Should Melbourne’s street art-covered lanes receive heritage protection? There has been no action yet, but the calls for protection are getting louder. However, how do you protect ephemeral art that thrived on neglected urban walls from change and redevelopment?
There is a fun collection of images of cats at the far end of Presgrave Place. There is washing hanging on the lines of electric lights above the lane and with some of the best stencils and sculptural street art
A Series of sculptures, including unauthorised interventions
B Stack of three cubes with a globe one quarter sunk into a top corner
C Just some more Melbourne street art
D All of the above
Yes, they have been around for a while, and I love the sticker “Your form?” reply to them on the wall of Rutledge (off Hosier Lane).
I saw a carving of a mask emoji in Hosier Lane that reminded me of the work of Dan Worth in his Social Hieroglyphics exhibition. Worth informed me that his carved stone mask emoji was “installed it on the 15th of march 2020 and coincidentally later that day we got a state of emergency announcement about going into lockdown.”
Shout out to Phoenix, VKM and Kasper. Thanks to all the street artists for keeping Melbourne weird, even the silly people following that South Australian trend for sticking googly eyes.
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.
We are getting to the bitter end of the sour 2021, so I thought I’d look back at the street art and graffiti I saw around Melbourne. It has been a year of lockdowns and vaccines, which Melbourne’s street artist’s Cell Out and Phoenix had to comment on.
Melbourne’s street artists commented on the other current issues; the end of the Trump era and the continuing failure of Australian governments to deal with the climate crisis.
A couple of smooth pieces by Sleek stretching letterforms caught my eye.
As did the old school hip hop style of Mickey xxi in Croft Alley.
But what really made my eyes pop were these pieces in Brunswick, taking graffiti letter form to a new level of calligraphic complexity.
Street artist Manda Lane takes things in a different direction, applying foliage to the city’s walls.
You mYou might be surprised at the amount of ceramics in street art because you would think that there was none. If you had forgotten Space Invader’s unauthorised mosaics. This year I have seen ceramic street art by Discarded and Far4washere. For more on Discarded, see my post. For more on Far4washere, search Instagram or on the streets.
Melbourne’s street art was once world famous for its stencils. And there are still a few stencil artists spraying its walls. Much of it is anonymous like these beautiful and well placed trees; I am enjoying the images of local gum trees combined with the worn wabi-sabi elements of the wall. Some stencil artists are known like this piece by Xuf, a Melbourne-based self-proclaimed “wall beautician” from Indonesia.
I’ll be signing off shortly, in the mean time here are a couple of sign offs that I’ve seen this year. Cheers, Black Mark
P.S. Search the streets if you want to see more of Melbourne’s street art.
Can’t Do Tomorrow is a 10 day long urban and street art festival in Melbourne.
Well, it is somewhere between an art fair and a festival, but called a festival because the words ‘art fairs’ is becoming unpopular. And Can’t Do Tomorrow would not want be unpopular. Like an art fair there are entry tickets, booths with art for sale and even a print store with on-demand printing. Like a festival there are exhibitions, a talks program, murals, sculptures, and installations, a line-up of live music acts and DJs. I’ve seen worse art fairs and a single venue festival seems limited even if it is a very large multi-level warehouse; The Facility, in Kensington.
Wall after wall in the former wool warehouse has been painted with mural after mural along with large 3D constructions. There has been good detailing with collections of stickers and little pieces by Junkie Projects, Gigi and Tinky in odd locations.
There is a mix of local and international artists.
There was another version of this piece about the writer Liu Xiaobo in Hosier Lane in 2018. The paste-up became a shrine for people to leave flowers and photos. It is the work of Chinese-Australian political artist and cartoonist Badiuca. This slick neon version was intended to match the neon lights of Hong Kong.
Can’t Do Tomorrow states that it is the ‘inaugural festival’ and plans to return. There is no doubt that Melbourne needs a street art festival, a regular annual event for both the artists and the public. Since the Stencil Festival/Sweet Streets folded there have been some attempts to fill that gap, like the international event, the Meeting of Styles. Whether an indoor festival/art fair can do that remains to be seen. How it effects Melbourne’s street art scene also remains to be seen.
Will Can’t Do Tomorrow simply be an indoor urban art experience, a commercial and marketing opportunity or will there be something greater?
Sorry for not writing about street art and graffiti as often as I once did in this blog. This is partially because of the conservative direction that Melbourne street art has taken. I don’t like murals. I love the smallest pieces.
Unknown in Coburg
I enjoy street art sculpture and I keep finding the odd piece around. The sculptural elements that Kambeeno has been adding with his paste-ups; love bombing can be read so many ways. Kambeeno also represents a new wave of political paste-up artists spreading their message of peace, love and understanding on Melbourne’s streets.
I still see the graffiti pieces flash past my window on the train or on along the freeway noise barriers. It is amazing the speed at which the human mind can take in an image but it is hard to stop to take a photograph. In Chinatown I saw some well placed paste-ups by LA street artist, Pike 169 TCF.
Pike 169 TCF
I have been watching and reporting on the development of Hosier Lane, along the Upfield Line or in Presgrave Place for over a decade and I intend to keep on doing that. Only, apart from Hosier Lane becoming packed with more tourists, there hasn’t been much to report. Some of the same people are still putting up pieces; Phoenix is still active in Presgrave Place. And the new people are putting up some of the same old stuff, including a return to stencils.
Phoenix, Kambeeno and others Presgrave Place
Phoenix and Sunfigo Presgrave Place
Street art continues to address the important issues of our times; currently the number of women murdered by men. I saw this series of stickers in Fitzroy and I fact checked them before sharing them.
In late April on The Conversation Dr. Flavia Marcello. Associate Professor at Swinburne University’s School of Design, asks “Where has Melbourne’s political graffiti gone?” It is worth asking the question but aside from the yearning for the 70s and the overtly political graffiti of those times there wasn’t much to the article.
The scene on the street is now a more complex system, with greater diversity and more types of graffiti and street art operating. Rest assured Dr Marcello there is still plenty of political graffiti and street art in Melbourne. In all kinds of media from aerosol paint to stickers and even yarn bombing. Some of the best is done by stencil artist like Crisp and paste-up artists like Phoenix.
There is a wide variety of causes being promoted from ending Australia’s abuse of refugees to free West Papua. These causes are now in front of the eyes and cameras of international tourists who throng in their thousands to Melbourne’s graffiti attraction of Hosier Lane. The Free West Papua slogan managed to occupy space in the highly desirable Hosier Lane by using a chainlink fence that the aerosol and paste-up artists didn’t want. Consider the subversive power of a series of paste-ups calling to Free Liu Xiaobo in front of the cameras of Chinese tourists taking selfies in Hosier Lane.
So here is a collection of some of the best political street art and graffiti that I’ve seen in Melbourne in the last year or so. Although I am aware that there are many ways that graffiti and street art can be political, as in, contesting public and private space, I have tried to keep the politics of the collection clear and obvious.
Melbourne Street Art Guide, ed. Din Heagney, Allison Fogarty and Ewan McEoin, (Thames and Hudson, 2016) Instead of writing a review of yet another unremarkable publication about Melbourne street art here are six artists who absent from the guide: Calm, DrewFunk, Ero, Ghostpatrol, Happy and Phoenix. I considered if I should ask them same set of questions that Melbourne Street Art Guide asked all the artists but really, the same set of questions?!
Calm – Murdoch Swine
Calm – Captain Assange
Calm mostly does paste-ups but does work in other media. He was included in the Hosier Lane part of Melbourne Now in 2013 so there is community recognition of his quality. See my blog post about his work.
Drew Funk was painting every legal wall that he could with landscapes and dragons, mixing the oriental, cartoons and aerosol art. He was ahead of the current mural scene by almost a decade.
Ero is a scruffy New Zealand street artist working in the tradition of Keith Haring, painting simple images in blocky colours. He uses ordinary house paint and brushes rather than aerosol paint. He does piss in his paint cans to relieve himself and water down the paint.
Happy, “Get Instant Fame”
Happy – Graffiti Colour My World in Brunswick
Happy was active a few years ago but hasn’t done anything for many years. This is another problem of Melbourne Street Art Guide, it is more of a fashion snapshot than knowledgable critical guide. This is more or less the reason for not including Ghostpatrol even though he done more recent work than Happy. Happy mostly worked with paste-ups that made ironic comments about the street art scene but some of his sidewalk tags in line marking painting can still be seen.
Phoenix has more of a beatnik jazz style than a skater dad look than most street artists affect. A master of the photocopier Phoenix is serious community orientated man; he is one of the fellows who will stand up to be counted. The kind of man who with loan his ladder to a fellow artist before putting up his own piece. See my blog post about his recent solo exhibition.