There was an earlier phase of mural painting in Melbourne before the current aerosol art. Influenced by the Mexican muralists rather than any hip hop elements. They took a far more social, historical, and educational approach. One of the most important of these is the 44.27 metres long Northcote Koori Mural (aka the Aboriginal Mural, the St Georges Road Mural).
Designed by Megan Evans in 1985 with an additional three metres designed by Gary Saunders in 2013, to bring its history of Indigenous Australia up to date. The mural now faces St Georges Road in Thornbury, backing onto the Sir Douglas Nicholls Sporting Complex. It was initially on a wall opposite the Northcote Town Hall on High Street it was and moved to its current location in 1992. In 2013 it was dismantled and replaced with a refreshed, digital version, printed on vinyl.
Painted by Megan Evans, Ray Thomas (Gunnai/Barlijan), Ian Johnson, Millie Yarran (Noongar), Les Griggs (Gunditjmara/Kerup Marra), Elaine Trott and along with Aboriginal, African and European volunteers. Megan Evans would work with several of these artists again on other public art projects. She worked with Ray Thomas on Another View Walking Trail for the City of Melbourne in 1995. Later Ray Thomas painted the Northcote Civic Square Mural and was one of the artists who carved a pole for Scar – A Stolen Vision in Enterprise Park along the Yarra River.
For three years, Evans was painting a mural a year in the Northcote area. These murals are based on research, interviews, and consultation with local people that she undertook before starting the design. In 1986 Evans and Eve Glenn completed the Women’s Mural: Bomboniere to Barbed Wire on the wall Gas & Fuel Office on Smith Street, Fitzroy. Capped by the notorious graffiti writer Nost in 2016, the wall was demolished in 2019. The mural can still be viewed as a digital version online. And, in 1987 Evans painted Northcote Youth Mural, with Les Griggs and Marina Baker.
All of Evans original murals are gone due to land sales and building demolitions. Darebin Council has opted for digital preservation for all of these murals. For more on preserving and conserving murals, see my post on the conservation of street art.
Steampunk is a fictional retrospective, futuristic design style that exists in movies, role-playing games and books more than it does, or ever did, in reality. But the image of anarchic inventors in a steam-powered automobile with precision ocular devices is too good to just ignore.
“Clockwork Butterfly” described itself as a “steampunk extravaganza” combining musical hall vaudeville, burlesque and a fashion show. Miss Ixia, the mistress of ceremonies and graphic designer, had the extensive lexicological vocabulary of the musical hall. The acts were enjoyable especially the illusions and prestidigitations of Madotti and Vega, Missy’s pole dancing, Antonia belly dancing, and Sarina Del Fuego’s “time in motion” burlesque act was the perfect end for a clockwork butterfly.
Miss Ixia introducing the Clockwork Butterfly
Interspacing the acts were parades of fashion. The clothes started with daywear and beachwear (something that you would never see at a goth fashion show) and moved on into eveningwear. Alex Chambers, assisted by Courtney Webber, designed all the clothes including the costumes of the performers, which give the spectacle consistency. The models showed great personality and professionalism. The whole show was a bit like I imagine an Alexander McQueen fashion show would have been like, a beautiful, visual circus of theatrical clothes.
The venue of the Thornbury Theatre provided an excellent backdrop to the “Clockwork Butterfly” with its arched ceiling complete with chandelier and gilded Victorian plasterwork.
Steampunk, for Alex Chambers, is like a neo-Victorian version of goth fashion with a different colour palette and different accessories. Toffee, caramel and umber replace the black, emerald green and ruby of the goth palette. Goggles, parasols and top hats replace the gauntlets, chains and studs of the goth world. Brass replaces chrome steel. And button-up boots with Louis heels replace platform boots. Cotton, linen and leather replace PVC.
The fantasy of steampunk style in constructing a futuristic Victorian era is informed by the time lags in history where people can live in the past, the present or the future. And every era creates its versions of the past, present and future.