Amongst my travels over the last few months, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and visiting with a whole bunch of artists. Last week I had the chance to catch up with two favourites, The Yok and Sheryo in their Brooklyn studio as they prepare for their upcoming exhibition "Pipe Dreams" (we posted a whole bunch of photos from their Mexico adventures not too long ago also).
Not only was I able to get a great interview with the pair of them (for the next issue of Damnit! Magazine), but I was also able to get an awesome preview of the show in the works …
"Krause Gallery is pleased to present the highly anticipated exhibition of recent works by Brooklyn-based duo Sheryo and the Yok. While previously seen in group exhibitions, Pipe Dreams marks their first solo show in the United States since establishing the city as their primary residence last year.
Working with varying painting techniques, the artists have culled together collaborative pieces that represent their shared life together. From their nomadic travels the past year to in-jokes with their friends in New York, the Yok and Sheryo seamlessly combine their adventures into every detail of their work.
For example, their hand painted vases combine eastern & western elements to portray the values of ideology, devotion, relationships, dharma and karma, depicting a narrative from the rich tales of their journey.
From their fun filled art renderings with Chinese dragons, pipes, and geishas intermixing with the New York culture, Sheryo and the Yok put their own illustrative styles on imagery as they re-interpret the traditional folklore and fables of old Chinese times while injecting their own personal stories with their iconic styles.
Their most recent body of work for their upcoming show at Krause Gallery is full of adventure and intrigue as they departed the United States for countries like Cambodia, Vietnam and Indonesia. By traveling to their native countries as well as a few places in between, Sheryo and the Yok characterize their formative life experiences with the memories that are being made together. Another example of this can be seen in their newest body of work; after returning from warm Mexico to the rain and snow of New York they used their cartoons to reflect on the sunnier days behind them; beer, Spanish icons and surf boards began to be a part of each piece.
For their solo show at the gallery they will also be creating hand painted ceramic plates, vases, painted pieces on paper and canvases, a surprise installation downstairs along with Limited Edition one color 25” x 19” high quality screen prints. Pipe Dreams is a must see for any street art enthusiast or talent seeker of any kind."
Also check out the rad video that they’ve put out with some of the plate and vase action in it all …
Here is all the details for the show – and check out the gallery down below for a great preview of the show and a bunch of shots from around their studio! Also, check out the catalogue of all the work in the show – amazing.
Who: The Yok & Sheryo What: Pipe Dreams Where: Krause Gallery, 149 Orchard St, New York City When: Show opens Thursday 16th May from 7pm til 9pm and runs for a month.
We’ve been hot on the trail of Paul Deej’s work for quite some time – we interviewed him way back in 2010 and since then he has had some damn fine shows. This time, Deej hits Kurb Gallery in Perth for what may be his best yet – Harlequins.
"On Saturday the 27th of April, Kurb Gallery in Northbridge will play host to the third solo art exhibition by accomplished Perth artist Paul Deej, entitled “Harlequins”.
“Harlequins” marks the end to a series of artworks recently completed, exploring the theme of the female clown, or “harlequin”, in an array of styles, moods and mixed media. Always on the quest to capture the beauty of the female form and face, he has created a body of colourful and bold work that represents his love of comic book and street art, while adding a graphic designer’s touch. In the past 3 years since his highly successful first exhibition “Nicely Toasted” at ABD The Gallery in Northbridge, Deej has worked diligently and shown pieces in a plethora of exhibitions locally and nationally. His last solo show was the successful “El Deejo” Exhibition at The Grey Door Gallery in Claremont in late 2011.
About The Artist
Paul Deej has been a professional Artist, Illustrator and Graphic Designer for 12 years. Originally known for working within the digital realm, around 3 years ago he started painting canvas and murals in the traditional style of acrylic paint and aerosol, and found he had a overwhelming desire to capture his minds eye on this raw medium based in reality rather than a computer screen.
With a short time on the gallery scene, Deej has been a part of 20 solo and group shows within the past three years.
Deej has also made a name for himself over the years as a part of the ever growing Australian Hip Hop community in Perth and the eastern states, creating literally hundreds of event posters for local and interstate acts as well as many award winning album covers. Deej is also closely affiliated with the West Australian music collective known as Syllabolix.
With a passion for throwing around paint and a workaholic attitude for creating artwork, there is plenty more on the way from this esteemed Perth artist"
We’re looking forward to this one – its been a little bit since the last mad show in Perth, and this one is going to rock!
Who: Paul Deej What: Harlequins solo show Where: Kurb Gallery, 312a William St, Northbridge, Perth WA When: The exhibition runs for one week only, from Saturday April 27th until Friday May 3rd.
We had news last week that one of Indonesias top street artists, Darbotz, will be heading down to Melbourne to have a solo show later this month. We’ve seen a bit of Darbotz work before, but we’re even more excited after having followed up on it all, and got a bit more info on the show from the guys at MiFA Asian Pacific Contemporary Art. This is going to be one rad show. Read on, and check it all out …
“Darbotz, one of Indonesia’s most loved graffiti artists will be presenting his first solo exhibition of street art in Melbourne. He is fast becoming one of the Asia Pacific’s most prolific street artists, and his growing reputation is brewing in the Melbourne street art scene.
Darbotz is an artist based in Jakarta, a complicated, hectic city drowning in colours and chaos. He tries to rescue the dirty streets of Jakarta by transforming walls with captivating images of his squid monster and hybrid squid King Kong monster.
The works from Monster Inside Us bring the streets of Jakarta into the gallery. Each piece shows how disturbances in the city and modern conveniences can create a monster within us.
He describes the brick wall as a ‘silent witness in every city’ as it is transformed by each person who decides to change it. Whether it is with posters and paint, or new construction and demolition. The wall becomes part-monster contributing to the chaos of a modern city, and yet, part-story teller, changing the stories on its surface over time.”
Take a look at a few more images of Darbotz work and skip down to the details of the show below!
Who: Darbotz What: Monster Inside Us solo show Where: MiFA Asian Pacific Contemporary Art, Level 1, 278 Collins Street, Melbourne Victoria, Australia. When: Show opens 28th March 2013 – 3rd May 2013. Hours Wednesday to Friday 10 to 5.30pm Sat 2- 6pm. Or by appointment
Well, we just posted up an article for Drewfunks upcoming show this morning, and no sooner did we have it up than he went and sent us some preview images! Instead of bundling it in, we decided that it deserves it own little preview post .. so, two in one day, thats double the funk right there!
Eddie Zammit has to be one our favourite people – his enthusiasm is infectious, his creativity is unbound, and, well, his t-shirt collection kicks absolute fkn ass over anyones. As the mastermind behind T-World, Eddie has teamed up with the girls from just Another Agency to present Melbourne with something that only those who went to Outpost Festival last year have had a chance to see – a snapshot of his amazing collection of shirts right in the heart of the city, at the NGV studio in Fed Square.
“Since 1990, T-shirt culture has boomed worldwide, but Melbourne really got started in the ‘80s.
A joint collaboration between Just Another, NGV Studio and T-world, TEES: Exposing Melbourne’s T-shirt culture examines and dissects the last 25 years of the city’s graphics on cotton through the eyes of avid T-shirt collector Eddie Zammit. Zammit digs into his 4,500+ tee collection to uncover influential items that demonstrate the power of Melbourne’s T-shirt past and its future direction.”
This isn’t, however, your run of the mill show. Although the shirts comprise a large portion of it all, the team behind TEES has presented it in such a way that it brings focus to those individuals and collectives who have, over many years, strived to create new and exciting wearable art for the masses. Tshirts, urban, low brow and street art intermesh in many ways – something about the near DIY attitude of it, and then utilising that attitude to propel your creations onto a public-facing canvas has changed the face of modern art over the past few decades.
Thus, like street art and graffiti, T-shirts as a form of public artwork are quite unlike works within a gallery – their often subliminal manifestations form a part of our environment, they can either grab your attention right away, force their presence upon you, or leave an impression in the corner of your mind – whispering their style and form to your subconscious, erupting without warning upon free associations or recognition.
That the TEES crew are now taking these works of art and placing them in the gallery, it is the former, in your face presence that is the aim – and when viewed in this context, their collective power is manifest. The question between whether these works are art unto themselves (they are), or merely a medium of conveyance (they are) is inconsequential – when you are dealing with a movement that dwars almost every other modern art movement, then who really gives a fuck about such philosophies?
Okay, so I’ve rambled a bit – but I love t-shirts so much that its justified fkn rambling, right?!
The stories behind all of these wearable works is a hugely important aspect of TEES, and as a part of the show, the ever amazingly talented Nicole Reed has photographically documented some of the leaders in the field – and these images and visages bring even more context to the show. They are, as always, beautifully done, and we have a whole bunch of preview shots below …
Head down to the opening night this Friday, or at any time over summer – it will be on for a little while over xmas, and it really is something that everyone should go and check out whilst they are in the city.
Who: Eddie Zammits amazing collection of t-shirts What: I Love Tees – T-shirt exhibition Where: NGV Studio Space, The Atrium, Federation Square, Melbourne When: Now until February 17th 2013. Launch party will be this Friday 14th December from 6pm!
Not so long ago, we were following Meggs on his exploits across the seas, with his show at White Walls Gallery in San Fransisco – Truth In Myth. Having seen all the photos from the opening, the work, and the walls that were painted in between and amongst it all, we really wished that we had of seen it – here was Meggs, painting one of our favourite topics, in the way that only he can – beautifully – we wanted to be there!
So, obviously, we were pretty ecstatic when we saw the news that he would, indeed, be holding a show just like his San Fran show, and that it would continue the themes and amazing works from within it in a whole new collection, aptly titled, of course, Truth In Myth II.
"After a successful residency and solo exhibition with WhiteWalls Gallery in San Francisco, Meggs returns to his hometown melbourne for ‘Truth in Myth II’at Backwoods Gallery in Collingwood.
Fusing elements of contemporary superheroes to ancient mythological beings, ‘Truth in Myth II’is a collection of new artworks that expressively reference classic renaissance composition and contemporary pop culture. A continuation of Meggs search for balance and the understanding of physical and idealogical duality in self.
“We live in the stories we tell ourselves. In a secular, scientific rational culture lacking in any convincing spiritual leadership, superhero stories speak loudly and boldly to our greatest fears, deepest longings and highest aspirations… the best superhero stories deal directly with mythic elements of the human condition… they help us confront and resolve even the deepest existential crisis. We should listen to what they have to tell us.”
- Grant Morrison, ‘Supergods’ , Spiegal & Grau, New York USA, 2011
Any Backwoods show is a must see, just as any show from Meggs is as well. The man has, over the past few years, elevated his work to a level that is on par with the greats of Australian street-turned-fine artists, and you’d be highly remiss if you didn’t get down there to check it all out.
See you Friday – and, in the meantime, get a glimpse of what is to be seen …
Who: Meggs What: Truth In Myth II Where:Backwoods Gallery, 25 Easey St, Collingwood, VIC When: Show opens Friday 19th October from 6pm til 9pm, show runs til 28th October.
There are a whole load of great crews here in Melbourne, but it is without even a shred of doubt that AWOL is amongst the leaders here in our fair city. We say “can’t miss” here a lot, but this show .. man, this show …
“Since forming in 2006, the AWOL crew have pushed themselves and their work, both individually and collectively, to a unique level of artistic elevation. Permeating the boundaries between fine and underground art forms, Adnate, Deams, Itch, Li-Hill, Lucy Lucy and Slicer have, over recent years, consistently produced a variety of evolutionary and inspirational work. In doing so, they have garnered a widespread audience of admirers.
As a collective, the AWOL Crew are widely recognized for their ability to work as a single entity, their styles complimenting and invigorating each others work. Separately, each of their individual characteristics are defined by obsessions and styles, however a distinct, dynamic, fabric exists which allows their work to weave together into a seamless, creative force.
This flowing theme of “Fabric” is explored, not only via their collaborative methods, but also with their relationship with a constantly deteriorating urban landscape. The graffiti infused, aesthetic values contained within the works in Fabric convey a unique sense of exploration, resulting in a collection that is physically distant from the origins of the artists work on the streets, yet still remaining true to their original approach.
Fabric reaches far beyond the bounds of its individual members work, and presents, for all intents and purposes, the debut “solo show” from the AWOL Crew. Together again in their entirety for the first time since the creation of the NGV Studio mural in 2011, Fabric will see the AWOL crew embark on a new journey of collaborative exposition.”
AWOL have also released a teaser video for the show – and its a damn good one.
I think I’ll just leave you with the preview image of the actual space below, I reckon that’ll be enough to whet your appetite for more … I seriously can’t fkn wait.
Who: AWOL Crew – Deams, Adnate, Slicer, Lucy Lucy, Li-Hill, Itch What: Fabric – AWOL crew solo show Where: Secret location in Melbourne. Register to receive address at: http://www.awolfabric.com. Exhibition location will be publicly released at 9:00am Saturday October 27 on the following websites: http://www.awolcrew.com – http://www.awolfabric.com – http://www.facebook.com/awolcrew When: Opening Friday October 26 7:00pm – 10:00pm (by registration) – show open to the general public Saturday October 27 10:00am – 6:00pm and Sunday October 28 10:00am – 6:00pm
Late last year, we heard about a great little humanitarian project put on by a group of artists – Little Lotus. Having attained their fundraising goal, the artist then headed over to the Thailand/Burmese border to teach art to a whole slew of children in need – the results of which were extraordinary, and touching.
That, however, wasn’t the end of it. Not only have they also produced a short documentary of the whole project, but the artists involved, and a bunch of their friends, are now putting on a show in Wellington at the New Zealand Portrait Gallery – read on for a whole heap of cool stuff about it …
"[Little Lotus exhibition was] largely inspired by our recent trip in the border of Thailand and Burma, where 13 artists from the US and NZ got together to be volunteer art teachers last December 2011. We painted murals and taught art classes to these beautiful kids, who work at the nearby rubbish dump, or had been orphaned by AIDS or rescued from trafficking.
Around 30 artists have contributed to the exhibit, including Askew, Misery, Peap, Flox, and Sofia Minson. Artists who took part in the 2011 project and will be part of the exhibit include international artists Sheryo, The Yok, Drypnz, Angry Woebots, Meghan Geliza and J-Rryu.
The Little Lotus Project documentary and EP will also be released on the night, as well as photography from Pat Shepherd, Cleo Barnett and James Bushell, and drawings by the Burmese kids themselves. All proceeds will go to the ongoing welfare of these kids.
Also, check out the newly released Little Lotus documentary below …
Also check out a few of the pics from the whole project and a little preview of Meghan Gelizas work for the show – love it.
Who: Askew, Misery, Peap, Flox, and Sofia Minson, Sheryo, The Yok, Drypnz, Angry Woebots, Meghan Geliza, J-Rryu & more. Photography from Pat Shepherd, Cleo Barnett and James Bushell, and drawings by the Burmese kids themselves. What: Little Lotus Exhibition Where: New Zealand Portrait Gallery (Shed 11), Wellington, NZ When: Exhibition opens Friday October 12th and runs until October 18th.
This is only a very small slice of some of the fucking magic that we’ve seen shaping up over the past few weeks, as Itch has been slowly but surely creating a huge body of work to fill both rooms at RTIST Gallery.
Master of aerosol, brilliant painter, amazing illustrator. Itch has a way of both viewing the world, as well as visualising it through his art, that allows anyone to tap in to a shared manifold of a hitherto hidden continuum between the real and surreal. This isn’t so much a journey, as it is a black ops invasion of fantasy, fiction and lucid dreaming upon the minds eye.
This show moves amongst a wide variety of avenues, but the central theme of illusion and images within images pervades it – and there is no deviation.
We’ve always loved artwork that involves repurposed artwork, and Itch has carried off this portion of the show with a masterful deftness. Some of our favourites are a mini collection of these repurposed images, like this one below.
There are also quite a few works on wood, filled with various xenofloric life; colourful, enticing and entirely otherworldly.
Then of course, well, then there is the detail. These images are a very small portion of one of the larger pieces in the show – and, well, a photo of this work just couldn’t do it justice - one of our these two images represent perhaps 5% of the entire work. It’s one of our favourites, and when you see it as a whole, you’ll understand what we mean.
There are over thirty works in Itchs show, not counting the walls he’s in the midst of painting. None of these images event cover the lightboxes, or the strangely macabre yet beautiful sculpture we saw – or the fact that almost all of these works have hidden aspects within them. This really is a show with multiple realities to it and, well, there’s some magic amongst it all as well.
And, like any kind of magic, it’s something that must be witnessed, not described.Those of you with glasses? Trade them out for the evening, and wear your contact lenses – trust me.
It’s only been a little over a year and a half since we ran our feature interview with Heesco, yet it feels like much longer. This may be because in that time, Heesco has pushed his work at such a rapid rate that it has now evolved into an entirely different beast from when we first spoke to him.
Though still holding all of the essence of his previous work, his upcoming show Manifest will be a new exploration. Taking the ideas and the manifestations of his passion for art and popular culture, and meshing them with themes derived from Mongolian culture and street art, this week he will be presenting it all on the walls of RTIST Gallery.
Since moving to Melbourne from Sydney, Heesco has worked on a vast number of projects and been involved in several group shows, notably Surface Tension at aMBUSH Gallery and our recent show, Paperape, amongst others. He also won last years Sydney Secret Walls competition, painted a huge amount of murals, from Melbourne Central, The Cullen Hotel, Outpost Project and the laneways and streets of Melbourne. He has also been the subject of several short videos, including the below tribute to Tibet.
As a good friend of Heescos, I’ve had a lot of chances to see him at work over the past year, and have come to thoroughly admire his dedication, hard work and “just paint” attitude.
I’ve also been blessed to have the chance to follow Heesco through the process of working on this latest show, from concept to implementation, and, quite simply, it has blown me away.
There’s no doubt that one of the biggest impacts on Heescos artistic practice over the past year has been his move into the Blender studios. Nestled in a surreptitious laneway off Franklin street in the heart of the city, Blender has for ten years now been the bastion of underground art in Melbourne. Artists from all walks of life have entered its highly vaulted walls through an ever evolving painted laneway, (a historical site unto itself), to reside, paint, party or just hang out with friends who may be residents there.
Blenders open plan style lends itself to continual feedback, and its highly social environs has given Heesco the ability to flourish and to dedicate his free time to painting and developing, in addition to his already powerful repertoire, new techniques and styles in order to take his work further that he has ever taken it before. Of course, being a fairly open plan space, sometimes a few gentle reminders to respect the space have to be put in place!
The majority of times we’ve visited Heesco over the past few months in the studio, he has been sitting in the same spot, painting image upon image. Some of the pieces he has completed are able to bring out the essence of his subjects with a masterfully deft touch – knowing the subject below personally, I can safely say that he’s captured her beautifully.
From portraits and a new reverse stencil technique, paint and spray, we’re pretty excited about it all. Personally, though, one of our favourite parts of what we’ve seen coming up are the lightbox images that he’s been working on – they’re detailed, golden and gorgeous.
Follow on for the rest of the images of his process, and a sneak peak at some of the lighbox works he’s been etching out.
There’s no doubt that this is going to be a great show, and we’ll be there with bells on.
The other night, I had the pleasure to drop in at RTIST Gallery to check out the preparations for DAL East and Faith47s show, Antenna Garden. Undaunted by the sudden cold snap, the rain, and a misbehaving iphone recorder, we ended up at Ladro on Greville street as they took a very brief break from the busy task of setting up the show. Over a hot meal, they filled me in on what they’d been up to, their art, this first show that they have done together, and their future plans.
Over the next coming days, we’ll be putting together a full feature piece on both Faith47 and DAL East from all the chats we’ve had with them. In the meantime, here’s a couple of preview images from tonight’s show, as well as some great shots that Faith47 provided us of her wall down at the Cullen Hotel in Prahran. Never fear, DAL East will also be painting up in Prahran before he heads off as well …
Head down tonight to check it all out for yourself, and stay tuned for the full feature piece!
These days, there are plenty of great shows on in Perth – and this year we’re betting that there’s going to be some crazy cool shit going on, like this one we saw the other day from tattoo, graff and illustrative artist Mike*D.
We contacted Mike the other day to get a bit more of the lowdown on his show, and not only did he tell us a bit about it, but he was kind enough to send us a few preview images as well.
"In these works I’m exploring the aesthetics usually found in the realm of arts. For the past few years I’ve been involved in the art of tattooing – being surrounded by art all the time is awesome, and it has also exposed me to lot more imagery.
The work is what I’m finding enjoyable to produce at the moment. Pieces range in medium, some are acrylic on board, lead pencil on books. Then there’s aerosol and paint marker on denim, and some water colour and inks on paper."
Who: Mike*D What: Dermographic solo show Where: Kurb Gallery, 310 William Street, Northbridge When: Show opens Saturday the 4th February from 6pm, exhibition runs til the 10th February (The gallery is open between 11am and 3pm)
Check out Mike Ds blog over here, and get down to the show!
Sydney artist Bennett has been on our radar for some time – we actually interviewed him before his last show last year. He emailed us over the weekend with news of his next show that opens up this coming Saturday, "Can We Fly".
We’re big fans of Bennetts multilayered work, in his interview he said that he creates work by "re-contextualising and appropriation … pushing the viewer into making a decision or constructing their own opinion of a certain theme or scene." Looking through the preview images and the following video, we can’t help but love it even more.
The show itself will be held at Blank_Space Gallery, which we actually passed by when they had an opening the other weekend – it’s a nice intimate space in a great location, perfect for a show like this.
Who: Bennett What: Can We Fly solo show Where: Blank_Space Gallery, 371 Crown St, Surry Hills When: Show opens Saturday 4th February, from 12pm til 6pm – show will then continue to Friday 10th February.
CDH, a Melbourne street artist, recently sat down for a chat on behalf of Invurt with Harold Mitchell, philanthropist, business man, Melbournian of the year, and the man behind the highly anticipated and acclaimed Melbourne Underground project …
Harold Mitchell is one of Australia’s most successful businessmen. He is a dedicated philanthropist, serves on many arts and cultural boards and was named Melbournian of the year in 2011. In preparation for the interview, I read his autobiography ‘Living Large’ from which you quickly get the sense that he’s a quick witted and relaxed guy, but also a shrewd and resilient businessman.
When I arrived, he was reading in the waiting room. He was wearing matching red tracksuit pants and jacket, which was reminiscent of Ali G. Friendly and jovial, he immediately started cracking jokes and was just easy and disarming. He’s quite the opposite of the Donald Trump persona you might expect; he’s warm, open minded and considerate.
He recently dedicated his underground car park in South Melbourne to a graffiti art project: the Melbourne Underground Project. 90 artists have been invited to paint the three levels. International artists Ces and Nash were flown out for it. It’s similar to the five level car park project at the base of the Condor Tower in Perth, except the focus here is more on graffiti writing rather than street art.
When I ask if it will be repainted, in keeping with graffiti art’s urban renewal ethos he tells me “We won’t repaint it. You wouldn’t repaint the Sistine Chapel”. It’s a distinctly different approach from many other similar projects around the world. The intention is for the car park to serve as a permanent street art gallery in Melbourne. However after the opening weekend, once the novelty has passed, what will really happen? It seems more likely the large metal roller doors at the entrance to the car park will close and for the next thirty years the only people that will venture down there will be drivers going to park their cars – but this is precisely what is genius about the idea! The car park will serve as a time capsule for urban art from Melbourne, 2012. When people rediscover it in thirty years, it’s likely the majority of the urban art of 2012, on the street, will have been lost; tagged into oblivion, repainted by new artists or buffed by councils. It’s exciting to know that this cultural artefact will be preserved for future generations to be able to see original street art from our time, not just photographic catalogues on the internet. We will withhold a review of the space until it’s fully complete, but the concept at least is really inspired.
In the waiting area of his plush South Melbourne office, Harold has a copy of Banksy’s ‘Wall and Piece’ mixed amongst a variety of other magazines and books.
Oh, I have this book too. What do you think of it?
Harold: Oh it’s a good book. In fact I think we might make a book out of the Project Underground as well.
Can you tell us a bit about the project?
Harold: Yeah, well it’s a great story. One of clients (we have 2,000 clients in Australia; we’re Australia’s biggest advertising company) said to me at one time that the new building was fantastic, the staff were very pleased with it, aesthetically it looked good but he mentioned there weren’t enough car spaces for clients. So I walked down there. I owned the building with my family but I’d never been into the car park. Why would I? I walked in there and I thought he was right, and by the way this is really boring.
We run a whole host of things in advertising and creativity. I went to one of our companies who have a lot of street art on one of their own walls and said ‘Can you go and do something about our car park?’. They were really busy because they’re very successful.
Who is that?
Harold: Visual Jazz. They said ‘we’re really busy’ and I said ‘that’s great’. We want to be busy for our clients but we better do it some other way. I still thought it was a great idea to do it. I knew I wanted an Australian base to do it. I knew at the back of my mind, we’d been involved with Musée du quai Branly, which was a new museum that Chirac had put together in Paris. We had eight indigenous Australian artists who had contributed something to become part of the building. It’s a five or six storey building. It’s part of a very big museum. It’s within a kilometre of the Eiffel Tower. Our family had paid for the eight Australian artists to be part of that building. They are giant representations of their work. They didn’t actually paint them, but their designs were taken, copied and then became part of the building. And so that project was partly what we had in our mind, as something that will be permanent. I went there when Chirac came in it. To Stéphane Martin, their director, I said ‘This is great. It’ll be here for 20, 30 years.’ Stefan replied ‘Harold it will be here for 400 years.’ The point is the permanence of it.
So, I had that in the back of my mind. I said to one of our people, Anthony Charles (he’s very good at organizing things) we should organise the Project Underground to get Australian street artists to do it. I thought in the beginning there might be ten who would come and do something. In the end it took off, and we have people from all over Australia, 3 from Europe and 2 from New York. When you look at it, you’ll say ‘this is spectacular’. It’s permanent. It is art directed to some extent, so they fit together. It’s generally themed, but you’ll see that and work it out for yourself. We then quietly organized it over a period of about six months. We planned for three weekends in the month of January for the cars to be cleared out. It would follow from there that they would complete it. They all got so excited, meeting each other and getting on with the work that it was over halfway completed by the end of the first weekend. We had some publicity as a result of it, which we had expected, but it just took off in the beginning. We had to close all the doors because we had buses of people coming up wanting to have a look at it.
I came early to have a look at it, but it was all closed.
Harold: Well this is three floors. When you see it you’ll be blown away. And it’ll be permanent. Forever. Fabulous. And I didn’t tell them what to do or what not to do. Probably wouldn’t have got the best people to do that. Also they’ve respected it. It’s graffiti free pretty much around South Melbourne. These people respect that. They have got interesting backgrounds. One guy is an illustrator for Walt Disney and Marvel comics. Good people. Very exciting. It’s an expression of modern times, from people who respect modern times. It’s our way of being able to contain it, without it being up and down alley ways, which we’re not entirely opposed to if it’s approved and ok. This is a good way to do it.
You have an impressive record of supporting the arts in Melbourne. You’re a very highly regarded member of the community and served (among other things) as Chairman of the NGA, President of the Melbourne International Arts Festival, President of the Museum Board of Victoria, and as a board member of the Opera Australia Council.
Harold: There’s a lot of other stuff too.
[Laughing] I’m just hitting the highlights. Now you’re supporting street art through your Project Underground. Are you giving your endorsement to street art in Melbourne?
Harold: Where it’s legal, approved and proper of course.
But not in the case of unsolicited street art?
Harold: Never. Never. Where we can do it in a way that’s contained and appropriate we shouldn’t control it absolutely – but there’s some that I’m appalled with because it’s in inappropriate spots. After the first weekend we painted the carpark, we had someone who wasn’t one of the participants do a couple of signature pieces up one of the laneways here. I was appalled.
Tagging, is that what you mean?
Harold: Yes, tagging. I was appalled. It had disappeared within an hour. We knew who it was and he’d been spoken to. I thought it was inappropriate. How disrespectful of his fellow street artists, I would have thought. Here’s something that’s going to be looked at and enjoyed by many people and also relatively contained so it’s appropriate. One of the street artists goes to an alley way near by and just starts to do that. So that’s where I’m at – but as quickly as I decided to do this, I even quicker decided to paint over someone who had done something wrong.
Just to push this a little bit further; some street artists prefer to work illegally. So if an artist does something without permission, does that automatically make it vandalism? Does that mean it has no artistic merit or cultural value? Can it not be art?
Harold: Yes. It’s wrong. As far as I’m concerned it’s vandalism. I dealt with this tagging immediately.
Regardless of the quality, it makes no difference?
Harold: It makes no difference. We understand and respect that people want to be separated from society and make a statement. We understand that Banksy wants to do his in a way so that overnight secretly he arrives and the next morning there it is. Clever.
But in Banksy’s case, that would be vandalism then?
Harold: I wouldn’t say that. I think he probably knows where he’s doing it and it’s appropriate and right. I wouldn’t pre-judge Banksy. I think he just wants to make statements in his own way. So this is a project where we would like to know that Banksy was there. So we’ve left the premier spot right at the beginning free. And a sign will go at the beginning ‘left free for Banksy’. That’s the way we think we can approach it. He may come in one night and do it. He may not.
You obviously admire Banksy. So if Banksy came along and left something in the laneway, instead of in this free spot in the car park…
Harold: I wouldn’t want it. I’d paint over it straight away – but where I’ve left a spot for him, I’d accept it. So that’ll be an interesting challenge to see if he wants to do that. What do you reckon?
Ahh, I think he’s a pretty busy guy.
Harold: This is one of the biggest street art installations in the world, in one of the most creative cities in the world right now. It is an economic strong point with people who are very comfortable with their life and who they are. Where else would you do it if not Melbourne? I’m chairman of the MSO. We’re just about to lose of chief executive. He’s 42. I specially picked him from Houston. I wish him well and allowed him to accept a job as chief executive of the New York Philharmonic. How good is that? It’s exciting for everybody. For him, for Melbourne, for New York. That’s where Melbourne is. Banksy doesn’t want to come here, that’s ok with us.
Well he’s been here. Hopefully he’ll come again.
Harold: This’ll just be too much for him. I don’t know of anywhere that will look as spectacular as this. That is as encompassing of it and arguably has the best street artists all there. We got the guy from Perth with all the silver in his teeth (Stormie Mills), wonderful bloke.
You said in Living Large that you never stay too long in public roles …
Harold: Yeah the Opera is the exception. I was the Chairman of the museum for five years or so. National gallery, five years. I think what happens is the enthusiasm you bring creates success in the beginning, that wanes over time. Then you should help pick the person who will replace you and get out of the way.
So will street art advocacy be your new philanthropic public role?
Harold: No, no, no. I’m not adopting street art as the new religion for me. I’m turning a very boring car park into one of the most exciting car parks in the world. How good is that? I’m done with car parks now. I’ve only got one. I’m grateful to the street artists of the world for turning a boring car park into a place people want to go to. I guess people could hold parties in there. I know we’ll open it on the weekends from time to time for people to bring their kids in. So we should. I’m happy with that. Our staff talk about it. I’m happy about that. They bring their mum and dad and kids in. Probably a grandfather. Street art is exciting. You wait until you go and look at it all together.
I’ve heard street art described as a way of bringing art to the people.
Harold: Well that’s because it’s out in the streets, I suppose,but galleries are free. I think it’s just an expression of people in a different way. We’re sitting here with some of the greatest street art in the world. My office is filled with some of the greatest indigenous painting in the world. When you go to our office down the street, there’s a guy Tommy Watson. Tommy is 69 years old. Probably the greatest living Aboriginal artist. His artwork is expensive but they’re an expression of what he felt and did. They would paint those often on cave walls and in the sand. Over the last 30 years they’ve put them on more solid formats – but that was an expression of 1000 years plus of Australian indigenous people. What is street art but an expression of individuals? When you see what people have done it’s incredible. They’re all clever.
Melbournes street art is generally ranked among the top 5 cities in the world, while most of the ‘fine arts’ (the MSO, the Australian Ballet, Melbourne Opera) are considered mediocre in their respective fields on the world stage. Street art is inherently egalitarian while the fine arts are often labeled as elitist. Street art generates a lot of positive economic externalities in the form of tourism and adding to the liveability of the city. And yet the fine arts are subsidized to the tune of tens of millions of dollars a year by the taxpayer while street art is actively hindered by the state government.
Do you agree that there is a funding imbalance here? If so, what can street artists and our advocates do to redress this situation? So for example, how do we get to a situation where there might be state grants available for endeavours like your Project Melbourne Underground?
Harold: I think you need to put the arts into perspective with regard to public funding. It’s largely funded by the people. It’s not like Europe where it’s largely funded by government. Here it’s largely funded by private enterprise and the sale of tickets.
I actually have the data here. This is the public funding given to the arts by the Australia Council in 2009-2010 financial year. So for example orchestras were subsidized by the tax payers to the tune of almost $50M by public funds.
Harold: About a third of their operating cost. It’s half what happens in Europe. I just completed a major review for the Federal Government. So what’s your point?
When other branches of the arts are subsidised like this, why isn’t their funding for legal street art projects? How can we get to a situation where there are similar subsidies for things like your Underground Project?
Harold: But why should there be?
Why should there be tax payer subsidies for the MSO or the Australian Ballet? Why these selected arts and not street art? I feel like street is stigmatised by this bad publicity and it means it doesn’t qualify for arts funding like other fields.
Harold: I don’t agree with that. I’ve been sitting here for a week with people enjoying this street art in my car park and no one has said to me ‘this is bad’. Everyone has smiled every time they thought about it. No one has expected anything other than that this would be done by the people and funded by the people (ie, I’m one of the people).
But you’re not the people – you’re a private person who has ponied up this cash for this one project. I think it’s a great project. I love that you’ve done this – but why aren’t our civic institutions supporting street art in Melbourne? Why is it just private individuals who have to do everything?
Harold: Happens all the time. You look at the arts and dig right into it and find all the individual philanthropy that no one talks about. I won’t talk about my own case, but I have been supporting individual artists in many places all over the world. It’s wrong to pull out something where over a long period of time society has wanted ballet companies, orchestras and it would have been very hard for them to get started and so government decided that they will assist the people and the culture by giving support. That happens in many different ways. You could contrast symphony orchestras with the fact that a greater sum of money is paid to support the orchestras, bands and musicians in our defense forces. They receive a greater support that our symphony orchestras do. No one seems to have a problem with that. It’s part of the way society is.
I don’t know that street artists actually want their help.
I think many street artists would take financial assistance if it was offered. I don’t think all would but I think many would.
Harold: I’ve dealt with them up closely. They’ve given their time and their effort beyond what you’d imagine. We’ve met some of their costs. Project Underground will come in at a quarter of a million dollars. That’s ok. They all understand that we pay for the airfare of international people coming in. That was a good thing to do. So I don’t believe that the tax payers dollar needs to support many other things. Then taxes just keep going up. Society doesn’t want that to happen. They vote people out who do that, so it just doesn’t happen. So you’ve got to have a balance. Australia has to continue to have a very good policy of helping ourselves. That’s not helping ourselves to the tax. That’s just helping ourselves. There are so many places where you would see the arts supported by the people. You can pick out some examples of symphony orchestras which are supported. Now it’s a very minor amount of the total amount that finally gets used to run the organization. I don’t believe that street art needs government taxpayer support. Equally I’m pretty certain that the street artists don’t want it. They’d do this anyway, because they do. You won’t get me going on that one.
By the way, you were wrong about the standing of Australian cultural groups like the Australian Ballet. The MSO is about to be invited to play at the Edinburgh festival. Not a bad effort. The MSO played the White Nights Festival in St Petersburg; one of twelve orchestras in the world that went there in 2001. My family paid for it, that’s how I know that. This is what I do, so I know.
By the way, in 1901 Australia had the highest per capita income in the world. Over the next seven years we bought over one third of all the great masters paintings that were ever sold in the world. One third. They are down the road in the National Gallery of Victoria.
But there’s no Europeans or Americans coming to Melbourne specifically to visit the NGV. Not when they have the Guggenheim, Moma the Louvre or the Tate just down the road – but a lot of tourists do come here for the street art. Tourist guides rank it as the number 1 free tourist attraction in the city. It’s a draw card.
Harold: I’m not sure how you balance my comment I just made about the NGV. Not a bad effort is it? A lot of people from the northern hemisphere don’t understand that the southern hemisphere is here. I run Australia’s biggest advertising company. We’re less that 0.3% of the world’s population. We have 5% of the world’s advertising. We have the largest per capita advertising in the world. You try to tell that to someone in New York. What? Where? Didn’t you win the America’s cup? It’s the dilemma of who and what we are down here but we’re very comfortable with ourselves.
Separate things have emerged here like the comedy that grew out of comedy halls thirty or forty years ago. They all did it for nothing. Around here we had a recording studio. Johnny Farnham used to record here. South Melbourne was the home to some of our greatest advertising people. They’d work for next to nothing. That’s the way that art works. I used to drive Peter Carey to work why? Because his wife had the car. One of our great writers, who won the Booker Prize many times over. You don’t need to subsidize great creativity because history has shown that it has never happened. Equally because it is invasive of society it needs to be handled with great care. I’m respectful and in awe of street artists and equally respectful of society and the fact that they want order in the streets. I think I’ve got it ok in my head anyway. I don’t want tax payers to have street artists in streets where they shouldn’t be. And I’m pretty certain, nor do the street artists.
When we had the one isolated incident of one street artist using out alleyways to tag, you know what happened? They told us who it was.
One of the other street artists told you who it was?
Harold: Yes. They weren’t happy. Not a bad effort is it, on behalf of all the people you represent. They understood it. One out of all the people there; he just wanted to make a statement. Who was unhappiest? The fellow street artists because they see the project as being so good. It’s one of the best things to ever happen to street art. We just have to work out how the people are going to get to see it. I had a boring car park. Street artists are incredible people. I’ve given them an opportunity to prove how credible they are.
Melbourne is not usually considered the best city in the world for street art (compared to San Francisco, Berlin or Sao Paolo) but it’s not far behind them. In fact pipping many of these cities to become number one seems well within reach. What would it be worth to Melbourne to be at the head of an art movement? Not just in economic terms but in cultural terms as well.
Harold: No, I’m not getting into that one. If I encourage it as a destination because of street art it means that more of our streets will be covered with it. If the Melbourne City Council organises it, and says it’s ok, then I’m ok with that – but I think the Underground Project will have added to pushing us up the ladder. It’s 3 floors. Someone will copy it soon enough. Just to see the excitement of the people doing it, when they were doing, it was fabulous. Three floors of these people, just being so excited and talking to each other as they do it. We supplied them with a big box of spray paints. I said to one of them ‘You’ve probably never had anything like this.’ He replied ‘No it’s fantastic’. I am just in awe of how they do it.
I don’t know how they found them all, we had one guy who decided upon the artists and organised them all.
We will have a whole bunch of photos from Melbourne Underground when it is all released – for now, you can also check out some previews on the Just Another Agency blog, Kompound and Everfresh! We’d also like to note that Sirum and Esky had a big hand in helping to curate the artists for the project, and they did an amazing job at that – kudos!
Over the last few days, D*FACE has been traversing the streets, pasting up and leaving his mark on the ‘burn in the leadup to his show at Metro Gallery tomorrow night. Accordingly, much of it was documented along the way … the team at Bright Things TV caught up with him on Saturday and sent us through some great shots …
That man about town, who seems to capture everything and anything thats happening, Dean Sunshine, also got a whole slew of great images from his visit.
With his solo show “New” opening tomorrow night, Ed Bechervaise brings Unwell Bunny to Prahrans Rtist Gallery. We interviewed Ed earlier in the year before his last show, “Fast Forward”, and we were stoked when he sent us a range of images highlighting the process behind his “New” body of work.
So read on for all the preview pics, as well as a bunch of cool words on the philosophy of the work and what to expect – its gunna be a grand night at Rtist Gallery!
“This show ‘New’ is really just highlighting how we live right now – the speed in which we move, and the rate in which things come and go.
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.