Phibs & Deb are two prominent street artists, both are professional piecers and both are exhibiting at Hogan Gallery. If you have had your eyes open and been to Fitzroy or street art locations in the city in the last couple of years then you will have seen the work of either Phibs or Deb. Deb’s work is amongst the most recognizable street art in Melbourne, chiefly because they are all images curvy attractive women in patterned garments. Phibs work is also identifiable in his use of lines, flat colours and stylised tribal designs.
Phibs style translates easily from aerosol paint on a wall to acrylic paint on canvas. There are the same flat colours and black line tribal design. Exactly what tribe Phibs style belongs to is not easy to determine, there are elements from around the world. The best paintings are where Phibs has used tight cropping on his designs but all of the paintings are of a consistent standard.
Deb was not so sure of herself on canvas and although she had more work in the exhibition it varied tremendously. Deb appeared to still be looking for the right media for images, trying watercolour pencils, acrylic paint and other media with varying results. Her brushstrokes or pencil lines are not as confident as her aerosol lines and this only emphasises the weakness in some of her designs. I would have liked to write about Deb creating a 21st Century odalisques, or the familiar animals that accompany her women. Her best paintings in the exhibition are her collaborations with Phibs. Their two individual styles mix together with Phibs intense black line work providing a support for Deb’s cute woman.
Collaborative artworks are natural for street artists as they often collaborate on a wall. Although collaborative art appear strange to modernists charged with the idea of the individual heroic artist, they were common in the 15th and 16th Centuries and are becoming common again.