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Tag Archives: Peat Wollaeger

Jet Set Street Art

Where in the world is HaHa? Dabs and Mylar have returned to Melbourne after several years abroad. Melbourne street artists are travelling the world. Street art is the most extensively travelled art movement of all times. It is one of the necessities of working on the streets means finding news cities and places to exhibit.

Many street artists from other countries have visited and left their mark on Melbourne’s streets. Looking through my collection of photos of Melbourne street art I have many examples of these international artists. I have listed the visiting along with their country of origin and year/s that they visited Melbourne. Most visited in conjunction with an exhibitions as and I have noted if they also participated in major festivals or events.

A1one - Gertrude St. Fitzroy

A1one – Gertrude St. Fitzroy

A1one (Iran, 2008, Melbourne Stencil Festival)

Aerosol Arabic, Thirst for Change, Sparks Lane, Melbourne

Aerosol Arabic, Thirst for Change, Sparks Lane, Melbourne

Aerosol Arabic (Britain, 2008, Melbourne Festival)

Above, Melbourne

Above, Melbourne

Above (USA, 2011 & 2012)

Now destroyed Banksy's  "Little Diver"

Now destroyed Banksy’s “Little Diver”

Banksy (Britain, 2003, a covert visit, see my post)

Blek le Rat under perspex Parhran

Blek le Rat under perspex Parhran

Blek Le Rat (France, multiple visits)

Choq, Fitzroy

Choq, Fitzroy

Choq (France, 2012-13)

Celso Gitahy, Brunswick

Celso Gitahy, Brunswick

Celso Gitahy (Brazil, 2008 & 2009, see my post)

Keith Haring, Collingwood

Keith Haring, Collingwood

Keith Haring (USA 1984, see my post)

Nash, Sparta Place, Brunswick

Nash, Sparta Place, Brunswick

Nash (Netherlands, 2012, Project Melbourne Underground see my post)

Snyder, Rocket Pop Boy, Hosier Lane

Snyder, Rocket Pop Boy, Hosier Lane

Sydner (USA, 2012, private initiative see my post)

Peat Wollaeger, Keith Haring Stencil and tribute at Collingwood Technical College

Peat Wollaeger, Keith Haring Stencil and tribute at Collingwood Technical College

Peat Wollaeger (USA, 2008, Melbourne Stencil Festival).

This is not at all a complete list of artists who have visited Melbourne. Nor does it include foreign street artist who have made Melbourne their home.

I am not writing about these international artists out of a cultural cringe away from local artists. Australian culture has long had a belief in a superior foreign culture – be it French, British or American. I am writing about these artists to demonstrate that street art is a global style. Images of street art are so easily transmitted around the world by the internet and travel is also easy. So many notable street artists have become international nomads. And it is one of the strengths of the art.

Which, if any, visiting artist do you think has been the most influential on Melbourne’s street art?

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Keith Haring in Melbourne

At the old Collingwood Technical College, American stencil artist, Peat Wollaeger has memorialized the work of Keith Haring with writing and a stencil portrait of Keith Haring on the gate.

Keith Haring Stencil at Collingwood Technical College

Peat Wollaeger’s stencil of  Keith Haring Stencil at Collingwood Technical College

For me, Keith Haring, 1958 – 1990, is one of the most important artists of the 20th Century. He was certainly the most important artist of the 1980s for me. I have a scrapbook full of photocopied articles and magazine clipping about him that I collected at the time. And considering the rise of street art in the early 21st Century, Haring has to be regarded as an important precursor.

The Collingwood Technical College may not be the most famous wall that Keith Haring painted but it was the first public mural that he painted outside the USA, it was the first time that he used a scissor lift and it is the only surviving exterior mural by Haring in its original form.  It is also not the largest nor the most famous wall that Haring painted; in 1986 Haring painted 107m of the Berlin Wall. The mural at the Collingwood Technical College was painted on the 6th of March 1984. Keither Haring wanted to paint the mural for the kids at the Collingwood Technical College and had fun doing it. He found the scissor lift a liberating experience.

Keith Haring mural, Collingwood

The wall on the Collingwood Technical College with its now fading but still visible iconic Haring figures riding a giant centipede is the only surviving Haring wall in Melbourne still visible to the public (there is another piece, a large guardian angel, at a school in Toorak where John Buckley was teaching at the time). The mural shows humanity under threat from computer technology – in 1984 the personal computer was Time Magazine’s “person of the year”.

Keith Haring visited Australia between 18th February and 8th March 1984. Haring was invited to Australia by gallery owner John Buckley (which is why there is a Peat Wollaeger stencil of Haring  by the door of his gallery in Albert St. Richmond). Buckley had seen his work in the New York subways. Haring was on the cusp of his international celebrity status when he came to Australia and John Buckley was very lucky to have invited him to Australia at that time because after that he was far too famous.

Haring also painted the NGV’s famous water wall; watched and filmed as he painted, it was a real performance. Keith Haring would paint to hip-hop music played on a tape-deck radio was decorated by Kenny Scharf. The painted water wall was destroyed by a vandal before I could see it because it was thought that Haring had stolen aboriginal motifs. While in Australia Keith Haring also went to Sydney where he painted the large wall in the foyer of the Art Gallery of NSW. Edward Capon, the director of the gallery had not been informed about this due to a missed communication. Nor had he heard of Keith Haring and was reluctant to have the wall painting proceed. John Buckley tells about how he showed Edward Capon the then current issue of Vanity Fair; it had a Keith Haring on the cover and a large interview with him inside. This convinced Edward Capon and within half an hour Haring was up on the sissor-lift painting the wall.

Also in Sydney that year Keith Haring helped with a Keith Haring float for the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. Although Haring was not yet a mainstream celebrity artist, his art was already well known in the gay community and a float depicting his art was already planned. Haring’s involvement made the float authentic rather than just a tribute.

Keith Haring’s technique was simple lines. He started working with just a large marker pen and then went over the lines with a paint brush. The mural on the Collingwood Technical College was done without any preliminary drawings apart from a demo chalk demonstration drawing of the centipede. Haring’s images that could fill any space from a wall to the body of Grace Jones. His genius was in the iconic figures that populated his images, most famously the radiant child.

Keith Haring studied at art school and was very aware of art history. His early influences were Pierre Alechinsky and Chinese calligraphy. Influenced by Wm Burroughs Haring started to do paste-up of fake New York Post headlines in 1980. And Wm Burroughs influence continued with the iconic images that Haring became famous for, from the centipedes to Mayans.

“I was aware of, and respected conceptual artists like Vito Acconci, or artists who were doing guerrilla art actions – things like that. I studied it and read about it, and respected it.” Keith Haring. (Notes from the Pop Underground, ed. Peter Belsito, The Last Gasp of San Francisco, 1985 p.106)

It is time to review the art of Keith Haring because what appeared to be an oddity of New York the 1980s has turned into an international movement. In particular is time to review Haring’s influence on Melbourne’s street art. It has taken an American street artist, Peat Wollaeger who was exhibiting his “Luchador Collab-o-mask” project at Per Square Metre to commemorate an important part of Melbourne’s street art history.

P.S. In 2013 The Age reported on finding the lost door from Keith Haring’s Collingwood mural.


School Kids, Masked Wrestlers, & Vigilantes

Every second school kid from Year 6 to 12 in Melbourne seems to be studying street art this year. I listened in to a group of school-boys interviewing San Francisco street artist, Chor Boogie at the stencil festival for a school project. Chor Boogie was not taking any shit, a twig permanently clamped in his jaw, carefully explaining the subtle distinctions lacking in the school project’s simple views. Chor Boogie wanted to emphasis that he understood the potential in tags, even if he didn’t like them.

I also got to speak briefly to A1one, who is very happy with his sales at the stencil festival, as it has paid for his trip to Australia. And that was worth it for A1one, he said difference between Tehran and Melbourne was “like another planet.”

Not that the Melbourne Stencil Festival is the only street art exhibition on in Melbourne. Around the corner in Johnston St. there is the “Luchador Collab-o-mask show” at Per Square Metre. And Spray the Word at The Library Artspace, which I hope to see later; I got caught up with photographing the excellent street art in the side allies off Johnston St.

A Luchador is a masked Mexican wrestler who fights in the ‘lucha libre’ style, like cartoon characters in Mucha Lucha. The “Luchador Collab-o-mask show” is the idea of American stencil artist Peat Wollaeger. Various artists have collaborated with Wollaeger painting the blank wooden masks. It is a fun idea, Luchador’s have been popular for decades and they are graphically appealing.

In the Per Square Metre show there is the usual crew of Melbourne street-artists, including Debs, Side Project, Reka, Meek, Phibs and Megs; and, some international artists, including Chor Boogie in the exhibition. Along with painted masks there are cloth-covered panels, collages and engraved panels. Both Miso and Ghost Patrol engraved their panels and both look good with the pale wood showing through the dark ground. Sears made an interactive pirate theme mask, pull the chain and watch the wrestler’s eyes move.

The City of Yarra is deeply involved with stencil art, sponsoring the Melbourne Stencil Festival and Spray the Word at The Library Artspace. It has also published a pamphlet “What do the New Graffiti Prevention Laws Mean to You?” explaining the draconian new anti-graffiti legislation and referring readers to the Napier Studio for legal aerosol art programs and Youthlaw for legal issues.

Not that it is all good news about street art. Four anti-graffiti vigilantes assaulted and held a 15 year old from Coburg captive for up to three hours after catching him spray a hire truck on June 6, 2008. Charmaine Camilleri reported the crime and the police investigation in Moreland Community News (5/8/08 Fairfax Community News Network). Police have not charged anyone and are still appealing for witnesses. This is one of the results of the anti-graffiti polemic; if graffiti is a serious problem, as the Victorian government claims, then vigilantism is partially justified. Creating a climate of hostility will have violent consequences as this incident demonstrates.


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