Tag Archives: Renaissance

Street Art Renaissance

I keep on seeing all these similarities between street art/graffiti and the Renaissance most obviously because both are painting on walls. Walking around the graffiti covered walls of Brunswick factories in the late 1990s I discovered my own Scrovegni Chapel of wall-to-wall painting divided into separate panels.

Adnate of the AWOL crew on wall in Rose St. Fitzroy

Adnate of the AWOL crew on wall in Rose St. Fitzroy (photo by Hasan Niyazi)

People have painted on walls since we lived in caves but what made the Renaissance especially similar to the street art/graffiti of today is the potential change in social status that being an artist brought with it. Unlike their ancient counterparts the Renaissance and graffiti artists can become famous across the city and intercity and to freely enjoy the change in status that this fame brings.

Collingwood graffiti 2009

Collingwood graffiti 2009

There are many ways that the practice of street art is similar to the Renaissance with people up ladders painting a wall. Only the media has changed from fresco to aerosol. Fresco was the fast art medium of the Renaissance, the plaster could only be painted on when it was still wet. The works are designed in cartoons and then enlarged on the wall. Often he patron who bought the paint and commissioned the work is represented in the piece off to one side, as in a Renaissance altarpiece. Although all of the surviving Renaissance frescos are inside but exterior walls were also painted (an elephant remains on a portico wall at Castello Sforzesco in Milan) along with other ephemeral artwork. Renaissance painters worked in the summer when the plaster could dry, in the winter they would work on their designs, like the graffers drawing in their black books.

In graffiti slang a “piece, referring to a large complete aerosol work, is short for a ‘masterpiece’. It indicates a degree of a writer’s proficiency, as in the final work of a journeyman apprentice doing throw-ups. There is less of the master and apprentice in graffing for today the organization of society is much less formal, but there is more of a culture of master and apprentice in graffiti, where skills are learnt from assisting or watching masters rather than the formal education of modern artists. Collaborations between painters are common in both graffiti and the Renaissance.

The following is an email about painting a legal wall in Richmond. I want to point out that this email it is the street art equivalent to a commission for a Renaissance fresco.

On 09/03/2013, at 10:53 PM, CDH wrote:

We’ll be painting on Monday.

Location is 53-55 Burnley st Richmond. We’re painting behind the bike shop.

Meeting at midday.

Theme is yellow. Colour palette is black, white, grey and yellow.

As always, anyone and everyone is welcome. Hit me up if you’re

interested. Should be a good day for it: 34 deg.

Cheers,

Chris.

CDH

www.CDH-Art.com

Unlike the open invitation in CDH’s email a Renaissance commission was a longer legal document specifying a particular artist and a payment. Like CDH’s email it might specify the colour palette but this generally concerned with the weight of blue lapis lazuli and other expensive pigments.

There are, of course, many differences. The monetary value of the art produced is the biggest difference. Capping in the Renaissance was out of the question because fresco belonged to someone who was rich and powerful; the Medici would not have tolerated anyone damaging their property. But the insult of choice for both Renaissance painters and street artists are homophobic; the street artists will call the work of others “gay” whereas the Renaissance painter will denounce others as “sodomites”.

AWOL in Fitzroy 2012

AWOL in Fitzroy 2012

Various crews have replaced the painters’ guilds, but even the most hardcore crew can’t compare to the murderous Cabal of Naples who controlled their territory with brutality and fear and no one else was allowed to paint in Naples. The Cabal of Naples are early Baroque rather than Renaissance painters, but they are a classy example. Melbourne’s graffers and street artists, in comparison are a passive lot and we live in a much less violent time.

(I want to thank Brain Ward of Fitzroyalty and especially Hasan Niyazi of Three Pipe Problem for their thoughts on the subject that has greatly improved this tenuous idea.)


January @ Counihan

Counihan Gallery in Brunswick – The Miracles, Deborah Kelly – Drawn Out, Magda Cebokli

The Miracles by Sydney-based artist Deborah Kelly is both new and familar. “The works engage with ‘Old Master’ painting – the Holy Family of the European Renaissance becomes a contemporary emblem of art, science and sexual politics, for each photograph depicts the family of a child conceived through assisted reproductive technologies (ART), and posed as though for a Renaissance tondo.” (“Art, Irony and sexual politics: from Hey Hetro! To The Miracles” Prof. Pat Simons, Uni. of Michigan)

Families are dull subjects for photos but the Renaissance masters knew how to pose figures and the children obviously really got into the spirit of the image. Although the photos are modelled after Renaissance paintings these aren’t mawkish copies, Kelly’s images are referential, the contemporary world has not been removed. Kelly’s images are clearly from a different time.

I love post-modern art that engages with art history. Each of the photographs is titled after the Renaissance master that the photograph was based on and there was a slide show on the next wall of the paintings. I wished that a few of images were a bit larger, more the size of Renaissance painting paintings, as the round photos were only the size of plates (and I wanted a larger serve).

Drawn Out by Brunswick based artist Magda Cebokli is a drawn out minimalist experiment. “A simple theme. Four squares, on in each corner of a larger square. What are the possibilities?” (artist’s notes) Cebokli presents 24 possibilities, 15 mixed media on watercolour paper and 9 acrylic on linen. Most of the pieces are in greyscale with only a few colours introduced for dramatic effect in a few pieces. Minimalism can be boring but Cebokli saves us from that with intense optical effects in many of the pieces.


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