbourne has long had a street life worthy of exploration. George Sala, the special correspondent for the Daily Telegraphy in 1880s, the man who coined the term “Marvelous Melbourne” imagined Parisians flâneurs would feel at home on Bourke Street.

The antique hand painted signs saying  “Post No Bills” are all over Melbourne. The signs in the laneways of Melbourne’s Chinatown reads: “Commit No Nuisance”. Fly posting, fly tipping, littering, expectorating, urinating, pigeons, stray dogs, stray goats, stray pigs, bell ringing, loitering, the hoists over the laneways – of all the problems that Melbourne’s streets have faced graffiti appears to be the least of the problems.

Graffiti and street art becomes an excuse to explore the city, to go for long walks with a camera. It guides the flâneur through the seldom-used paths. You can tell when you are walking with a street art fans by the way they look down each alley and lane to see if there is anything on its walls. There are ghost signs haunting buildings, the fading images of old advertising from the days of hand-painted signs suggesting previous lives and times. There are new things to see everyday.

Underneath these streets the Cave Clan have been exploring Melbourne’s system of storm water drains for decades. The Cave Clan also has created stickers and zines. Incidentally, all of these storm water drains empty into the bay instead of being treated, purified and re-used in a city with a water shortage.

I’m looking for street art, for guerrilla gardening, art galleries, vertical gardens, unusual signs, urban wildlife and just the city. I enjoy walking; it is a healthy exercise for both the body and mind. What do you look for when you are walking Melbourne’s streets?

La Pok – guerilla garden Somerset Lane


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