Tag Archives: Hosier Lane

Feminist Street Art

I was glad to have seen Hosier Lane on Thursday. Not for the crowd of high school students milling in the famous blue stone lane. Not for the vacuous schmaltz and wastes of aerosols that the greedy el Rolo or Culture Kings spray on the walls. Not even for the aerosol paint but for the little pieces, the stickers (there is now a dedicated section of wall in Rutledge Lane), the paste-ups and the small ceramic pieces (glued to the wall with liquid nails or superglue).

Many of these little pieces espoused feminism — a doilly cross-stitch embroidery of a quote from an advocate for survivors of sexual assault Grace Tame. Street art in Melbourne is at its best when it is raising issues that are both political and aesthetic. As one of the ceramic pieces stated: “Feminism is for everyone”

“Spastic Society opposes women. Lesley Hall St. Kilda 1981. Disability is a feminist issue.” 1981 was the United Nations International Year of Disabled Persons; it was also the year that Hall went on stage at the Miss Australia Quest with that sign: “Spastic Society opposes women”. The image is from the 1981 Miss Australia Quest, where Hall’s protest pointed out the contradiction of the beauty pageant raising money to support children with cerebral palsy. The Miss Australia Quests’ idea of beauty excluded people with disabilities. For more, read Hall’s article on “Beauty Quests: A Double Disservice Beguiled, Beseeched And Bombarded – Challenging The Concept Of Beauty”

It also reminds me that street art is a very ableist activity. 

It was good to see all these pieces, to know that more women are doing quality work as street art should not be just for the boys. I went on to Presgrave Place, where I saw more pieces by women street artists. Stencils by artist and jeweller Edie Black, cutouts by Manda Lane and more stencil paste-ups by Vikie Murray.


Melbourne Street Art May 2022

Notes on Melbourne’s street art. School groups are returning to Hosier Lane, Melbourne’s most famous street art location. There must have been sixty or seventy school kids and four teachers in the lane as I walked down its bluestones to Flinders Lane. There are still two sides to the lane (see my post) — a facile commercial and a sensitive community side. Lots of new paste-ups, people are really going to town with them. There was also some recent work by local street art veterans, including Phoenix, Facter and Manda Lane. 

Although everyone in Melbourne has heard of Hosier Lane, few will know of Baptist Place. Basically, it is a long alleyway between some buildings with a bit of an open node around an entranceway in the middle that had not been buffed in a decade (I could date it from the art). Baptist Place has a street sign, but I’m having problems with it on my photo program’s maps.

There was work by Manda Lane at the entrance to the lane.

Manda Lane is one of those street artists you don’t need to know but probably should. Her paste-up drawings of plants bring foliage to the city’s lanes. These are location critical, giving an impression of black and white plants. I had just seen a painting of local botany by her in Hosier Lane. She is one of Melbourne’s Ninjas of Street Art; others of that middle-class street art crew had left their presence in the Baptist Place. 

Some of the walls of Baptist Place have been recently buffed with a mustard yellow paint making more room for new work. Painted out, buffed pieces by Night Krawler still visible under the single layer of paint made way for new black and white stencil works. These are Night Krawler’s black and white stencils of retro-occult scenes. Stencil images that exist as multiples, so the loss is no loss. In other lanes, I see more pieces by Manda Lane, Night Krawler, paste-ups and stencils by Sunfigo, a freehand painting by CDH, and paste-ups by Mr Dimples and others.

Stencil art started my interest in Melbourne’s street art and involved me in running the Melbourne Stencil Festival/Sweet Streets. There used to be so many people doing stencil art. Still there is always someone doing aerosol spray paint in Melbourne’s street art scene. And generally, they are pretty good at it, with multi-layer stencils, politically conscious with a sense of humour.


Hosier Lane’s two sides

Looking at that famous Melbourne laneway of street art and graffiti now is like a portrait of the city post-lockdown. It has two sides.

On one side of Hosier Lane is Culture Kings, purveyors of designer streetwear and their wall painted by some hired gun aerosol painter. Further down that side of the lane are pieces by artists with @Instagram names painting anything they think will make them popular. Another set of wings to pose in front of for a selfie to bore your friends by El Rolo (aka Carlos Mejia, a graphic designer specialising in “illustration, packaging and commercial art”). El Rolo has been painting more than his fair share of walls in Hosier Lane for over a year, and I try to ignore it. His art is slightly less shallow when he collaborates with another South American artist also based in Melbourne Oskr who does calligraphic work — or what he calls “calligraffiti”.

Oskr & El Rolo

On the other side of Hosier Lane is The Living Room providing aid for the homeless and the homeless in their genuine streetwear. The walls on this side are painted in a mixture of styles and techniques. On this side of the lane, the art is wild and free. On the wall opposite Culture Kings, there is a painted protest with placards calling for “free weed,” “dry socks,” and simply “change”. This seated man is a reference to Melbourne stencil artist Meek’s Begging for change 2004, an image of a seated man with a placard that reads “keep your coins, I want change.” Further down, another artist has preserved a paste-up by Barak, bringing it into the literally hand-painted and hand-printed landscape. 

Trying to decipher this gestalt graphic of the two sides of this laneway, illustrating the contrast between those that see the city as a place, like home, and those who see it as a commercial opportunity. In several places a stencil of “IF” in large Times Roman font has been sprayed.

Meanwhile, AC/DC Lane, just a few lanes up from Hosier, remains the place for quality street art.


Making Hosier Lane Safe For Tourists

The new outdoor seating for the Hosier Lane restaurants has taken over Rutledge Lane for COVID safe dinning. (At the moment there is mostly intra-city tourism and the crowds of international tourists are absent.) This included repainting the walls with a rather bland, family-friendly theme of Disney’s Alice in Wonderland.

How delightfully boho is it?

Over a decade ago, these much-misinterpreted words were stencilled on 167 Flinders Lane’s rear wall in Rutledge Lane. I will not explain the legally correct interpretation of those words, but the effect of their misinterpretation. Their misinterpretation created a street art zone in Melbourne’s centre and one of the city’s top tourist attractions.

The words spelt out an application for “a retrospective Street Art Permit”. “The City of Melbourne acknowledges that public spaces provide a gallery and stage for artistic expression and approve permits for street art with the building owners permission. Legal street art contributes to a vibrant urban environment and can change continually on a day to day to basis.” The text finally noted, “The artwork may evolve over time.”

Overtime many layers of both authorised and unauthorised paint have been sprayed over those words and whole laneway. It has been painted Empty Nursery Blue and buffed black, in preparation for Melbourne Now. In places, the enamel paint is half a centimetre thick.

Art performs many functions, even paradoxically one function as to be functionless and excessive. Another is to overturn rules and conventions, the lords of misrule with a child’s eyes. That is where the notorious fire extinguisher filled with paint protest performance of February 2020 has to be looked at again.

“Melbourne’s Hosier Lane street art, graffiti, painted over in weekend ‘vandalism’ attack”, ABC News

Making the lane safe for tourism and families includes increased shopping, eating and photo opportunities for tourists. And these presents risks to others using the lane: the artists, the homeless, the homeless artists…

Is Hosier Lane a libertarian paint zone free to exploit for profit? Or is Hosier Lane an anarchic paint zone where freely given play/work contributions of graffiti and street art are welcome? These questions are at the centre of the debate about Hosier Lane’s function. They leave me contemplating two alternatives futures for the lane’s walls. Will it be bland, apolitical murals, celebrating celebrities and seasonal festivities, or the artistic unknown?

Some recent stencil art in Hosier Lane

Viki Murray’s Skateboard Riders

You wouldn’t imagine that there are many skateboard riders rolling around Lightning Ridge, but Walgett Shire boasts a skatepark. Lightning Ridge, in north-western New South Wales, is better known for opal mining. So I was surprised to find out that Viki Murray, the artists who spray-painted stencil images of board riders surfing the gnarly curves of the aerosol paint on Melbourne walls, lives in Lightning Ridge.

Skateboard culture is like hip-hop’s brother-in-law from the outer suburbs; it is married to graffiti even if it is not related. It is a stable relationship that has lasted decades which Viki Murray’s skateboarders only emphasis.

Murray’s multilayer stencilled or paste-up images are painted in a subdued palette of grey tones. I like their small size and the way that they blend into the graffiti. They don’t fill a wall like so much of current street art. They are not obvious from 100 metres, or even 10 metres away. They’re cool, like the skateboarders, who find an empty space to use.

Street art has often looked at placement but rarely have they rode the dynamic lines of aerosol graffiti. Murray’s riders inhabit the illusionary space of the paint. Cruising the clouds of colour found in these readymade psychedelic landscapes.

Even the random marker writer in a psychotic frenzy of scribomania in Hosier Lane respected Murray’s work adding “King Dude” and a crown. 

It is a long way between Melbourne and Lightning Ridge, days of driving but Viki Murray and her husband John ‘Mort’ Murray, who paints murals and has a gallery in Lightning Ridge, have done it several times. Unless there is someone else who has been adding skateboard riders to graffiti, Murray’s riders have been surfing the graffiti lines in Melbourne for many years. And I hope that their wheels will rumble as their roll on the paint for many more.


Last Saturday & Hosier Lane

Last Saturday I went into the city to see the latest work by Melbourne-based sculptor Lisa Roet. The nine-metre-tall inflated sculpture of David Greybeard had been deflated and wrapped up in anticipation of the high winds later that day. I had long to wanted to write about Roet’s work and had hoped that this temporary sculpture would provide a photograph and other inspiration for a blog post. Instead, I was left with a reminder that public art has to be prepared for harsh weather conditions.

Kaff-ein’s new mural in Hosier Lane

With my plans deflated I navigated the construction site blocking Fed Square to the new pedestrian crossing to Hosier Lane. Words cannot express the joy my body feels at having this new crossing and not having to cross two streets to get from the square to the lane.

Doyle was also waiting at the crossing and eager to tell me that there was a painting event happening in Hosier Lane. Melbourne City Council had brought Doyle in to organise the re-painting. What appears to be a free-for-all paint is actually a combination of curated work and the chaos of the city.

On Saturday about forty twenty local street artists were going to be re-painting the lane. Artists who hadn’t seen each other since the lockdown were arriving with music, ladders and crates of paint. The reader should not assume that these artists were all young males; Melbourne street artists are a diverse group that includes middle-aged women.

The famous laneway did need yet another layer of paint. It was not up to it usual standard when I had seen it just after lockdown, although there are a few things that I’d like to survive longer. Remembering that before the first lockdown, it had been thoroughly sprayed.

The great Hosier spray of  February 8, 2020, was one of the top five art events to have happened in Hosier Lane (along with Empty Nursery Blue, All Your Walls, Andy Mac’s original light-boxes and something else that someone will have to remind me of). It was performance art, a paint happening, action painting at its best, a collaboration by a crew of anonymous, masked artists. Any art that gets Melbourne talking and writing for a week, there has to be a remarkable quality; for the quality of art is directly proportional to the quality of the conversations that it generates.

Now it was being painted yet again, but I didn’t hang around to watch the paint dry.


Post-lockdown Melbourne

On arrival, I had to sign in to the gallery to assist contact tracing. No Vacancy lived up to its name and was the one art gallery that was open in the city. I didn’t know who was exhibiting as they were still typing up the room sheet (subsequently I have learnt that it was Lineaments by Lana Erneste, Sophie Sun, and Mollie Wilson).

Installation view of Lineaments at No Vacancy

All the galleries on Flinders Lane were all closed. Anna Schwartz had an exhibition of John Nixon, but it wasn’t open to the public. The public, institutional art galleries like the NGV and RMIT are still closed.

The best work that I saw was the #thelittlelibarian, and it wasn’t in an art gallery but in Hosier Lane. It looked like the work of Tinky because of the combination of HO scale miniatures with antiques. “If I was Snow White you’d never be able to poison me with an apple; you’d have to use an eclair.”

This is Hosier Lane like you have never seen it before. Almost empty of people except for a few homeless people meeting up after the long lockdown and relaxing in the sunny weather. There was the smell of aerosol paint in the air, but it wasn’t an artist spraying walls just the manager of Bar Tini painting the bases for small tables.

I wanted to see if much street art and graffiti had occurred during or immediately after the lockdown. Although there were some of the usual graffiti and street art in Hosier Lane, there were also some strange works, outside of the standard, conventional street art and graffiti techniques. Evidence of a greater variety of people participating in street art. And the political agenda was loud and proud: issues of homelessness, “black lives matter”, “horse racing kills” and hero worship of Premier Andrews.

Chinatown

Elsewhere in the city, it looked like Ash Keating, or someone else had taken a paint-filled fire extinguisher to that wall in Chinatown. Below a park is being built on the empty site, instead of using it as a parking lot.

I think that I was a bit too eager; that Thursday, one day after Melbourne’s long lockdown lifted to allow businesses to open. It was too soon for most commercial art galleries. However, after months of lockdown, I was keen to get out of Coburg and return to my pre-lockdown Thursday routine of going to have a look at art in the city and writing this kind of blog post.


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