Tag Archives: sticker art

Stuck on Stickers II

Kids love stickers. Bumper stickers and other self-adhesive messages have been around since 1935 when Stan ‘the Sticker Man’ Avery invented a machine to manufacture them. With street art stickers underwent a change in identity and context from promotional to person and from the bumper to the street.

Walk along any street, Melbourne, New York, Paris, Seoul or Singapore, you will see stickers. They may be on the backs of signs, on utility boxes, or elsewhere as local custom demands, but you will find them somewhere. And often in clusters.

There is a mystery to stickers because there is no way to determine what they mean until you look closely at them. Is it a kind of tag, street art or political, or is it advertising? Is it advertising or the logo manipulations, politics and puns of culture jamming? Maybe several, thinking about the politics around the “Sticker Lady” (aka Sam Lo) in Singapore. For these sets are not exclusive, and there is considerable overlap.

“Hello, my name is” one of the common kinds of stickers. An extension of tagging, slapping down an old conference name-tag sticker with the tag written on it, rather than risking writing the tag on the street. The linear progress along a route mapped by the placement of the same sticker.

Once identity became the stickers’ objective, like tags, a place with one sticker leads to more. The accretion of stickers in a location is like a dog pissing on a post to show other dogs that it was there. Sticker collects at way-posts. The collective greeting that stickers represent, gathering places around the city slowed down to the speed of sticker accretion. The Cherry Bar’s disused windows in AC/DC lane, the old elevator doors in the Degraves Street underpass, the backs of so many street signs, the supports for power poles…

I recognise many of the stickers in Melbourne, it is broader than just street artists and graffiti writers. There are stickers from people who are not street artists but are on the edge of street art: street art collectors, street art photographers and dog walkers. Contemporary artists join in condensing their philosophy down to an aphoristic slogan: “The truth is a copy” from Joel Gailer.

For more on stickers, there is my post from 2009 Stuck on Stickers.


Not Gangnam Style – Korean Street Art

There isn’t much Korean street art, well, I didn’t see much on my recent travels. Most Korean graffiti is traditional, back before old school; people writing on the wall with pens. The absence of aerosol graffiti or street art is not due to Korean respect for property; Koreans write on the walls, in stairwells, on rocks and even in museums.

Korea graffiti wall

Writing on the stone of Inwangsan Mountain, Seoul

Writing on the stone of Inwangsan Mountain, Seoul

There is even traditional Korean writing on the rocks of Inwangsan mountain in Seoul.

Isadong wall, Seoul

Isadong wall, Seoul

In Seoul I saw more street art than old school aerosol graffiti and I saw more aerosol art in the lanes of Gyeongju that I did in Seoul. I’m told there is some in Seoul but Seoul is a very big place and although I followed up some leads and looked down many streets and lanes, I never saw it. This post comes with my usual caveat about commenting on the graffiti and street art of other cities applies here; I probably didn’t know the best locations to visit, that street art is ephemeral and I was just seeing what happened upon during my travels. Normally I see some graffiti along the railway tracks when I travel by train but there was none in Korea. I saw some in the many laneways of Seoul and Gyeongju.

Gyeongju wall

Gyeongju wall

Paste-up in Bukchon, Seoul

Paste-up in Bukchon, Seoul

I saw a great paste-up (wheatpasting) in the Bukchon district of Seoul. There were also some stencils and other work in this attractive and cultural significant area.

Bukchon wall, Seoul

Bukchon wall, Seoul

Of course there was some tagging and stickers in Seoul – mostly by Zacpot, he is everywhere with stickers and pens.

Zacpot sticker, Seoul

Zacpot sticker, Seoul

There is lots of potential for some truly great street art in Korea, there are a lot of great walls it just needs artists who want to do it (along with better cans and caps).

Merecat stencil, Seoul

Merecat stencil, Seoul


Self-referential street art

Nobody seems to mention the old sgraffiti technique of writing in wet cement as a form of street art. This is because mostly it is just names, expressions of love or football mania or the accidental evidence of bicycles, cats, dogs and bird prints. Why isn’t it considered part of street art, like tagging? Maybe someday someone will do something artistic with the media but most of it is just rubbish. It lacks what all art and decoration must have, an appeal or meaning to someone else besides the maker.

At the other end of the spectrum from names written in cement is self-referential street art. Self-referential street art is street art (graffiti, stickers, paste-ups) that is self-conscious about its status, or not, as art. I don’t mean self-conscious in the sense of awkward and shy, but self-conscious as aware of itself and its surroundings. It is self-referential in that it comments on its own conditions, media, and quality. Street art that demonstrates awareness of itself and goes beyond images, brands, tags and logos. Self-referential street art takes street art to a new level, not of quality images, but in the depth of thought. It is where street art meets conceptual art and it involves a lot of words; this is not that strange as street artists always called themselves writers. Yes, this is a heavy philosophical way of looking at what is often the lighter side of street art. It is funny because it is deep rather than superficial.

Self-referential street art is the more political and critical side of street art. Self-consciousness of its nature as art there is street art that attempts to broaden the genre of street art to include; performance art, street art sculpture, light graffiti etc. Once in Stevenson Lane there were some stuck on long trails of paper leaves, a very delicate work to survive as street art (another street artist trying to broaden the medium?)

Some graffiti is so conscious of its position as an underground art world. Graffiti that is aware that it will be photographed and stored in a jpg format file.

This street art appears is so ready for critical essays about culture as it comments on its own position in the art world.


Stuck on Stickers

Stickers are a type of communication, a self-adhesive media. There are stickers all over the city, political, religious, advertising promotions, stickers that are peeled off and reapplied by accident or design and street art stickers. With all of these stickers it is difficult to spot the street art amongst the commercial, political and promotional. It is like finding a poem on a noticeboard.

Street art stickers or sticker art have been created to be small graphic works of art with self-adhesive backs. They are quick to apply and can fit on the backs of signs, poles and other surfaces in the city.

Stickers are another form of tagging, especially the ubiquitous “Hello my name is:” stickers with a tag written on it with a fat marker pen. Like tags stickers are often linear, that is they follow a line, along a street, applying a sticker to every suitable pole.

Arrowsoul Warriors in Singapore

Arrowsoul Warrozz (Singapore)

No matter how tough the city authorities are about other kinds of graffiti stickers are around.  Stickers thrive in anti-graffiti environments like Singapore.

Back of sign in Fortitude Valley, Brisbane

Back of sign in Fortitude Valley (Brisbane)

Although Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley is not an anti-graffiti environment like Singapore, stickers also thrive on the back of the street signs in the area. A lot of these Brisbane stickers, especially those of Loki One, Mzcry and ZKLR are created using stencils and aerosol spray cans. I have seen some of the best street art stickers on the back of street signs on Brunswick St, Fortitude Valley.

Stickers are the most collectable aspect of street art because of their size. I have a very small collection of stickers, especially when compared to Michael Anderson who has collected about 40,000. Mostly I just photograph them. So here are some more of my photographs.

Happy - Graffiti Colour My World in Brunswick

Happy – Graffiti Colour My World (Brunswick, Vic)

Happy’s “Graffiti Colour My World” parody of the Crayola Crayon advert and slogan. This is one sticker that I do have in my collection but the photograph is of one in its natural state beside the Upfield train-line.

Still Life in Spraypaint (Fortitude Valley)

Still Life in Spraypaint (Fortitude Valley)

There are many self-referential street art stickers that is self-conscious about its status, or not, as art. I don’t mean self-conscious in the sense of awkward and shy, but self-conscious of its own conditions, media, and quality. It takes street art to a new level, not of quality images, but in the depth of thought. Yes, this is a heavy philosophical way of looking at what is often the lighter side of street art. It is funny because it is deep rather than superficial.

God Has a Plan to Kill Me (Melbourne)

Lister – God Has a Plan to Kill Me (Melbourne)

I like street art stickers, especially the ones with a witty message like “God has a plan to kill me.”


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