Daily Archives: May 4, 2008

Graffiti Along the Lines

Northcote has a lot of good basic stencil art around Separation St. including the ironic/hypocritical: “Say NO To GRAFFITI!” stencil. A number of the stencils gave the impression of being two colour stencils when in reality it was the one stencil with two different colours lightly applied. The Epping line with all the cuttings and suburban houses in Northcote does not have many suitable locations for graffiti but there are a few good pieces where the conditions are suitable.

On the Williamstown line there is more blockbuster style pieces, possibly due to the trackside architecture. There are also more horror images; monsters, zombies with gunshot wounds (but that could just be a trend in graffiti across all Melbourne). Near Spotswood there was a figure made of milk crates climbing a wire mesh fence, this is a remarkable example of street art sculpture.

Along my own, Upfield line it is a case of build a wall and they will graffiti it. There is always new work appearing including two new pieces by Shime featuring his distinctive cartoon green lizard.

On the eastern suburban lines there is plenty of good work around Richmond to South Yarra and in the East Richmond station carpark. But I don’t often travel further east than that. Melbourne’s railway lines radiate out from the CBD without any interconnection. This can make it hard to get between relatively close suburbs unless they happen to be on the same railway line. I haven’t travelled on all Melbourne’s railway lines recently, this is not a comprehensive survey; doubtless there is some quality graffiti along every line. The quantity and quality of the graffiti along the railway lines varies due to the architecture and zoning along the line.

Advertising has appeared at some stations about the about the big fines for carrying spray paint cans. At Hawksburn station this propaganda has been already tagged.


I bought a copy of Illegal Fame magazine, the 1st Anniversary Edition. Illegal Fame features aerosol street art from all of Australia’s capitol cities. There is not much editorial, just a couple of pages of news and reviews, most of it provided by the major advertiser Ironlak an Australian aerosol paint manufacturer. There is not much advertising either. Mostly it is just pages and pages photographs of the great aerosol street art organised by city. The most interesting article was about the Ghostwriter project where pairs of artists paint a piece based on a sketch by the other artists. There is Rakas vs Phibs, Okies vs Meks, Vans vs Sirums, and Aeons vs Misterys. Illegal Fame is not the kind of magazine that you will read and throw away, it belongs on the bookcase bound in leather.


Only Rock’n’Roll

Seventh Gallery consistently has good shows. It is remarkable for a small artist-run shopfront gallery with a second windowless backroom gallery space. Reading their website the management committee make these problems appear to be features; the lack of any natural light in the backroom is promoted as giving the artist has greater control of lighting.

The current exhibition at Seventh, “We’ve Got A Love Like Electric Sound” is no exception. This group exhibition by Catherine Connolly, Candice Cranmer, Stephen Palmer, Carl Scrase, Sally Tape and Fiona Williams is about the relationship between contemporary art and popular music. This is a common contemporary art theme; a great theme since the pop art of 1960s, not an original theme but it is still a very fruitful source of inspiration. Popular culture and music is the revolution of that you can dance to. And popular culture has inspired many famous artists: Toulouse Lautrec, Andy Warhol and Jeff Koons. Popular culture might be juvenile, utopian and romantic but it is fun.

And “We’ve Got A Love Like Electric Sound” is a fun exhibition. The wow work of the exhibition is Candice Cranmer’s musk-stick column that reached from floor to ceiling. (The work had a reference to lyrics by Joy Division but I neglected to note the quote. Many of the other works also had pop music references in their titles.) Carl Scrase’s two works appropriated and rearranged pop material with playful fun and spectacular results: in one bouncy balls and toothpicks becomes the universe. Catherine Connolly’s video installations, reframed the video screen with timber and gloss enamel paint, showed sections of crowds at concerts. Fiona Williams’ faux naïf oil paintings on aluminium reminded me of the popular culture focused paintings of Elizabeth Peyton. It is apparent from her work where Sally Tape gets her name (or is the other way around); her day-glo and silver tape on wall-work was like Frank Stella on acid. Oddly there is only one piece of sound art in this exhibition, Stephen Palmer’s Pacing.

It is only rock’n’roll but I like it.

Sunlight & Shadows

“If there were water we should stop and drink

Amongst the rock one cannot stop or think”

T.S. Eliot

The leaves of the eucalyptus hang down presenting as little as possible of their waxy surface to direct sunlight in order to reduce evaporation. The sun is hot, burning and relentless in the Australian summer – it is not good. There is not a cloud in the sky and the ground is baked and dry like the skulls in Juan Ford’s paintings.  Sunlight, after the Egyptians and Socrates, is a symbol of the truth and the good. In the antipodes, it is the opposite the sunlight is cruel and soul destroying.

Juan Ford has learnt one thing from Robert Mapplethorpe, portraits of people with their eyes shut are great. They don’t confront the viewer with a return gaze; the closed eyes are the best symbol for sight or insight. Or have they shut their eyes and turned their back on the horror?

It was not hot at the opening of Juan Ford’s new exhibition “Gravity” at Dianne Tanzer Gallery. The Melbourne sky was dark grey and the sun was nowhere to be seen.

As I quaffed red wine and chatted at the opening I kept on hearing the word ‘photorealism’. Even though Andrew Gaynor had written, in the exhibition notes, that: “Ford treads the tightrope between faithful reproduction and psychological tremor, referencing photography but moving beyond photo-realism”. I want to quash this misclassification. Juan Ford’s paintings have nothing to do with photorealism. Photorealism is a specific style of painting that is characterized by hyperrealism, photographic precision and a focus on banal everyday scenes. Hans Holbein or Jusepe de Ribera or many other painters create pictures with photographic precision without being called photorealist. To call Ford’s paintings photorealist, and not Holbein’s, is the fallacy of post hoc ergo hoc (after therefore caused by) simply because they are painted post 1970. Ford’s paintings have nothing to do with photorealism: they are not hyperrealist and there is nothing banal about the subjects.

The subjects of Ford’s paintings are far from banal; they are haunting, almost allegorical. Titles like “A Glitch in the System” or an “An Orbit’s Conclusion” are certainly not banal. Ford’s anamorphic image of a galaxy seen in the curved surface of a trophy is the opposite of banal.

The paintings on exhibition at the Dianne Tanzer Gallery are of similar subjects to those that Juan Ford exhibited in “Inverted World”, at Jan Manton Art in Brisbane in November 2007. At the time I published an interview with Juan Ford in my old blog.

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