Tag Archives: Phibs

Toys Make the Human

Toys are as much cultural artefacts as sculptures, although generally not considered as valuable. As a cultural artefact toys can shows as much about the culture, its values, traditions and beliefs as a small sculpture. Toys show part of the collective consciousness; they are miniature version of the adult world.

Soldiers doing ablutions survive at the Munich Toy Museum

Toys are part of an ephemeral culture and most of them are loved to destruction. Conscious of this history and like many aspects of ephemeral culture, toys have become collectable design objects in themselves. Some toys are now consciously created as collectable design objects, marketed to adults, remain in their original packaging as part of a complete design statement. (More do not touch signs and glass cases.)

I’ve been to toy museums and also the occasional a customized toy exhibition or art exhibition using toys. (I should note that I still have a collection of 25mm lead figures that I painted when I was a teenager and won a prize for some of them at Arcarnacon I.)

Toy museums are always interesting places to visit. I have enjoyed my visits to the Munich Toy Museum (Spielzeugmuseum im Alten Rathausturm) and the Mint Toy Museum in Singapore. Curiously both of these museums are extremely vertical, their exhibits crammed into several small narrow floors. Fortunately their exhibits are all on a small scale. The Mint Toy Museum concentrates on the influence of popular culture with toys associated with the space age, politicians, the Beatles, Disney films etc. It has a great collection of Japanese tin toys especially robots. The Munich Toy Museum specializes in teddy bears but also in the past preserved in miniature with toy vehicles, kitchens and armies. There was a whole history of kitchens, the military or transportation told in those toys.

Doll house kitchen in the Munich Toy Museum

President Nixon’s ping pong diplomacy preserved in toys at the Mint Toy Museum.

A few years ago at Villain I saw one of their “Munny” shows (I’ve seen others since at Villain but this was the best – I wish that I’d had my camera that day). A Munny is a customisable toy figure with a simplified round cartoon form either as a standing figure or in a small car. It is customisable in that all kinds of media can be applied to its plastic surface. They are amongst other brands of customisable toys that are for sale at Villain. Every year or so Villain assembles an awesome collection of modified Munnys for an in store exhibition. That year several of the artists exhibiting in the show from the street art scene: Phibs, Deb, and Junior. Phibs sushi crab version of the Munny car was out standing. There were some amazing and fun modifications of the original toy, some beautiful painting and excellent modelling. Some of the modifications left the original form far behind, like Agnieska Rypinska’s large impressive elephant with howdah. One of the works on display was by Katherine Dretzke, a customer who had brought her, now decorated and winged, Munny back to the store for the exhibition; a genuine interactive consumer experience.

Maybe we should look more deeply at toys; maybe they are more than just artefacts that represent our culture but symbols of what makes us human. Desmond Morris argues in the Naked Ape (1967) that humans retain many juvenile ape features and that this juvenile nature has been turned to an evolutionary advantage. The human ability to remain a juvenile and play allows the human to continue to learn as adults.


Project Melbourne Underground

South Melbourne Street Fair – Graffiti Exhibition at Emerald House

The beautifully painted mini parked out the front was an excellent announcement of the exhibition on 3 floors of the underground carpark of Emerald House in South Melbourne. I mean almost every wall and pillar in the whole carpark – the ventilation ducts were painted to look like different types of trains. It is huge, “covering more than 800 square meters of space” and claiming to be “Australia’s largest private exhibition of graffiti art”. This is what the Medici’s carpark would have looked like in the Renaissance, if they had a carpark and cars.

This impressive exhibition has work from 90 local and international artists. It features many of Melbourne’s well-known aerosol artists, along with some paste-ups from Urban Cake Lady. The only obvious stencils were by Kirpy, Vexta and Stabs, although a lot, like Duel, were using stencils for background patterns. There was also some brushwork from a few artists.

With so many impressive pieces on show it would take me forever to finish this post if I commented on all of them. There was Makatron’s wall of bees – “for all the bee boys and girls”. And Phibs’s style worked so well on the pillars.

The main problem with this exhibition was how they handled the public – everyone wants to re-invent the wheel. The idea of having artists leading tour groups around might sound good but it meant hanging around the entrance for an artist who had no experience in leading a tour group hoping to wing it with impromptu comments and couldn’t answer my first question about who did a piece. Who is the artist who did this wall and another magnificent piece, also with Monster, at Sparta Place in Brunswick? Answer: Werner “Nash” Zwakhalen.

Nash, South Melbourne

Nash, Project Melbourne Underground

Nash, Sparta Place, Brunswick

On my way back home I saw the AWOL crew working on the wall at Brunswick Station. At the time they had a few outlines up and were carefully moving a long strip of masking tape from one part of the wall. The AWOL crew have taken their collaborative approach painting a wall to a whole new level. Isn’t this the dream of all painters to completely fill you field of vision?

AWOL crew, Project Melbourne Underground

Slicer & Adnate (AWOL crew), Brunswick

You can see more and better photos of Project Melbourne Underground at Land of Sunshinepart one and part two. Yes, I know, you just want to look at the pictures.

Phibs, Project Melbourne Underground


Everfresh @ NGV Studio

At the NGV Studio in Fed Square the Everfresh crew: Phibs, Rone, Reka, Meggs, Sync, Makatron, Wonderlust, Prizm, The Tooth, and “special guests” are giving a taste of the awesome work that they have been doing on the streets of Melbourne for a decade. The exhibition is worth seeing for anyone at all interested in Melbourne street art; the art presented at NGV Studio is worth seeing and shows the range Everfresh’s art on the streets. And it is always fascinating to see artist’s studios. But there is something wrong with the way the NGV is presenting this exhibition/residency.

Everfresh's studio in the NGV Studio

The most obvious thing was that there is no curatorial information from the NGV on the exhibition or any of the art in the exhibition. The 5 Ws are not covered: who are Everfresh? What the NGV Studio residency is about? Where Everfresh is based? Why they are in the NGV Studio? And how the exhibition work? There aren’t even any labels to identify the artist and work – Everfresh, or the “special guests”? There is information about Phib’s exhibition at Hogan Gallery as if it was all a publicity stunt for that exhibition.

The exhibition runs out around the corner next to the disable toilets – I wanted more. It seems to running out before that as there are 2 display cases still wrapped in plastic standing empty in the space.

It is “a selection of artworks from over the last 10 years, plus a whole heap of other stuff from the studio that kind of makes it what it is.“ (Everfresh website) The exhibition makes it look like Everfresh are already history and their paint splattered shoes, rubber gloves and homemade mops are in a vitrine – and they are at the exhibition. I have seen the archeologically preserved remains of Francis Bacon’s studio in Dublin (see my post about Bacon’s Studio) and Brancusi’s studio in a glass box next to the Pompidou Centre. Both Bacon and Brancusi are dead but I know that the Everfresh guys are still alive and working, they have a lot of other stuff going on right now. There is no music playing, even the video game machine was silent – it was as quiet as the grave or an art gallery when I visited. So there is this feeling hyperreality about the whole exhibition and the “residency” at the NGV studio. Adding to the hyperreality is the Everfresh “Graff Mobile” with a giant fluro marker on the roof rack.

Some of this history aspect to the exhibition is good, like the cartoon design for the massive Fitzroy mural. Or 5yncRone’s cardboard stencil thick with red paint, mounted as a negative. Or the dense display of little photos, postcards, stickers, toys, little drawings and other stuff. Or the old boards thick with tags, paint and other marks. Along with all the items riffing on the Everfresh label.

But I keep asking the question is this exhibition history or is this fresh?

More Street Art Notes

This year has seen the rise of a new style of throw ups, freehand, using the single line of an aerosol paint-can (or marker pen or chalk) to draw. It is quick and effective style that uses are no touch-ups. The line loops and waves to create a bold drawing. Robot, Maxcat  and Yok are amongst the exponents of this style. For these artists the single graphic line is everything.



Heading in the opposite direction to freehand graffiti is the growing understanding and use of pixels in street art. Taking common computer knowledge about using pixels to make images and applying it unusual ways with unusual materials for pixels. For example, in the No Comply exhibition Rone’s “Only happy when it rains” used painted bamboo skewers inserted vertically in to two skateboard decks to create an image, part of a new romantic face.

On the commercial side of street art things are prospering. Phibs has painted the front window of Villain in his bold tribal-inspired designs. There are more works of Phibs on canvas inside along with screen-prints by many other notable Melbourne street artists. Villain has produced a series Xmas cards in conjunction with these artists.

On the non-commercial side of the street art street; street art sculpture is getting stranger. There are 16 pair of shoes (including a pair of thongs tied together with string) hanging from the wires in Balcombe Place in Melbourne. There is a long tradition of hanging old shoes from telephone wires but such a concentration in such a small location is something more. If it isn’t art, exactly what kind of cultural activity is hanging shoes over wires? A sport?

Hanging boots stencil in Sparks Lane, Melbourne

Hanging boots stencil in Sparks Lane, Melbourne

Fitzroy Graffiti

Fitzroy is an example about how bad and how good it can get with graffiti. There is tagging everywhere in Fitzroy and the names of some major street artists appear amongst them, like Happy and Phibs. Not that business is suffering due to the tags, there are plenty of customers on Brunswick St. and Smith St. and none of them seem disturbed by the graffiti. Indeed many business on these streets appear to try attract customers with the quality of street art decorations on their building. If Fitzroy is as bad as graffiti can get it can then it is actually less of a threat than noxious weeds.

Along with the tagging there are some magnificent and beautiful works of street art that contribute to Fitzroy’s trendy, artistic and dynamic image. Not all of the street art in Fitzroy is aerosol art. Paste-ups are getting bigger and better; there are some good paste-ups near the corner of Gertrude and Victoria Parade, along with some aerosol work by A1one from Tehran. Further along Gertrude St. there is a tree with its truck and branches covered with croqueted dollies. The lace covering appears almost natural and very beautiful. It is obviously the work of the shop that it is in front of, Cottage Industry.

In Fishers Lane there is a lot of great street art, it is mostly aerosol pieces but also some quality paste-ups and stencils. Without the color street art the car park in Fisher’s Lane would be a very ugly urban location.

One of the best works in Fishers Lane is the “The Banality of Evil” is a great series of paste-ups. Prints of watercolor monotone paintings of a masked man doing the shopping, laundry, cooking and gardening. It is important to remember in these times that the most evil, cruel people in this world are living ordinary suburban lives. And it is important for this message to be on the street rather than preaching to the converted in art galleries.

Another great little location is Little Smith St. is basically an alley but it is also a gallery of famous Melbourne stencils artists including Optic, Psalm and HaHa. Little Smith features a very good version of HaHa’s Ned Kelly stencil in block of Warhol-like repetition.

There are so many good locations in Fitzroy and so many quality work of street art along with all the tagging. This is just a sample.

Ha Ha 'Ned Kelly'

Ha Ha

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