Last Friday night we had the honour of attending one of the coolest shows we’ve been to in some time – the joint group exhibition by none other than Ha Ha, Sync and Dlux (aka James Dodd, who we interviewed last week).
There was something really intriguing about this exhibition – walking in, you got the sense of stepping back in time, but knowing that you were firmly rooted in the present. Old stencils (the actual acetate themselves), covered in layers of paint adorned the walls – many, very familiar icons that had been seen on the street of Melbourne many times.
New works, vibrant and clean sat alongside them. Where it all began, and where it all ended, well, I don’t really know – it was hard to see any real transition point between the time frames, which is how it was intended – it was one, beautiful though – Now & Then was, indeed, an uplifting experience. Throughout the room you could sense the joy oozing off the walls, from a group of artists who have continued, unrelenting, to create and pursue their passions for the past decade.
Perhaps the thing that it gave to me most, was hope for the next decade, and for those artists who have just started out, those who are still working – if this show was anything to go by, the progress of time, the unrelenting politics and bullshit of scene, and the progression of work from walls outside to walls inside does nothing to diminish, and everything to enhance, the veracity of art produced by those who have a background in street based art.
Thanks to David Russell, we have a whole bunch of photos from the show below – enjoy!
Baby Guerrilla is back with a new show opening this Friday at House of Bricks. After her successful show early last year Baby G returns with her latest instalment “Outside the Square”. Outside the Square will feature past and present work as well as some of Baby G’s outdoor work.
“The exhibition will explore both Baby Guerrilla’s painting practice and the artist’s attempts to set her figures free from the square and onto walls around Melbourne. “
Baby Guerrilla’s intricate drawings are always a pleasure to find on the street so this show should be awesome.
Baby Guerrilla – Outside the Square – Photo by Andrew Haysom
Photo by Andrew Haysom
Who: Baby Guerrilla. What: Outside the Square. Where: House of Bricks, 40 Budd St, Collingwood. When: Opens Friday 23 May 6-9pm and runs until 1 June.
We went down to Backwoods last Friday to check out Stabs’ latest show Keep It Simple. Starting off with a great installation to greet us at the entrance the show was filled with rad pieces in Stabs’ unique style! It was a great show definitely worth a trip down to backwoods! Make sure get down and have a look!
It’s that time of month again to show you whats been happening on the streets of Melburn, as always there is something happening.
Below is a selection of some of my favourite shots from Ironlak’s 10th anniversary paint up in Croft Lane. The event saw some of the best Melbourne and overseas artists repaint the lane; Dvate, Sofles, Treas, Sirum, just to name a few .
We also saw Trunk Diner put on an amazing Sunday event with live painting over two months, featuring Conrad Bizjak, Deams, Itch, Lucy Lucy, Jaws, Hancock and more.
Invurt also got down to Junky Project’s first solo show ‘WASTED’ at The Darkhorse Experiment in Blender Studios. Who doesn’t love Junky’s work from his usual suspects the sentinels you see everywhere, as well as some amazing sculptures made from everyday found objects.
There is also some amazing pieces from Senekt in Abbotsford, Dem 189 in Clifton Hill and an amazing collab between Rashe & Bailer in Brunswick; and finally Emily Vanderlism and the Authority Clothing crew fronted by Christopher Skyner, created a great piece down Bennets lane in the CBD.
I’ve been meaning to write this about street artists, and graffiti artists, Copyright and Moral Rights in Australia for a long time now, because, lets face it, the problem has just been getting worse and worse. Almost every week, someone tells me of an incident, and it goes something like this …
There are websites, there are ebay sellers, there are people at markets, and all of them are selling cards and other reproductions of peoples artworks. when confronted, they always have several excuses that they always have on hand:
“It was done illegally, therefore I’m allowed to reproduce it!”
“Its street art, its allowed and its free for all – its not copyright, if it was then why would they be painting it on the street!”
“Its artistic licence and my own photographic art, therefore I can sell it if I want to.”
All of these statements are grossly incorrect.
Before I go on with this article, I am going to state that I am not a legal representative, or lawyer, and have no qualifications in such matters. Although I have sought advice from several legal sources as to the following, and researched the matter, this is a matter of my interpretation and it is to be taken in no way as official legal advice on the information presented here on copyright and moral rights in Australia for street art and graffiti – it’s up to you to take this knowledge, and arm yourselves with as much information as possible to actively pursue your concerns.
Now all that disclaimer aside, I will give you the information that I have both gathered, and consulted with legal sources, and I’m going to tell you artists what you already know is quite obvious – all of these excuses, under Australian law, are, for the most part, complete bullshit.
There are several reasons for this, and two very important rights that artists have that invalidate anyone who attempts to reproduce an artists work without their permission – Copyright and moral Rights – and I’ll address these separately.
This is a hefty article and I’ve been working on it for a while to make it as comprehensive as possible, so bear with it.
Image by Deb – Artwork illegally reproduced on eBay
Australian Copyright Law and the Protection of Street Art & Graffiti
“Sculptures, monuments and artwork may be protected by copyright. Unless an exception applies, you need permission from the copyright owner of the work. Exceptions to this general rule are found in the Copyright Act. For example, photographing and publishing a photograph of a sculpture or work of artistic craftsmanship that is permanently situated in a public place, or in premises open to the public, does not infringe copyright (s.65). This does not apply to other public art, such as murals. - 
Murals, which by definition include street art, are not included in this exemption, and are most definitely protected under the Australian Copyright Law – they are not exempted like other public artworks.
When talking about infringements, the existence of such infringements occur when a substantial part of the artwork is reproduced without the consent of permission of the copyright owner.
The Arts Law website clarifies this:
“Although murals and graffiti are generally situated in a public place, because they are two-dimensional artworks the section 65 exemption does not apply. As such, if you substantially reproduce a mural or graffiti work in a photograph you may be infringing the copyright in that mural or graffiti work. Substantial reproduction is not a question of how much has been reproduced like 10% of 70%, but rather a question of quality (i.e. what has been reproduced).” 
Usually, this “substantial part” of the work will be determined by a court, who look for significant, distinctive and fundamental parts of the work in question – these fundamental elements do not have to actually comprise a considerable amount of the image for them to actually be determined a substantial part of it. Which means that a photograph looking down a street that happens to have a mural wall running down one side adding perspective is less likely to infringe copyright than a photograph that focuses on a key part of the mural making it the main subject of the photograph, even though the first photograph shows more of the mural.
“Less likely” does not mean that it doesn’t, and as the ACC states above, if the entirety of the mural is reproduced, then it is almost certainly infringing on the artists copyright, regardless of “artistic expression” on behalf of the photographer.
This means that the reproducer cannot use this argument as a reason to be able to sell their reproductions of street art on cards/prints/other items, because there is an almost certain chance that their reproduction actually infringes on the artists copyright and can be dealt with by law – and in these situations, it is usual that the reproducer must cease and desist in selling the item until such time as the issue is resolved.
There are, however, some exceptions within the Australian copyright act in regards to “Fair Dealing” – but these are quite narrow definitions usually related to academic requirements, and are not usually applicable in this case.
Fair Dealings are exceptions to the general copyright laws, and are often quoted by these “re-sellers” as a way of justifying their reproduction of artists work. These do apply to many, however in the case of the market sellers, Fair Dealing just doesn’t apply.
The laws for “Fair Dealing” in Australia are not like the more robust Fair Use rights in the USA. This is much to the consternation of many proponents of an updated Australia Copyright law, who believe that our current Copyright system, and that especially of the Fair Dealing section, is out of step with the swift advances in technology that we find ourselves facing today.Fair Dealing in Australia comprises a multitude of various different exceptions, and Wikipedia has a good overview of the items in regards to them:
“In Australia the grounds for fair dealing are:
Research and study (section 40 Copyright Act 1968 (Cth)
Review and criticism (s41)
Reporting the news” (s42)
Legal advice (although the federal Crown is deemed to own copyright in federal statutes, and the Crown in each State in state statutes). (s43)
Parody and Satire (with some exceptions) (s41A)” 
Regarding the re-use of copyrighted images or drawings, the Australian Copyright Act does not impose a 10%-limit under its fair dealing provisions for the purpose of research and study. Instead, each and every such use for research or study must be evaluated individually to determine whether it is fair, similar to the notion of fair use in U.S. copyright law. Among the criteria used to determine the fairness of a use are the purpose and character of the dealing, the nature of the work, the possibility of obtaining the work commercially within a reasonable time, the effect of the use on the potential market for the work or on its value, and how much of a work is copied.”
This is, all, actual, fairly good for artists, but its not so good for anyone else who may have a legitimate reason to re-publish the artists works. A review was recently conducted (February 2014) that proposed 30 changes to the Australian Copyright laws, under which Fair Dealing gets a good amount of consideration, however for the most part, it deals mainly with electronic reproduction of movies etc.
In this report, a number of issues were found in which the existing Fair Dealings laws were vastly problematic. 
In my opinion, Fair Dealing in Australia is currently in a state of flux – but this really has little bearing on the guys down at the market selling prints and such for their own personal gain. It’s pretty hard for them to claim that they are selling these items for academic purposes, or as satire, or that they are research or reviews. Thus, for those people, Fair Dealing is no excuse.In terms of people publishing books, those operating websites and blogs, and reproducing via other mediums is still really murky. Blogs are usually promotive, and are a mainstay of this new world of viral art .
The Copyright laws on Fair Dealing are very much out of touch with this new age. Books and zines are even more difficult,many could be seen as academic publications, or magazines for review. Personally, when it comes to books on street art and graffiti, I look at it in a way that reflects my own personal morality – I draw a distinction between “Major Publishers” and “Self publishers” – major publishers are publishing books of one main purpose, to make money. Self Publishers are publishing out of a love of the art, and usually only do so to promote the artists works – in most cases they will hardly ever make any money off of them, and indeed will usually not even make their money back from printing up their books. Usually, they do get the artists permission, where they can and genuinely do contribute back to the scene.
Whether this distinction in my mind is legally correct or not, well, I guess each one would have to be taken on a case by case basis and judged on the facts as to its own merit.
It Was Painted Illegally, Therefore The Artist Has No Copyright Or Moral Rights On The Art And I Can Do What I Want With It.
“People think that because our work is public and it is sometimes illegally painted, they could [sic] use it any way they want.” - Cantwo. 
Copyright of an image is not negated if it was produced illegally. Of course, if it was produced illegally, then the artist themselves may face other legal issues such as vandalism charges, trespass, etc, however the piece itself is still protected under copyright law as a mural and is still the property of the artist.
When people talk about a work of graffiti or street art being created “illegally”, they are usually referencing the act of creation, rather than any type of copyright issues. This means that the piece was created by means of trespassing or vandalism on someones private property, and not usually as a result of any kind of copyright violation. In this regards, the work of art is actually created by the artist, and isn’t just a replication of someone elses work. So when someone says “It was created illegally” is just doesn’t matter, and the work itself is still copyright by the artist (unless, that is, if the street artist was say pasting up images of mickey mouse everywhere – then its not the property of the actual artist, but Disney, who is the copyright holder).
Street Art and graffiti are, therefore, protected under the Copyright Act – the copyright act specifies that “a work must be an original literary, dramatic, musical, or artistic work” (Copyright Act 1968 (Cth) s 32.) as long as it is expressed in “Material Form” – meaning “The subject-matter must be expressed in a material form: Copyright does not protect information, ideas, concepts, styles and methods. 
Street art and graffiti, where they exist as Aerosol murals, stencils, pasteups, paintings, drawings – these are all “Material Form” items. That also means that ideas, concepts, styles and methods can not be copyright. For some graffiti artists, their tags are more than an extension of their art, they are the art – if it was a simple tag, something like “Jules” in plain lettering, this probably wouldn’t be copyright – but if it was say, a tag such as one of Slicers, or Mayo, or Chaz Bojorquez, then it is most definitely a material piece of art and is definitely protected by copyright.
The Copyright Act, as summarised by the Law Handbook website, defines the “First Owner” of a piece of artwork as the author or artist who first produced the material form of the art.  Therefore, graffiti and street art are the “First owners” of the artwork – they can indeed transfer this copyright, if they should wish, but as any items owned by the artist as copyrighted materials are considered by Australian law as personal property, then no one, even if it was produced as a result of vandalism, has the right to reproduce the work without an artists permission.
Naomi Messenger, a lawyer from KPMG Legal writes in her 2002 article “Can ‘Can Art” Navigate Legal Pitfalls 
“Spray-can artists usually come prepared. They have preliminary sketches of their proposed paintings. They will generally have copyright in both their sketches as original artistic works, and the graffiti art copyright gives them the exclusive right to reproduce their artworks and to adapt them from two-dimensional to three-dimensional artworks.”
She then goes on to say how a pseudonym would affect this:
“The term of copyright protection may differ if the artist is working under a pseudonym, that is their individual identification ‘tag’.
Anonymous and pseudonym works are only protected for 50 years from first publication; although if the identity of the author is known or can be ascertained, the duration will be the life of the artist plus 50 years.” – therefore the only thing that would affect the actual copyright of the artists work would be the 50 year limit, however the artist still retains copyright over it for that duration.
There is another part to this – in a large number of cases, where someone has taken a photo of a piece of graffiti or street art and used it for their own gain, the piece was actually a legally painted commissioned piece.
Sharon Givoni, a Melbourne based intellectual property law clarifies this further (in a great, must read article for all artists that was published in Illustrators Australia):
“It is important to note that if you paint on someone else’s wall you will not own the physical painting on that wall as this remains with the property owner.However, the owner of the building will not necessarily own the copyright of the painting on the wall as that often remains with the artist.” 
This means that the artist holds copyright over it – unless, of course, they were actually employed. If you are employed by a company and produce the work for them, then its implied that they own the copyright, unless you specifically signed an agreement otherwise. For artists, however, you are generally working as an independent contractor, in which case, even if you have been paid for producing the artwork, the person who bought the artwork does not own the copyright unless it was specifically stated that copyright would be handed over in the contract.
“The fact that a person has paid for the making of a work (other than a photograph, portrait or engraving) does not mean that they will own copyright in it, although they may be permitted to copy it, or exercise other rights of the owner. For example, if a community group commissions an artist to prepare some artwork for a pamphlet, the artist will own copyright in the artwork, although the community group will have an implied licence to reproduce it in the pamphlet (see “Licensing copyright”, below). This means the artist could allow someone else to use the artwork for another purpose.” 
The people reproducing this artwork have not been granted copyright, therefore they have no right to print or reproduce it for their own profit. Pieces also, painted in legally sanctioned areas, such as Hosier Lane in Melbourne etc, are also protected under copyright, which is retained by the artist.
Yet regardless of either of these variations, whether the artist produced the piece legally, or illegally, any mural created by an artist is protected by copyright – even if it was produced in an illegal manner on a wall that the artist did not have permission to paint upon.
Copyright law aside, this isn’t the only recourse that street and graffiti artists have in protecting their work. There is also the little thought abut “Moral Rights” that an artist retains on their artwork, which were introduced in 2000 as an amendment to the Copyright Act. This law is just as important as copyright law, because the people who actually sell these cards break pretty much all the time.
Moral rights over your artwork, as classified as a mural, means that no one can actually take your artwork and display it in any way, or reproduce it in any way, without actually attributing you as the artist.
Moral rights do apply in a separate way to copyright, as you can never actually sell your moral rights, they stay with the artist. Although moral rights can be waived, you as the artist and creator of the mural always retain the moral right to be named as the creator.
In terms of the law itself, breaching the artists moral rights is in this instance defined by the Copyright act, and your moral rights consist of the following:
“If an artistic work has been subjected to derogatory treatment of a kind mentioned in paragraph (a) of the definition of derogatory treatment in section 195AK that infringes the author’s right of integrity of authorship in respect of the work, a person infringes the author’s right of integrity of authorship in respect of the work if the person does any of the following in respect of the work as so derogatorily treated:
(a) reproduces it in a material form;
(b) publishes it;
(c) transmits it”
Furthermore, according to the Copyright Agency, moral rights consist of the following items:
“the right of attribution of authorship;
the right not to have authorship of their work falsely attributed; and
the right of integrity of authorship. This protects creators from their work being used in a derogatory way that may negatively impact on their character or reputation.
Moral rights last for the same time as copyright in a work, the term of which is usually the creator’s life plus 70 year.s” – [ 13]
Furthermore, the Copyright Agency then breaks this down into the application of Moral Rights as well as possible ways in which to infringe upon an artists moral rights:
“Moral rights apply to a wide range of works including:
artistic works – including drawings, paintings, sculptures, graphs;
dramatic works – including plays, film scripts;
written material – including novels, textbooks, poems, songs, journal articles;
computer programs; and
Artistic works in this context also incorporate both street art and graffiti murals. These morals rights of authorship, attribution, integrity are defined in full in this information sheet provided by the Australian Copyright Council, where they also point out on Page 6 of their information sheet , that there are some exceptions to this rule in way of “reasonableness”, these are as follows:
“A failure to attribute the creator, or a derogatory treatment of copyright work, does not infringe the creator’s rights if the action was “reasonable” in the circumstances. The Act sets out a number of factors to be taken into account in working out whether the action was reasonable.
the nature of the work;
the purpose, manner and context for which it is used;
relevant industry practice;
whether the work was created in the course of employment or under a contract of service; and
if there are two or more authors, their views about the failure to attribute or derogatory treatment.”
There are some issues here – for example, many graffiti artists undertake their work anonymously, it may be reasonable not to attribute them. However even if their real name is not known, they should always be attributed by their pseudonym. Graffiti and Street Art are, these days, turning into real commercial products in many ways, and it is common industry practice for artists pseudonyms to be attributed alongside their work. So, really, there are no excuse to not do s, as pseudonymns for artists are quite easy to discover, due to the often unique nature of their work.
Yet how are your Morals Rights infringed upon? Again, the Copyright Agency breaks this down:
“There are numerous ways in which morals rights can be infringed upon, they include
not attributing a work to its rightful creator or falsely attributing the work to someone else;
reproducing a falsely attributed work;
treating a work in a derogatory fashion. This can include distorting, mutilating or materially altering the work; and
dealing commercially with or importing a work that had been treated in a derogatory fashion.”
Morals Rights means that your artwork must always be attributed – someone must name you as the artists on the work, they cannot attribute it to someone else, or themselves and they are also not allowed to be derogatory towards it.
If use of your artwork this inflicts on your moral rights, say an artwork is done and put in an exhibition then the public might take it incorrectly. Also, if an artwork is reproduced for someone elses gain, morally you have the right to deny its use if you do not agree with said use – this means that if someone is reproducing your work, even if in part on a card or somewhat, even if its “not even in context” you retain the moral right to refuse its use! This is a powerful right, if your work is on one of these cards, and you morally object to its use, it is not allowed to be used!
Not only are these people infringing copyright, but they are reproducing it, and not attributing the artists. This infringes upon the moral rights, not only that, but to me, if someone is reproducing my work for personal gain, then that to be is treating my work in a derogatory manner – ie “I don’t want to support the mass production of street art for someones personal gain, and I am offended by it and find the use of my work in this contest derogatory.”
So in this case, I believe that even if the photo of your work is taken, and it is “incidental” to the actual photograph or image itself, Moral Rights still apply. The artwork has been reproduced, and therefore the artist has to be named, and has to be informed as to its use. If the artists is not named in the reproduction, even if the piece of artwork is very small and incidental to the overall composition of the piece, the artists moral Rights have been breached if the person responsible for the image has not named the artist or obtained a waiver from the artist to utilise it in a public display. A public display could also mean, displaying it at a market, for sale.
Someone selling your work can also be met with objection by way of misleading or deceptive conduct. If you as an artist are well known enough, then it may be misleading as he people selling your work may be seen by others to be “representing” you, when in fact no such relationship actually exists between yourself and the seller.
Moral Rights are just as important as Copyright, and you should be aware of this when you see someone reproducing your work, and take steps to ensure that the reproducer has knowledge of this infringement alongside their copyright infringement.
Copyright, Moral Rights and Your Right To Consent And Notification At Having Your Work Destroyed, Mutilated Or Altered
Oh, just as a little bonus, and I’m just going to throw something in here that the artists don’t actually realise that also applies with moral rights – you ready for this?. If you produce a mural, and the work is slated to be destroyed or changed of buffed over, did you know that this also violates your moral rights? Did you know that the artist must be informed that the artwork is going to be destroyed, mutilated or altered, or if it is going to be used for any reason that may be and prejudicial and reputation. If the artwork cant be moved, then the person doing the renovation or changes of building must seek out the artist and inform them, and consult with them, before doing anything to the artwork.
“Under Australian law it is not an infringement of moral rights to change, relocate or demolish a building of which an artistic work forms part, provided that the property owner:
gives the artist notice; and
allows the artist to access the building to make a record of the work and consult with the owner about the change, relocation or destruction.” 
Interesting huh? This is also actually the law that 5pointz was actually trying to utilise, and which is why there are now legal queries as to whether the building owner was able to legally buff his property.
But, anyways, I digress from the main point of this article, and that is the protection of your work from the people who seem to think that it is legal to reproduce them.
Lastly, I’m going to state, once again, that I am not a lawyer and I am not qualified to offer legal advice. This article is for the purposes of steering you in the right direction, and to also point out to people who are illegally selling reproductions of artists work that they are indeed, more than certainly, breaking the law by selling their cards/prints whatever.
The end result of this – you cannot (and really should not) reproduce an artists work from the streets, without their consent. You cannot take a photo of their work, and sell it for your own profit. If you have an image that contains an artists work, you more than likely will be infringing on an artists copyright and moral rights, and you cannot sell it until you have ascertained that the image in the photo you are reproducing is not actually breaking the artists rights.
All artists retain complete copyright control over any work they produce on the streets, legally, OR illegally and no one has any right to reproduce it any any way for their own profit – end of story.
To get real advice, there are many resource that you can use – the best is the Australian Copyright Council, and, to a lesser extend, ArtsLaw Australia (who I did receive a limited amount of advice from before they wanted me to subscribe to their service).
They do have a good website and they do have several templates for sending to people who are breaching your rights, Copy or Moral – they are:
If you come across one of these people who are reproducing your artwork, send them a cease and desist notice for Copyright, and one for Morals Rights if they have not attributed you. Send them here, to this article, and get them to read it to understand exactly how they are breaking the law. Sometimes, they genuinely don’t realise that they are breaking the law by doing so – because they do seem to think hat taking photos of street art and selling their own photos of it is actually legally.
Contact the Copyright Council, ArtsLaw or someone else suitably qualified, but you don’t have to do that in order to send them a letter asking them to stop – it is legal and within your rights to do so, and you probably have a great legal case against them. Oh, and send them to this page – people really need to be educated about these matters, and these myths need to be dispelled.
At the end of the day, if they keep selling your work – take them to court, the chances of you winning the case are very high. Don’t think to yourself “I can’t afford to take them to court” – there are plenty of lawyers out there that will help you out, and as your chances of winning are high, well, then you probably wont pay any fees at all in the end.
If you are one of those people who reproduce other peoples street reading this now. If someone has pointed you here to read this article and you are one of the people selling these cards or prints or whatever at markets, or on eBay – what you are doing is NOT legal.
You are almost certainly breaking copyright laws, murals are assuredly protected, but, most importantly, you are also breaching the artists moral rights and it is quite likely that you are breaking the law.
This article is an interpretation of research on Australian Copyright and Moral Rights issues. carried out in April 2014. As this article is intended as a informative article only, and is only an interpretation of the laws governing street art and copyright/morals rights, Invurt cannot be held liable for any errors , inaccuracies or omissions to the article above. If you do notice any inaccuracies or errors, and are a legal professional and have issue with any information in this article, please contact us.
Whenever I hear the words “Be Free” and “exhibition” in the same sentence, I start wondering which exciting location I’m going to be directed to this time. After a string of collaborative shows held from galleries to random abandoned houses around the city, we will finally be able to attend Be Free’s first solo exhibition which will be held in… two different locations.In different ends of the city!
I’m not sure whether I should be going to Northcote or South Melbourne first, but it all sounds very interesting and I expect to be taken to two different and fascinating worlds, as the show will be exploring “two sides of the character’s personality” according to the event description says.
The exhibition opens this coming Friday, but meanwhile don’t forget to have a look at the super cute videos from Be Free below!
Everywhere, thats where you’ll see his work. Phoenix, the street artist, is one of Melbournes most recognisable fixtures – no matter what laneway you have walked down, no matter what corner you peer into, there you’ll see one of his instantly recognisable works – cutouts and paste, collage and glue, entities hidden in the corners and staring out at you with text and schematical leanings.
I’ve known Phoenix for many years. He is at all the shows. He comes along and checks out all the paintups. He’s a fan, and in turn his work has also garnered him fans – in cyclic nature, akin to some of the various philosophies of his work, Phoenix embraces the diversity of the streets, cadging statements and espousing his creativity with abandon (though, thoughtful abandon).
When you look at one of his works, you see the surface – you see an image that catches your eye. It might be witty. It might be playful. Hell, it might not even make any sense to you whatsoever – but herein lies the beauty of these pieces, the more you look at them, the more you ponder, the more the layers unravel in your mind and its themes work their way into your subconscious.
This isn’t limited to singular pieces, either. The more you see, the more the puzzle begins to lay itself out before you – there are themes. There are repetitive motifs – what the hell does the earth mean in that context? Whats with the Dali images? What the hell is the spiral? It’s like a labyrinth of words and images, some of it decipherable, some of it seemingly an inner joke that perhaps only Phoenix really knows.
I admit. Sometimes I get his work – and sometimes, I just don’t. Sometimes I feel like his statements are obvious, at others, I feel like I need a decoder ring – but this is why, unfalteringly, I enjoy his work. It’s not always simple. Its not always just pretty. It isn’t always within my own ability to always “get”.
This interview has been a long time coming – I’ve been meaning to dig into the mind of Phoenix for quite some time – but for some reason, it seemed, not a daunting prospect, but something that I had to actually think about, the timing had to be right to do it. I wanted to know all these things – I wanted to get handed at least, if not some of the answers, the fkn decoder ring – so I could keep trying to work it out for myself!
Well, I can say, he happily obliged, and provided us with a really great, highly comprehensive response that I absolutely loved. But, you know what they say, be careful what you wish for, because, I have to say, I probably now have even more questions than when I started …
1. The Fire That Made Phoenix.
The “Phoenix” name was in response to the March 2004 fire which destroyed my home studio, most of my collected works from the previous 20 years, and a large part of my collage library and processing system.I had been making my collage and copy art since the middle 80s – although most of the works I made were ones made for special occasions for family and friends – and it was only during the early 2000s that I began to gather art for a future exhibition.
The fire started in a power board right at the back of my home studio – in front of the red-brick wall. The intensity of the fire caused the roof to collapse. After the structure was rebuilt at the end of 2004, I named it Phoenix RisingStudio - a name that in 2009 inspired my street art name.
The loss of these works in the fire, an inferno sparked by a faulty power board which took four fire engines almost an hour to put out, was significant to me because of the works lost – but even more so because of the destruction of my collage system. My collage system was, and is, designed to facilitate multiple and radical juxtapositions – mining the coincidence of combination along the lines of the traditional Dadaists’ cut-up collages or Bowie song lyrics. William S. Burroughs, an avid practitioner of such methods of making art, suggested: “When you cut into the present the future leaks out.”
My now restored (and far more evolved) collage system allows things to fall together and create visual, textual and visual/textual poetry.
On that hot March morning in 2004, as a result of the five metre high flames and the water from four fire engines, a significant part of the past drained away – but in the alchemic turnaround so aptly represented by the metaphor of the Phoenix, a whole new future eventually leaked out – in my case, literally rising from the ashes.
In subsequent days, I combed these ashes and other debris in my devastated studio, salvaging what I could and laying it out to dry in the sun.
This piece is a charred transparency copy of what was both a collage element storage sheet and collage work: Cloudy Beginnings (1997). Stored in plastic pocket folders, many of these sequential and indexed A4 card-mounted element sheets (of which about 100 went through the fire) burned and melted largely around the edges – fusing to the plastic and paper layers incorporated in them as can be seen here.
The Momentum of Circumstance (1992). This piece – a collage of a junk-mail envelope, a diagram from a children’s science book, and card-mounted versions of the original Column (copies of which inhabit many of my subsequent works), and a hard book cover. It sought to depict the wave of circumstance rippling out from its source – with its inevitable reverberations.
I created some folders and boxes to store these salvaged items (wrapped in plastic to lessen the retraumatising fire stink) in my rebuilt and rechristened Phoenix Rising studio – but apart from continuing to collect found collage materials and to create physical storage spaces within the space, for the next 5 years I directed my creative urges into writing, storytelling, music, and dialectical philosophy.
In March 2009, the collage urge resurfaced and I began to make new works. In the November of that year, I went on a street art tour through Fitzroy by Melbourne Street Art Tours – on which the possibility of being able to collage onto public walls first dawned. When I shared this with Doyle, one of the leaders of the tour, suggested: “Why don’t you give it a go?”
And the name Phoenix seemed the perfect choice for such adventures.
My first ever street art piece: Her Godot Was Worth Waiting For - in Hosier Lane, December 2009. Ironically, this is one of the few pieces of the several thousand I have installed in various places around Australia and Spain that I have some regret about. It was a plastic tray of collage elements melted into position by the fire; the only addition was the photocopied face of Samuel Beckett. It was prised off the piece of wood across the bars of a window and souvenir’ed; it would have been much better archived as a piece in my Fire Salvage collection.
With my first installations, it was like an enormous door had been unlocked and a whole new world of creative practice suddenly opened up to me. I have pursued lots of different creative practices in my life – but I know that door will never again close while I remain capable and breathing.
Inevitably the new demands of making and installing street art then began to shape my practices of making and thinking about art. Traditional collage is quite constrained by the availability of the found source materials used to make it: if originals are used, they cannot be reused. In the street art context, if a piece is given to the street, and subsequently capped or taken, it and the originals used to make it are gone forever.
My losses in the fire heightened the significance of this – driving me to find ways to create reproducible art which could be put out on the street while the masters used to make it were kept safe back in the studio.
A sort of breakthrough in this came in mid 2010 while playing with multiple transparencies – and the beginning of my DalíesqueSeries. The Dalíesque Series contains works generated out of possible permutations and combinations of a transparency images of a single Tshirt-framed photo of Salvador Dalí.
This began with the overlapping of multiple copies of the Tshirt framed face – creating images like the one seen below – but also led to the pivotal breakthrough of using the photocopier to colourise my works. I began to create monochrome masters which could be photocopied onto different colours of paper; by cutting out and pasting different elements in the various colours, making highly coloured objects in many different forms.
Double Dalí Tees (Centre Place) July 2010. Solid plywood plaque with PVA-coated coloured paper and fluttering transparency acetate moustaches. The yellow edge of the Tee follows the ripped outline of a Ghostpatrol pasteup.
With the initial work in this series, The Elephants of Dalí (Rutledge Lane, June, 2010), two further very important things crystallised for me.
Firstly was the idea of layer collage - a way of making art by layering coloured papers photocopied from monochrome masters as described above. I continue to explore this method of making art to this day.
Secondly, and more importantly, with this came the idea of structuring my overall body of work into Series, defined by specific rules. The Dalíesque Series has since been joined by The Voice of the Blue Earth, Silent♥ , Tools of Phoenix,TEXTing, NeoSoviet, In the Land of the Blind, EPHEMERAL, MonoChromatic, not aNOTher street art CliChé, YGen, The Resurfacing Project, Iconoclasm and COPYing Series.
Following through on and learning to bending these rules brings to life an endless creative playground. I have made many works which are simultaneously part of several Series – in fulfilling two or more sets of rules.
KEEP ME IN YOUR ♥ (A4 Sticker, Granada, Spain, September 2012). This piece fulfils the rules of both my Silent ♥ and Voice of the Blue Earth Series. The Silent ♥ series consists of text-based works presenting messages about the Heart in which it, and/or other significant iconic elements and parts of the message, are only represented in image form; in the Voice of the Blue Earth (La Tierra Azul Dice) Series the Earth takes various metaphoric forms in order to deliver a message to Humankind – here, with Spanish subtitles.
2. Most Ambitious Works.
You have asked what are my most ambitious works – of which two come to mind (apart from those still fermenting away in my imagination and or Works In Progress Box):
Firstly, my HARD NUT TO CRACK - a solid 3D relief plaque board piece for the refurbishment of Union Lane in July 2010.
HARD NUT TO CRACK - Solid 3D plaque relief on board; 1.4 x 1.4 m, Union Lane, July 2010. This featured a cracking and Bandaided solid Stars and Stripes Nutcracker trying once more to crack the Afghanistan nut. In the bin are broken Soviet and British Nutcrackers.
I really enjoyed the technical challenges of making this piece and installing it securely in its alcove.
Secondly, and in a decidedly double-sided way, my The Little Diver Resurfaced in Cocker Alley in April 2010 was a distinctly ambitious work. I would see it as conceptually and technically ambitious – a restoration of and commentary on a controversial street art piece; I know others have seen it as ambitious in another way: as a form of ‘biting’ -seeking to ride the coat-tails of Banksy’s almost singular and clichéd popular appeal and bankability.
I’ll have to leave that to the reader – and to the punters and artists of the community – to judge.
I personally found the story and visage of the Little Diver a moving and fascinating one. Stencilled opposite one of Melbourne’s main police stations by the elusive artist in 2003, it was beloved by tourists and city burghers; given a price, a Perspex shield and an official street art status plaque by the buildings owners and city council in 2008; and capped soon after with a slow curtain of silver paint by cappers (or artists) unknown.
Noticing that between the long silver strands significant parts of the Little Diver girl were still visible, I came up with the idea of using my camera, photocopier and light-table to create two life-size images of the Diver: one the original stencil, the other the capped one. By tracing and cutting out the outline of the capping, I was able to create a pasteup which almost perfectly matched the parts of the Little Diver girl submerged beneath the silver paint.
And, one morning in early 2010 in one quiet solitary unforgettable moment, I pasted this in place on the wall in Cocker Alley – and a vision of the Little Diver returned to the surface.
The Little Diver Resurfaced - Phoenix (after Banksy), Cocker Alley, April, 2010. Immediately after pasteing.
Of course, not everybody was pleased about her return to the surface in this form – and she soon began to be again vandalised in various ways. For a while, I continued to repair her – and, once, after a particularly enthusiastic ripping and black capping, even repasted another whole pasteup using the master I have kept in my studio – before deciding to let her sink beneath the surface of subsequent rips, tags, caps – and the inevitable graffiti cleaners’ steam.
3. The Tools of Phoenix
XactoMundo (Art Lane off Leicester St, Fitzroy, December 2012) Part of my I ♥ COLLAGE and Tools of Phoenix Series - and incorporating a reproduced collage element sheet salvaged from my fire and bonded with my Xacto Hand drawing via my layer collage technique. Pink, white and silver papers.
Although I spent a lot of my childhood drawing, the collage bug bit me in my mid twenties (aka the mid 80s) – and has not yet let me go.
From the get go, I have always tended towards very immediate ways of attaching things together: blutack, gluestick, staples and tape. Issues of longevity on the street have led me to using rollered PVA as a resilient adhesive and plasticising coating for my works (in combination with ricepaste I cook up myself) and translucent silicone to attach solid plaques to the wall. In more recent years, with my use of the photocopier, reversibility and repositionability are often important to me – so repositionable gluesticks and removable tape are invaluable aides.
In terms of cutting implements, I have several sizes of scissors, a range of sizes of box-cutters, and a ready supply of Xacto knives and blades for fine cutting – aided by my 4X magnifying glasses lenses. I also use a scroll-saw to cut out heavier cardboard or plywood plaque pieces.
I have come full circle in terms of drawing. In my first twenty-five years of proper art practice (ages 25-50) I did little drawing for art purposes. My collage works through this time were based on found materials, photographs and illustrations; however the need for specific images in my Voice of the Blue Earth series and in graphically expressing my affection for my art tools in myTools of Phoenix Series have rekindled my love of drawing – and, although there are some illustrations by others which have become an essential part of my iconic lexicon, I intend to use my own drawings as much as possible from now on.
I am currently reorganising my studio to streamline my various key areas:
storage areas: a vast collection of fileboxes and files, pocket folders, queueing boxes, pigeonhole trays, collections of paused works, colour and monochrome works masters;
collating areas: surfaces on which things can be combined together in all sorts of ways;
cutting areas: a light-table cutting mat as well as various sizes of opaque cutting mats;
my copying area: surrounding Roxie, (aka Xeroanne), my FujiXerox colour and monochrome copier printer;
and my pasteing areas: where it all comes together.
I am proudly non-digital apart from those functions available through my photocopier or digital camera; there is only one small element on a Phoenix piece made in early 2010 using Photoshop (lets not mention this again). I believe my adherence to this principle is at the heart of how my work looks.
I am always experimenting with different tools and processes in the studio – with a general aim to distill the best possible (easiest, simplest, most effective, and most elegant) way(s) of doing something. Some of my favourite things which have been distilled out of the years in this way are things like:
photocopy transparencies: wonderful things that allow complex layering and bonding together of images ; • removable tape tabs: these reusable attachers, which I make up from a combination of removable and permanent tapes, are invaluable in positioning things for photocopying – and can be left in situ, repeatedly readjusted or easily decommissioned;
• PVA: King of Adhesives – and like a shrink-wrap coating; and
• silicone: so strong, so easy (on a flat, clean surface);
• trolleys: you GOTTA love ‘em.
My beloved removable tape tabs reliably hold things in place – yet are instantly repositionable and reusable. They are made by folding over a small permanent tape ‘handle’ at the end of a piece of removable tape.. Developing a master for my XactoHand Spiral, October 2013.
I am an unashamed equipment fetishist and love making up a mobile studio for taking with me wherever I go, on a trolley with a fold up table or milk crate equivalent for setting up on site, on the back of my bike, or for taking on the road. When I travelled to Spain in September 2012, I could take my mobile-studio-in-a-bag and works/materials storage folder to the dining table of my accommodation, to a café, down into a hotel lobby, or to a stationery/digital printing outlet; or onto a train. I LOVE art on the move.
Mobile Studio: Lobby of Hotel Granvia, Barcelona. The contents of my works/materials have partly spilled out – revealing works and pasteups already prepared at home, files of works to be constructed, various types of paper and card, transparency masters taken along for making new works, and new works themselves.
Hand of the Café Studio. Working on my Gluestick Hand fuelled by a Café Solo (aka Expresso) – making art opposite the Puerte Mayor (main gate) of Sevilla Cathedral, Seville, Spain.
One of the things I have been working towards in terms of my other mobile setup – the generally trolley-based kit of pasteups and street art installation tools I wheel around the streets with either specific sites or general areas in mind – is to have a very flexible set of items with which I can make improvised collage on walls.
All the different ways one can approach street art installation are potentially satisfying: a specific work made in the studio for a specific site; a folder of pasteups and/or stickers and plaques in various sizes with which to wander the streets looking for good spots to place them; or a collection of seemingly random bits and pieces which in the right space and moment of inspiration can be combined on site.
I am constantly thinking about easy ways of getting high – i.e. getting things into the High Zone. Up there it’s blissfully too high to even bother .. tagging .. capping .. stealing .. steaming .. or buffing.
4. The Double Spiral (aka The Double Whirlpool)
You have noticed my obsession with spirals in both my works and notebooks. Much of my art, personal philosophy and professional work in health practice – and even one of my signatures, is based around the Double Spiral symbol whose formal philosophical name is the Double Whirlpool.
The Double Whirlpool is a dialectical device I have developed to help understand processes of change and interrelationship. It represents a comparison of two Whirlpools – here a Positive versus Negative one.
Double Spiral motifs are timeless: seen in either readily identifiable forms (in Polynesian, Druidic and Celtic cultures) or in other less identifiable but equivalent ones (single Whirlpool = pre-Nazi swastika; Yin/Yang; Star of David/Alchemical Star (As Above, So Below); the Cadaceus of Hermetic traditions which persists as a medical symbol (two snakes winding around a staff). The concepts of the Virtuous vs Vicious Cycle; the J-curve, and concepts like a Catch 22 or tipping point also embody the same type of thinking.
Essentially the Double Whirlpool is about the tendency of things to turn in cycles and thus to either remain in stasis or to spiral towards a new state. Our bodies are maintained within a central balance or homoeostasis - in which changes and challenges to our state are counterbalanced and brought back to a natural centre.
Blood pressure, for example, is kept within a fairly narrow range despite changes in our posture like when we rise from bed to a standing position. This is achieved by a complex interrelated series of mechanisms in the heart, blood vessels, kidneys and coordinating nervous and hormonal systems – all of which act in concert to maintain blood pressure and therefore blood and oxygen flow. These would be represented in the diagram below by the various Events around the edge of the Positive Whirlpool on the left side of the diagram below – each of which relates to each other in a positive cycle like that shown between Events A and B.
Small to medium losses of blood can be compensated for by blood vessel constriction, changes in fluid balance and excretion by the kidneys. As losses of blood become greater, blood pressure will at first be maintained but signs of strain will appear (increased pulse rate, cooler and paler extremities); with further losses blood pressure on rapid standing will begin to show a drop and the person likely to feel lightheaded or to even faint on doing so.
If blood loss continues, the person moves towards a significant tipping point, where the system flips into a state of hypovolaemic (low blood volume) shock. In this state, systems that ordinarily support each other will begin to increasingly disrupt and counter each other. The heart, for instance, will. because of the lowered blood pressure, have reduced blood and oxygen flow which will decrease its capacity to pump - and to maintain blood pressure. The person in this situation is in the increasingly slippery slope of the Negative Whirlpool on the right-hand side.
The Double Whirlpool: a model of balance, imbalance … and change.
Unless this person rapidly gets a fluid and blood transfusion, he or she will soon go down the proverbial ‘gurgler’.
I have found such a model widely applicable in working in health practice: in helping people to reverse and decrease negative patterns and to reestablish and promote positive ones. There are typically key negative patterns, behaviours and dynamics – as opposed to key positive ones. The journey towards healing and the restoration of health can be mapped out and guided using my Double Whirlpool and other dialectical tools.
The same logic and way of thinking about health is also very pertinent to our fragile and beautiful planet – one of the reasons the Double Whirlpool has found its way into a number of my Voice of the Blue Earth Series pieces.
(Significant) TIPPING POINT (ahead). Detail of pasteup, Enmore Rd, Enmore, Sydney, 2011. In this piece, the Blue Earth warns us of the increasingly perilous state we are more and more leaning towards. Voice of the Blue Earth Series. The Double Whirlpool is represented within the Globe.
A very good example of a significant negative tipping point like that of the heart losing pumping power as blood pressure drops can be seen in the melting of the polar icecaps – a process represented here as in many of my other VotBE pieces. Ice reflects about three-quarters of the heat that falls on it; when it is melted to sea water, however, it absorbs more than two-thirds of the heat. In other words, the more the ice melts, it more and more (and more) it melts. HELL-O!!!… PEOPLE!! – as the Blue Earth is wont to say.
One of the key learnings from the Double Whirlpool is the importance of synergy (aka win/win; you scratch my back/I’ll scratch yours) and positivism – and the Voice of the Blue Earth Series attempts to put this into action – alternating between a black humour to point out our Human failings and vulnerabilities and a sweet optimism and kindness of a planet that does love our Species.
At this level, this Series is a deliberate form of artistic activism: some sugar to help necessary medicine to get down. I know that politically-oriented art (and perhaps even more so street art) is not everyone’s cup of tea – but what’s the point if we’re all going to Hell in a hand basket? As you so eloquently put, Fletch: “Hey! Pay attention! This shit is happening!”
5. On Being Political
Last year I was sought out for a large wall commission by one of the owners of a business who is a bit of a fan of my work. He suggested using getting me to do the wall to the other owners; the feedback was that they thought I was “quite political” and maybe not the right fit for the wall.
The work I had imagined putting up would have certainly been distinctive and hopefully thought-provoking: a muralised and illustrated depiction of my poem ‘Born Free’ – which uses the metaphor of a chained elephant learning to free itself - suggested how we might liberate ourselves from the phenomenon of being the French philosopher Rousseau described by suggesting that “Man is born free – and everywhere is in chains.”
If I am perceived to be political in this sense, I am more than happy to be so – and to be known as someone willing to put meaningful ideas into the public space. I am interested in the politics of things like cooperation, respect, love, and spiritual emancipation.
Sometimes this is about using street art as a way of publicly promoting things that I think are important – like the attention to matters of the heart suggested by my Silent♥ Series.
LET YOUR ♥ BE FREE - Layer Collage, Silent ♥ Series.
At other times this politics is about holding a light up to the innate darkness and negativity of those seeking control to promote fear, hate and alienation – as in my Mathematics of FEAR shown below.
The Mathematics of FEAR – Pasteup, Hosier Lane, December 2013.
Of course, sometimes my work comments on specific and topical political issues like that of the deliberate exploitation of underlying xenophobic attitudes to asylum seekers by both sides of Australian politics.
WE SCARE BECAUSE WE CARE - Pasteup/plaque combination, Hosier Lane, 2011. WE SCARE BECAUSE WE CARESeries.
They say socially- and politically-interested artists have got more material to work with in leaner, harder and more right-wing times – and boy are we all heading that way Down Under. Perhaps it has always been thus, but it seems to me we live in increasingly selfish, superficial and deluded times. One of the key and enduring roles of art is to hold up a mirror to that which lies beyond the surface reflection that mesmerises and numbs the potential Narcissus within us all.
And, as I have suggested above, issues like climate change are too pressing to ignore.
6. What’s Next?
The dawning of 2014 (already a month in) is an exciting time for me with a new photocopier and structural organisation of my studio. It is also the year in which I want to begin to establish a proper income-stream from my art. Art is a great life-choice – but surely there are other accommodation options than the proverbial garret. I am fortunate to have an alternative livelihood – and I have no interest in becoming rich from art: but I would love for it to become a self-sustaining livelihood and something that supports me travelling the world on Phoenix wings in the next few decades I may get in this life.
I think Einstein had the ratio about right when he talked about science being 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. There’s lots of joyful hard work for me – in my notebook, in my sketchbook, with my camera, on my laptop, in my studio, out on the streets, and in creating commercial opportunities in gallery, retail and virtual marketplace spaces.
And I’ve got plenty to work on: I am not exaggerating when I say there would be a thousand uncompleted works in my studio; summertime has been about organising a proper queueing system to move these through to finished gallery and street works and get them out onto walls – but I would be lying if I said that I won’t be more than occasionally distracted by the inevitable lure of the immediate new idea that appears on my workbench or in my diary notebook. I love working on ideas which are right at the leading edge of the wave of process.
In particular I am interested in going up in terms of scale. I very much like small intimate pieces that find small corners to adorn – but I also love the impact that larger pieces have – and would love to be able to do some really big pasteup and/or plaque installations on a similar scale to some of my bold, big-thinking colleagues and art mates.
But, more than anything: what’s next is .. whatever’s next!
"Shane Andrews" face is known to pretty much anyone who paints or puts on shows here in Melbourne. One of our cities many diligent paintspotters, he has been roaming the city, taking snaps of everything he sees, for several years now – and his website, allThoseShapes, is a veritable treasure trove of cool art from around the city.
Now, he’s put it all together into a nice, lush tome for all to put on their coffee tables and share it around with their mates – and the launch party, complete with tunes and live art, is on this week.
"Figment’ is the first book from Toby Fairbank (sometimes known as Shane Andrews) who runs the Melbourne street art and graffiti website allThoseShapes, which now has over 300 artist pages and 8000 photos from around Melbourne.
Figment’s 200 pages contain over 320 photos most in landscape A4 placed together somewhat randomly as you would find them in the streets. The adventures are shown visually with all artist information and text left till the end of the book to let the art speak for itself.
Some of the art comes from the more obvious places such as the infamous Hosier Lane; some from regularly pasted places like Fitzroy, Northcote and Brunswick, some from the railways and some from abandos like the now departed Collingwood silos.
The artists in the book come from Melbourne, Perth, Brisbane, New Zealand, Iran, UK, Italy, Belgium, Japan, Brazil, France, ++ though all the art was created in Melbourne. For most of the art in this book, Figment is now all that remains. If you would like to have a copy of this sweet reminder, Figment is being launched on Thursday 16 January @ Trunk bar 275 Exhibition St, Melbourne.
There will be live art by RusKidd & Loadz (and possibly one other…!) which can be purchased at the end of the night (if you are lucky enough to be first!) music by euonim and copies of Figment to be bought and signed."
Head down this Thursday night, its a hot one this week, and the beer will be flowing, so head down there to check it all out!!
Who: A whole bunch of artists in the book, and Ruskidd and Loadz doing live art What: Figments book launch Where: Trunk bar 275 Exhibition St, Melbourne When: Launch is on Thursday evening 16th January 2013, from 4pm to 8pm – one night only!!
Once again David Russell has put together all of his favourite photos that he’s taken over the past month from around the streets of Melbourne – an absolute fine collection of work in this one, brilliant.
Invurt webzine provides information on AustralAsian street, urban, illustrative, graffiti and other genre defying, nu-contemporary art to readers around the world. It specialises in events and artists who are working, displaying and visiting Australasia – particularly with a focus on exhibitions, live art and other events the artists are partaking in.