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.


About Mark Holsworth

Writer, independent researcher and artist, Mark Holsworth is the author of the book Sculptures of Melbourne. View all posts by Mark Holsworth

14 responses to “Sexy Girls, Girls, Girls

  • Mark Holsworth

    They were gone last night, someone had cleaned up the Sofles and Deb piece for Melbourne’s White Night.

  • Mark

    When I was younger I hated this depiction of women in Graffiti (I’m talking pre-Sofles, not hating this work). I thought it dumbed down graff and reinforced too many shitty stereotypes. In response I once painted a woman in a business suit and within a few days it had a beard on it, where as other sexier female faces I did lasted years.

    I used to hold a strong view that graffiti writing should, for the most part, challenge social norms and conventions rather than re-inforce stereotypes.

    I take a different and simplier view now.

    Every artist can and should simply do what they want to. But everyone also has a right to question it and I encourage dialogue and constructive criticque of any work in public space.

    I see a correlation between some of this work and other ‘outsider’ art like hotrod and pinup illustration. In fact a large amount of popular rockabillly imagery reinforces the sexualisation of women but tends to go unchallenged.
    For these paintings in question, it’s fantasy and and perhaps people regurgitating (possibly even purging) as a response to their own desires, fanatasies and indulging an active imagination.

    It does bring up questions of how we view and portray women and I love the bantar and dialogue shown in the pics, but I’m not about to shake the naughty finger at people painting what and how they want to.

    • Mark Holsworth

      I liked the paste-ups because they challenged people to think about this issue rather than telling that they are wrong. The influence of hotrod, pinup, tattoo and aircraft nose paintings on street art can’t be ignored but the paste-ups ask why the excessive concentration on images girls (there were 5 in Hosier Lane on the weekend) and why so many artists are producing the similar images. I wonder what would happen if a male pinup image was painted in Hosier Lane.

    • Mark

      I was thinking the same thing. What would happen if suddenly they were all male swimsuit models. I’ve invited male friends to life drawing classes and they only come if it’s a female model. They get uncomfortable about the naked male.
      There’s definitely an area of comfort that hasn’t been challenged much

  • Kevin Anslow

    After about a 9 month break and following a period of being immersed in Melbourne street art for a good few weeks, I spent a quite a few hours over the past few days playing a range of computer games. I was quite struck by the similarities of a very wide range of images in street art and those found in that media. Commentators on the iconography of computer games not infrequently draw attention to the portrayal of women in the games being much the same as the images highlighted by these paste ups. Computer games are a pretty broad field, but they do tend to be marketed to a particular male demographic.

    I wouldn’t want to suggest that street art is dominated by a particular type of male imagery, or speculate about the potential questions of a ratio of male to female artists and their popular culture influences, but a shoot from the hip first impression, comparing the two media, might well be tempted in that direction. So do pet theories become lame generalisations.

    Having said that, perhaps there are some questions along these lines that are worth asking, because I do agree that a proliferation of male swimsuit models reflected in the art probably would not have a terrific longevity and equally I suspect there isn’t a whole amount of enthusiasm in the collective average total of the artists themselves for ensuring glistening biceps and amply filled speedos are common in what you see on Melbourne’s walls. Though surely artists are broad enough minded in general to be focusing in the main, on a wider range of focii than what fills bras and briefs .

    One of the things I took from the paste up was that it made a vital connection between the street and mass media. Implicitly it was suggesting that the two are far more intimate than they might once have been, and the freedom of the street to put up what the hell you like – illegally at least – might be curtailed by the consideration of what a lot of other folks might like to see. And of course, why should we not see icons we recognise and enjoy for various reasons?,.. but as Mark originally pointed out, can we, or are we seeing too many?

    The field is of course far too broad, and the number of permutations and combinations of visions and styles across numerous sites can torpedo the most indignant insistence of any sell out, or charges of boring repetitive iconography of Melbourne street art as a whole, but there is the niggling question of what can be done, and what an artists might be tempted to do.

    If I were a street artist, and a bit of a iconoclast, I do rather suspect, given what I have seen on brick, concrete and every other surface spray can and wheatpaste solution can adhere to, there is just enough of a proliferation of the sexy girls that I might be tempted to put something up that has a bit of of go at the curvier and larger eyed variety of image.

  • Jack

    What is really amusing about these paste ups are the comments by detractors on Facebook, Debs page for one has numerous comments but not one comment talks about the content of the paste ups. All comments referred to the outrageous and disrespectful person/s who stuck them up, it really shows how insular street artists can be nowadays.

    Personally, I think that anyone working under the guise of the words ‘street artist’ is a trickster and a hoax. Todays public are duped into believing that street art is an edgy and or has illegal connotations, when in fact most artists are just artists. I’m seeing too many street artists that do the bare minimum work on the street and have all the right marketing tools.

    • Mark Holsworth

      Of course, Debs couldn’t say anything about the content of the speech balloons because that would be to acknowledge the content. Many street artists are so insular that they regard any comment that isn’t praise as outrageous disrespect (and don’t I know it). And if these wanna-be commercial designers and illustrators can’t take the critical heat then they should stay off the street. You will be glad to know that the trickster who did put up the speech balloons, CDH does all his art on the street and doesn’t sell a thing.

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