This post is something a little different to the norm. We ummm’ed and ahhhh’ed about the format for ages, should we transcribe it, should we make a video, should we edit it, should we chop it into smaller clips? We ended up deciding to just post it as is (with some work on the sound levels). It was such a special experience for us, it felt like we were watching a documentary.
To start off with, we have to thank Dean Sunshine. Dean took Futura on a street tour of Melbourne the day before. As you will hear, it was the best tour he’s done to date and he really loves Melbourne. He’s also a big fan of invurt which you’ll hear about too! Check out Dean’s photos from the day on his blog here.
We were called up for our turn, waiting in club 23 (which Hennessy had booked exclusively for Futura) at Crown.
It’s funny. We planned and planned this interview, and just before we sat down we heard Futura speaking to some other members of the press. He’s such a captivating speaker. Impromptu we decided we would just sit down and have a conversation with him. And while I had my list of questions handy, I didn’t have to ask one of them, Futura covered off basically every thing we wanted to ask.
It was possibly one of the most amazing conversations I’ve had with anyone from the scene, ever. I mean this man is a god father, he’s seen it all come and go and he’s still keeping it real.
We were also blessed to hear about the person behind the artist. We spoke intimately about his family and friends and some of his other passions; photography and exploring new cities.
Anyway, you’ll understand after listening! Kick back, grab a beer, have a listen and enjoy! Also check out the mad shots by David Russell below.
The thing is, though, is that after the Jill Meagher tribute piece in Hosier Lane was painted over, the media (and many other media outlets) in all their “cant get news right” wisdom actually attributed a completely different piece as having painted over it.
“News” outlets such as the Herald Sun made a big song and dance about it, skerricked up some lame quote from someone who occasionally walks through the lane, as well as one from Robert Doyle, and made it out as if the piece being painted over was a terrible, heinous act by a bunch of vandals. Even worse, was that they didn’t even get onto the story until a week after the piece had actually initially been painted over – by then, they had already missed the story. Instead they decided to publish an image that wasn’t the correct piece, and then attempted to vilify a group of artists because they had painted graffiti over … a piece of graffiti.
The real story, however, was that the wall had initially been reclaimed by a bunch of awesome female artists paying both homage and respect to the “tribute” piece in the best way possible – by bringing attention to the plight of those affected by violence and sexual abuse. If anything was appropriate to replace that tribute to Jill Meagher, it was what these ladies did. Then, when you think it couldn’t get any worse, was that when the media outlets that reported on it were given the real story, they completely ignored it. It was no longer news to them, they’d all already magic’ed up their own sensationalist version of the truth and moved on to the next “news” cycle.
Imagine our surprise.
This story speaks for itself, directly from the artists who painted over the Jill Meagher tribute piece in Hosier lane two weeks ago. Unlike the Herald Suns, Channel 7, 3AW “news”, The Irish Times and The Suns (to name just a few) hugely incorrect version, this is what really happened down at Hosier Lane.
Please read on, and share it around – not just for the reason that it is the real story, but for fact that it is a wonderful act by a group of women who wanted to bring attention to the terrible actions of the darker side of humanity, and those who suffer because of them.
For the record a group of five women reclaimed that wall on Friday 26th October at 5pm. Why? Because it was our right, and to be perfectly honest, no-one else had the courage to do it.
After the tragic death of Jill Meagher, a visiting graffiti tourist decided it would be a nice gesture to show his respect by painting his condolences on a world famous wall – which at the time was covered with some of the most technically amazing, and aesthetically beautiful graffiti that Melbourne has ever been fortunate enough to see.
The irony is that this simple act showed an absolute disrespect to the artists whom he went over, as well as to the local Melbourne graffiti community. The mainstream media took hold of the story and ran with it. The Melbourne City council even proposed to ‘protect’ it.
Meanwhile, I decided that something had to be done about it. How dare this mural remain in my city? How dare the general population of Melbourne glorify a victim of sexual violence by sensationalizing an illegal graffiti mural? I was really fucking angry. I reached out to my local network of female graffiti artists and proposed that we reclaim the space during the official Reclaim The Night march on the last Friday of October. We took it back as a protest against sexual violence on women and children, and we took it back so that beautiful ephemeral art could once again be created on that wall for all to see.
Since that Friday night, several artists have painted on the wall. Unfortunately some of those artists were blamed for vandalizing the RIP Jill mural. I contacted each and every one of those online and printed news article journalists to provide our story and explain the reasons behind the re-paint, but not one of them wanted to hear it. Mainstream media don’t want the truth, they want sensationalism.
You know what? Fuck them! We own the streets and we will paint whatever we like on them.
You’ve heard my side of the story, here’s what the other ladies had to say.
I wanted to paint Hosier Lane because it’s the graff community’s wall.
It’s nice to be able to relax and paint in the city sometimes before work and it’s awesome to check out new pieces. 20 metres of wall, taken away from us permanently, was just wrong – the fact it was just a stomper which covered some really burner pieces, is just disrespectful. It’s one less spot to paint and that RIP mural belonged on the lines really.
We left Jill’s name anyway, 1m of wall for a tribute is fine with me.
I’m annoyed at the media for publishing an incorrect story. The family is probably feeling worse now because they’re being told that the stone placed where the body was found was removed and the tribute art was painted over. The media have done more damage than good (no surprises there). If they had the real story, they would have known the pieces covering the art was not only for Jill but for all women. It has also portrayed some graffiti artists as cold hearted – which simply isn’t the case. When the public and police saw us painting over the art and knew the reason, they were very understanding and supportive.
We all dream of a better world where violence and abuse is unheard of, unfortunately this is not the case. It happens on a daily basis to women of all shapes and age. Nearly two thirds (57%) of Australian women will experience assault in some form in their life time which develops long-term effects on all relationships and within the community. Quite clearly this is too much, this needs to be stopped. When I was invited to paint hosier lane on behalf of ‘Reclaim The Night’ I was wholeheartedly involved as this is an issue close to home. This was an opportunity to give me a voice and to use public space at night without fear, this should be an everyday right. We are all human and we all bleed red just because of gender, someone should not put restrictions on their lifestyle.
On the matter of painting over the RIP Jill mural, this was by no means any disrespect to her or her family, this was to raise awareness to the real and unfortunate attacks on women that occur on a daily basis. Traditionally Reclaim The Night is a march, however my interpretation is to say that we are never to blame for rape or violence. Those who commit the crimes are to be blamed, we demand the right to be able to live without fear and demand for an end to sexual violence so we can enjoy our freedom.
Reclaim the Night is a annual worldwide march by woman for woman. Victims of rape, mental or physical abuse and domestic violence need to stand tall together and demand our human rights as females, and to feel safe in our streets. Painting over this mural with female graffiti artists was in respect to what happened to Jill Meagher and all woman of all countries who have been sexually violated. This act of painting was to speak out to woman and girls that rape and violence is not on and needs to be stopped now.
When I was approached with this idea, I was honored to be able contribute and help raise awareness of ‘Reclaim the Night’ – what better place to spread the word and have the opportunity to speak to others passing by than Hosier Lane.
I hope a message was sent out to the public that what we did was not a sign of disrespect for painting over the mural, but simply a way of raising awareness to others in the community to speak out and help one another. Woman and young girls should absolutely feel safe walking Melbourne streets alone. We left the ‘Jill’ section of the wall out of respect to her and her family, and it is sad to see that the next artists to paint the wall went over this. I hope that more people will choose to join the annual marches and tell their friends about it. We need more woman standing up for our rights and to help stop Violence against Woman.
I wanted to keep drawing on the media coverage of this repulsive act, that women and children, even men, are being sexually violated by predators and unjustly victimised by persons of the law.
The bottom line is we should be safe in our streets, that’s our right no matter what age, sex, social status, mental state, attire or anything else the law can put in the mix that ‘forced’ predators to act in this way.
Reclaim your right, reclaim your night!
(Please click on the image above for a detailed view of the actual work that replaced the Jill Meagher Tribute Piece)
Ed. We’d like to say a big thankyou to Joske, Lilar, Maiden, Skies and Moisel for sending us through this story. We wish that the media had of actually paid attention to this, and we share your disgust at how the whole thing was handled by them – why invent the truth when the real story is so much more important?
We hope that your words find their way to all those who need to read them.
Last week saw the opening of Stormie Mills latest solo show, People & Places, at Melbournes Metro Gallery.
As to be expected, Stormie brought his “A game”, with a delectable array of his stylised, emotive characters spread across the walls of the gallery.
Something else we loved, was the “cityscape” piece that heralded the show – this piece was different – we saw something like this of his in a previous show, after he had visited Antarctica, and, we have to say, it was gorgeous and we hope to see even more of this abstractia in the future!
Check out all the photos from the opening below, thanks to Dave Russell …
As you all know we a had a massive night Friday with four big openings in the one night.
VS was our second stop of the evening after TwoOnes show, and both Marc Huntington and Matt Griffith of ArtBoy Gallery did a great job in helping to put these two artists together in the same room!
With battle lines drawn, maps of the conflict and each section of the wall dedicated to a part of the ongoing struggle, the war of art was, we can say for a certainty, definitely a draw – or at least, a good dose of M.A.D.!! Kaitlin Becketts creatures, and Matt Stewarts urban warriors continue the ultimate struggle ….
This was a show we were all looking forward to, and Hiroyasu Tsuri ( TwoOne ) did not disappoint. TwoOne is just one of those artists who continues to push the boundaries, his work has equal street and contemporary appeal and always challenges the eye.
Congratulations to Alex Mitchell and the crew down at Backwoods Gallery, for putting together such a great show, as expected from a TwoOne solo, it left us amazed.
Over the weekend, a petition was lodged to the NGV, City Of Melbourne and the State Government of Victoria on behalf of the a large number of Melbourne street artists and interested community members.
This petition was “signed” in the form of 20 painted panels on a constructed installation, and acknowledged by twenty artists who are practicing in Melbourne today.
The petition was placed at the National Gallery of Victoria, and was curated by activist and artist CDH as a part of his ongoing efforts to foster awareness, support and consideration by both the City Of Melbourne and the Victorian Government to major issues regarding street arts place in the community. The petition also brings attention to the highly discriminatory Graffiti Prevention Act (2007), which we believe has done little to address the issues of at hand, and now been proven highly ineffectual in dealing with the matter – instead, it has created an environment of confusion and misunderstanding within the public of street art and graffiti culture, further alienating the artists that express themselves via public art.
The Petition States:
“We didn’t say please. Does that void artistic merit?
Melbourne’s street art is consistently ranked among the top in the world [1-6], unlike any of Australia’s fine art institutions. Street art is also inherently egalitarian and freely accessible. However, rather than being endorsed with substantial tax payer subsidies  street art is actively stifled by the State Government; the Graffiti Prevention Act (2007) requires artists to providelawful excuse if caught carrying a graffiti implement (aerosol can, sharp object, pencil) and thus reverses the burden of proof, to a presumption of guilt [8,9].
For the State Government, propriety in street art begins and ends with property rights. We believe the hallmarks of urban neglect (extensive tagging, peeling paint, cracks) demonstrate an owner’s tacit indifference to a site’s appearance. Formal permission is unnecessary; it is already implied. Unsolicited mural painting of a dilapidated site doesn’t damage the property or the community aesthetic. As community stakeholders, civically minded citizens have a right to intervene to restore dilapidated sites, to the betterment of the community.
As we hold this alternate philosophical view on community enrichment, the State Government deems us vandals, criminalizes us and denies any cultural value or artistic merit in our efforts.
The full installation of the petition as a standing structure was, unfortunately not possible. Heavy security presence did not allow the artists to get the piece to its full standing position. That said, an administrator for the NGV allowed the petition to be delivered as a gift on the grounds of the NGV, thus fulfilling the primary aim of the project. What the NGV decides to do with this gift is something we will be keenly observing. Check out another run down on the installation over at Melbourne Art & Culture Critic.
Invurt are proud to support this petition. CDH did a remarkable job, and it has taken him many months of planning and coordination to bring it all together. It’s artists like him, who continue to promote and espouse the virtues of street art to wider audiences and who advocate its presence in our city, who give us hope of great things to come for street art in Melbourne.
We sincerely wish for the respective governments to read and consider this statement and petition. In light of other recent matters pertaining to Melbourne Street Art, including the recent controversial and lamentable proposal to install security cameras in Hosier Lane, we hope for vigorous engagement, feedback and input on the subject between both the respective governments and the street art community as a whole.
Update #3 - At first, according to the news article above, it appears as if the NGV had decided to just leave the petition outside, and have it removed. This afternoon, CDH met with the new director of the NGV, Tony Ellwood and the NGV Curator Of Australian Art, David Hurlston, to discuss the petition. The issue being that the NGVs charter states that it cannot accept gifts from living contemporary artists – which is a fairly valid convention, given that if they were to do so then they would surely be inundated with artwork that they wouldn’t be able to properly store and maintain. However, a possible solution was offered up and a compromise was agreed to.
As of 5pm Monday 10th September, the petition was moved inside and placed on temporary display inside the NGV – only, however, until Friday 14th September – technically it is now on loan to the gallery for several days and will then need to be removed.
(Excuse the phone cam image, we’ll have better ones soon)
If you’d like to see it best get down there to see the piece, it will be on display from Wednesday to Friday, 9am to 5pm, except Wednesday when the gallery is open until 9pm. This is a result we couldn’t be more pleased about, but its just a nice bit of icing on the top of a great project that we all hoped would bring awareness to the issues in the petition itself. The question is, will we now be hearing from either the CoM or the State Government? Wouldnt that be grand?
After the piece is removed from the gallery on Friday evening, the artwork will be auctioned off and any proceeds from its sale will be used to help kick start a micro-grant program for street artists here in Melbourne, an idea that a few people been kicking around for a while.
A big thankyou to the NGV for their support and consideration on both the issues purported on the petition, as well as their respect for the piece as a whole – especially David Hurlston and Tony Ellwood – welcome back to the ‘burn, Tony :)
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.
Stepping into the darkened warehouse, the fresh aroma of shaved timber, resins and paint hit me immediately – nestled into an unsuspecting, near hidden laneway somewhere in North Melbourne, there is no doubt that it was a place of work; the scents prove as much.
We walked to the back of the warehouse, Adnate passed me a beer, and we headed into his space. There’s numerous tags around the studio, many from the AWOL crew as well as his talent laden painting partner of almost ten years, Slicer. There were marks from Does, DMV and other transient visitors – its an intimate space, a place to imagine, do the regular email bane, and to store the ephemera of his trade. However, as I’m looking around he also tells me that he did most of his recent painting out back, where there’s a little more room to move.
Yet the thing that most draw my eye, leaning up against one side of the room, was a massive stack of canvases which held the majority of work for his upcoming show at RTIST Gallery – “Lost Culture.”
Having spent time living in Barcelona and Germany (where he also held his last solo show, Point Of View), and with an extensive amount of travel to various countries under his belt, Adnates perspective and work has always held a worldly view. Through the past years his work has veered away from the graffiti infused letterforms that he started out painting, and moved into the world of portraiture. Though much of this direction has been evident in some of his past shows, as I started looking through the pieces that make up Lost Culture, I began to feel as if he has stepped, no, leaped, beyond the threshold of his previous work.
Adnates new works are salubrious in nature, infused with distinct and defined homage to Persian, Tibetan and Indigenous Australian cultures. One of the first pieces I saw, a portrait of a young Persian woman, grabbed me immediately.
“The Persian culture was renowned for its beautiful, but very strong, and very powerful, women,” he remarked, when he noted my intent gaze, (and possibly in response to my muttering a range of impressed expletives) “I really wanted to represent those powerful women in this show as well as I could.”
These visages of individuals throughout his pieces are often veiled, portioned and hidden – and within the works are personalised marks, calligraphy, tagging and snippets of writing from both Persian or Tibetan texts. “The scripts on the Persian pieces are from a old poem that I had translated,” he said, following my gaze across the script.
“It’s all about beauty, and the loss of beauty.”
His own lettering, a stylised form fifteen years in the making, fades, bleeds and emerges back and forth throughout each piece, adjoining each portraits narrative with an intimacy that never overwhelms; a natural symbiotic balancing act. Adnates tags are an integral part of each of his works, which is evident within the pieces, and he decries any opinion as to their lesser worth as a “real” art form.
“When I teach, I have students that just work all session and smash out tags,” he remarked whilst we discussing them. “Sometimes other teachers will walk past and go ‘oh, can’t they do something a litte more artistic?’ – and I mean, just the other day I just got paid money to do tags at a corporate event! This kid can sit and do tags if he wants, okay? Let him do tags!”
As with his work up upon the walls of various metropolitan locales, the individuals in his works for Lost Culture speak their stories not through gestures or scenarios, but via the most powerfully subtle feature of the human body – the eyes. By focusing intently on the gaze and messages that the eyes can convey, each portrait relays a story; their lustre and sheen glistening with the power of cultures both ancient and enigmatic.
After going on about the eyes probably way more times than I realised, and how they felt like the centre piece of each work, he explained how important it was for him to get them right. “That’s kind of the idea,” he enthused. “I really focus on the eyes in particular and spend a lot of time getting them perfect. Fifty percent of my time on every painting is spent on the eyes. Then the rest of the piece … it becomes almost like a juxtaposition and contrasting texture – it makes the focus of the eyes more intense.”
All things aside, these new works from Adnate are just an extension of his true love of graffiti, they are as close a representation of the way in which he works on the walls of the city as can be made possible within the confines of a gallery.
Every mark, texture and feature of the portraits emanates from within a spraycan, every letterforms from the ink of a pen. His only brushes are the hundreds of caps he’s gone through in the process of putting together the show, or the thinly encased tip of a gloved finger. The details are startling, each image possessing the rawness of the street, and his refined aerosol techniques resemble the blessings of a traditional oil painting, retaining an edged texture that no airbrush can render.
It’s been a few years since I first got to know Adnate, back at a time when I didn’t really know where this site was going, or what I wanted it to become. He was an artist whose work stood out at the fore, and he was one of many whose work directly influenced my want to find out as much as I could about the artists working here in Australia. Over this time, he has also become a mate; someone whom I both respect and admire. Unbeknownst to him, his encouragement and kind words of support, like those of many of the people around me, have always spurred me on. It’s not lost on the majority of those of us who love art that successful artists are also great and humble people, who not only put their passion into their own work, but who also advocate the passions of others; those who put as much back out into the world as they themselves gain.
From his work out on the streets, to his teaching sessions, his drive and sheer output, and, importantly, his desire to expose others to the beauty of different cultures via his art, are all noble endeavours. Although he would probably shrug it off, as humble as he is, he is a definite leader amongst modern Australian artists traversing new realms of artistic expression.
Experimentation, boundary breaking, humility – humanity – and, of course, talent, are all elements that separate a great artist from someone who just paints – Matt Adnate is one such person, and Lost Culture is a show that will easily put proof to that claim.
… and because we always like giving you just that little bit extra, heres some extra photos of Adnates studio, to a glimpse inside and to get a little feel for where he works …
What can we say about Rad11? Every piece we see him do is better than the last, and he just keeps getting better and better – no bullshit.
We always look forward to seeing his work as it goes up on the streets (and we’re really lucky to have a lot of opportunities to do so as we get to paint with him a bit) and, furthermore, his recent exploration with oil painting has also started to produce some really beautiful and intriguing surrealistic pieces. Illustration wise? The man is brilliant.
Not having exhibited all that much in the past, we’re really looking forward to seeing his work up in some galleries, we have it on good authority that he’ll be in a few group shows coming up – fuckin-a.
The first image above is by the talented James Watkins, who has documented a lot of Rad11s work and is one of our favourite photographers, hands down! The remained are all via the Rad11 website and our own archives.
We kind of stumbled over Meghan Gelizas work via our friend Cleo Barnett, and we instantly loved what we saw. Having produced a great bunch of work last year, 2011 culminated in her and a whole slew of other artists travelling over to Cambodia for the Little Lotus project – seriously check this out if you haven’t already!
"Meghan Geliza is a self-taught Pop Surrealist painter living in Auckland. Her large-scale paintings on wood are of surreal worlds swirling in intense and explosive colour, in an environment of myths, old literature and basic human emotions, inextricably blended in its own ether. Using a cacophony of colours and congealed imagery, Meghan weaves elaborate painted tapestries that comment on dual concepts such as union-dissolution, stability-change, and constraint-transcendence.
She’s been exhibiting in group shows around New Zealand these past couple of years and has recently come out of her first solo exhibit, Adieu False Heart at Te Karanga Gallery. She recently curated and showed work in Beauty Meets the Bizarre Art Show at the Depot Artspace Main Gallery."
Meghans use of colour was the first thing that caught our eye. As we fell into the detail of her work, we found ourselves chasing a rabbit down a hole of pop sensibilities mixed with the tones of modern surrealism – looking at her work evokes the same responses in us as when we’re reading the words of Andre Breton, and for us thats a fkn grand thing.
Well definitely be watching out for more of this ladys work in the future.
There’s no way this list couldn’t contain him, and he was mentioned several times whilst we compiled it. According to Arty Graffarti, Itch is "Already quite the established graffiti writer, street artist, digital artist and a whole swag of all things creative, its about time Itch got some [if not, more] recognition and I’m hoping that in 2012 we get to see a lot more from this art machine."
Itch is a definite favourite of ours here, his work both solo and as a part of the AWOL crew is second to none. Like Arty Graffarti, we’re really looking forward to seeing what he does this year.
Next up in our daily Artists to Watch column is Brisbane based artist, Steven Rhodes. The team at Strutten suggested this great artist as someone who they think will be doing great things in 2012, and we have to agree. Steven Rhodes is an ".. illustrator and graphic designer creating quirky and playful images."
I mean, combining aliens with cats with beards, and fish with urban scenery? Pure genius. His previous life incarnation as a landscape architecture also feels like it comes through in some of his imagery, and we think that’s kinda beautiful.
Yesterday we bought you the crazy cool skills of BMD, and the new Artists To Watch column is up and rolling. This is our daily dose of artistic talent that we think is rockin it in 2012 and beyond – up today is an artist suggested to us by the Street Advent team, Juan Mcarb.
Juan Mcarb is a new find for us, but we’re more than happy to include him on this list. Pop derived work with a slightly edged twist, his pieces are a gorgeous blend of the new and familiar. There are many artists working within this format, but Mcarb has found a nice melding that just sits well with us.
“Juan Mcarb (Tom Adair) began as a graffiti artist on the streets of Melbourne, Australia. Nowadays he has altered his medium of choice and works with a multitude of materials ranging from paint, vinyl, aerosol, paint filled fire extinguishers, acid etched mirrors, glass, neon light, acrylic, metal, and found objects.”
Mcarb is an emerging artist with a hell of a lot of promise – we’re looking forward to seeing him pushing his work, as well as producing more of it, this year.
As we mentioned in our previous 1000th post editorial, we’ll be bringing you a small featured every day on an artist or collective o we think has been, is and we’re sure will be, doing great things in 2012. First up off the rank is an artist from NZ who has been on our radar for some time, BMD.
When we look at the work of NZ street artist BMD, we think of only one thing – go big, or go home. The bigger the better. BMD Collective has been burning it over in NZ, and 2011 saw a shitload of large scale, amazing work. Their stylised pieces are instantly recognisable and have a fuckload of playful motifs throughout them – really, their bio says it all.
Having his work featured on such places as Juxtapoz, Lost At E Minor and posting every once in a while on Streetarse.co.nz (one of our favourite NZ websites) amongst many other locations across the web, well, we reckon BMD is shit hot.
CDH, a Melbourne street artist, recently sat down for a chat with reputable collectors, fans and all round wonderful philanthropists of Australian Street Art, Sandra Powell and Andrew King …
I never fully understood the expression ‘jaw dropping’ until I went to Sandra and Andrew’s house. Walking around corners, I found my mouth dropping open at the amazing art on display; Banksy, Shepard Fairey, and so many more street artists, nestled among Sidney Nolan and Brett Whiteley. Andrew and Sandra tell me that they’re slowly selling their modernist Australian artworks to make way for more street art. There’s a subtle irony in that because there’s an obvious comparison to be made between this couple and John and Sunday Reed. Andrew and Sandra are more than just collectors; they are people who are trying to facilitate and grow street art in Melbourne.
They also recently organized and curated the recent show ‘Young & Free’ in San Francisco, featuring thirteen Australian street artists. They have a small flat at the back of their house that is set up as a guest space for visiting street artists. ELK, D*Face, Kid Zoom, Lister and Dlux have all stayed here and left their tag behind to mark their visit. At the end of the interview, Andrew and I sit around and just chat about art and life over a few beers, then later we talk at length about how to grow street art in Melbourne – he’s a genuinely nice guy who enjoys a few beers and loves talking about street art.
You only need to speak to them for a few minutes to be able to see their enthusiasm for street art coming straight through.
“We want to dedicate ourselves to this,” Sandra tells me later.
Do you think that street art is the art movement of the day?
Andrew: It’s the first movement of the internet age – without a doubt it’s the biggest art movement, ever. There are more people involved in it than any other movement in art history, in the world. You can’t go to any city or town in the world where someone hasn’t made their mark on a wall.
Sandra: …well we went to a little town in New Zealand recently and that wasn’t the case.
Andrew: Yeah, but I fixed that up. [I had a good laugh at that]
What type of art are you interested in collecting?
Sandra: What we’re especially interested in is Melbourne art. Australian, yes, but especially Melbourne art. We’re really interested in getting art from the 1990s onwards and just getting anything historic because so much has been lost. Andrew and I wish we had started collecting street art earlier when it was such an exciting time in Melbourne between 2000-2004. That whole stencil time when Melbourne street art really hit its straps. The artists say it wouldn’t have really made a difference, then, because they were doing it for themselves.
When they had empty shows, they were only for other artists and artists’ friends. They weren’t gallery shows, so the people who have got most of the early stuff are the artists themselves.
Can I put one thing to you? You’re clearly very close to Everfresh and you often describe Melbourne’s street art through the prism of their experiences. But there are so many other things that came before and have come since then like yarn bombing, guerilla gardening, video projection, installation art; these are all part of the same urban intervention movement. I don’t share your view that the best has already happened, I think it’s broader than that and there are many innovative and interesting things happening today.
Sandra: Sure – but my interest is in aerosol. I love looking at tags. I love anything that’s done with paint. So I think our interest is very much from a painterly point of view, not so much from the craft or sculpture. I love stuff on walls. I might start loving yarn bombing or something else, I think it’s really terrific but the smell of aerosol drives me crazy.
You both organized and curated the ‘Young & Free’ show in San Francisco. I know organizing artists is a lot like herding cats. I like to imagine the two of you as the mum and dad at a children’s birthday party where someone has spiked the red cordial. Are there any anecdotes you can share of artists running amok?
Andrew: One of the supposedly amusing ones was several of the artists went out one night and did some illegal stuff. We got a photo pretty early one morning of the escapades from the night before of some pretty good work on the wall of a church and they’d put Sandra’s mobile phone number below.
Did it have ‘for a good time call…’ above it?
Sandra: No. It looked like I had done the work. It had my name and my phone number on it. Then it became a joke that they started calling us ‘Sandrew’, so then they started signing everything ‘Sandrew’. It was like organizing a children’s birthday party. That’s a good analogy. I don’t know that there had ever been so many Australian street artists in one place overseas. They were all staying in the same hotel. We very wisely stayed down the road.
Andrew: We had Ironlak as our sponsor for the ‘Young & Free’ show. They were really supportive and they gave us every piece of paint we could ever hope for – but one of the artists didn’t like the smell …
Sandra: …There was some confusion amongst the artists that played out in a huge email exchange.
Andrew: After this email exchange, we got an email from Ben Frost, saying he used Ironlak for aftershave. Then he said, ‘perhaps that’s why my wife left me.’
Sandra: It was just so funny – hysterical.
You collect a huge amount of street art, but you also advise and facilitate street artists. I don’t know if you’ve been asked this before but are you the John and Sunday Reed of our time?
Andrew: Hopefully there’s not a Sidney Nolan lurking in the background there somewhere! [laughs]
[I had a good laugh at that too - Sidney Nolan had an open affair with Sunday Reed]
Sandra: When we first started collecting art, we were collecting from the Heide artists. So we’re very familiar with that story – but we never really understood the connection they had with the artists. So when we started collecting art it was from artists who had either died or have died since; for instance Joy Hester and Sidney Nolan. So the excitement now is, without a doubt, collecting the works of artists we know and have become friends with. That completely changes the whole idea of collecting in a way I hadn’t realized it would. It makes you look at people’s art differently.
Andrew: We can’t go back to Albert Tucker and say ‘what’s the story behind this work?’
Sandra: Buying works that we have actually watched them paint is just extraordinarily exciting and are things I wouldn’t give up in a million years. You just have a totally different connection to the art that you collect when you have a relationship with the artist. So when you’re saying ‘Are we the John and Sunday Reed?’ well maybe in 10 or 15 years time when we’ve been at it a lot longer – but one of the things that Andrew and I want to do at the moment is to support the artists. I don’t think there’s an artist I’ve met whose ideal isn’t to be able to live off painting – they all want to be able to.
Andrew: As an example, Rone contacted us and told us that Meggs was going over to LA, and asked would it be possible for us to organise an introduction with Justin [Giarla] at White Walls. So I said, yeah, sure; I wrote a letter of introduction and Meggs went up to San Francisco – and now he has a solo show at White Walls this year! Cool.
Sandra: To be in a position to make a few connections like that is really fantastic, and it’s really interesting for the artists to trust somebody. I don’t think there’s anyone we’ve met that doesn’t understand that we’re not in it for the money.
Andrew: When we first met them, they thought ‘who the hell are these people?’ There was a lot of suspicion. I heard that at first they thought I was an undercover cop or something – now we’ve got their confidence, we’re just friends, and it’s no big deal.
Sandra: I think they know that our hearts are in the right place. They just have to talk to us to see that we’re just so passionate about it. They have more to teach us, more than we have to teach them. Then sometimes there’s an opportunity to give a little bit of advice – it’s a relationship on a different level. It’s more like family.
That reminds me of the parental-children relationship we talked about before.
Sandra: Definitely. That’s it, and if they get out of line I’ll tell them off, don’t you worry [laughing]. I think I’m more a mother than Andrew is a father.
Andrew: Yeah, definitely. I love going out with the artists. I love going out with them at night – just for the thrill.
Sandra: We have a running joke – ‘Andrew you are not a street artist.’
Andrew: I do love putting up stickers – I just find it really exciting.
Sandra: I get really embarrassed by this. I say ‘Andrew you shouldn’t do it’. But the artists really love it. They love going out with him, and they just think it’s a real hoot. It’s a bit like putting your money where mouth is. He embarrasses his wife and his daughter sometimes.
[Andrew got his phone to show me stickers he’d put up. One is on the rear bumper of a US police car]
[Laughing]That’s one thing I really love about street art. Sometimes it’s really quite creative, but others it’s just the sheer ballsy-ness of it.
Andrew: That’s part of street art. Even if it’s a simple tag, if it’s really dangerous to get to (physical danger or the danger of getting caught) that just adds to it. Anyone can go down a back lane when there’s no one around. That’s simple. This was another good one. [checking his phone] I was with Meggs.
Sandra: No, I was with Meggs. It was the three of us in London. A cop car drove past and you went chasing after the cop car (to sticker it). Meggs couldn’t believe it. So he and I took off. That was pretty funny.
You obviously collected a lot of Australian tonalism and modernism. With a view to your art collection history, how do you think street art will fit into broader Australian art history?
Andrew: I think it’s here to stay – a lot of people think it’s a passing fad. It’s not like impressionism or Dadaism or cubism or something. It’s here to stay, and it’s just going to evolve. In Australian art history I don’t know when they’ll say it first started, but it’s going to stay.
Sandra: I think it started in the 80s with train painting, but there’s still a heap of people who paint trains. I find that part of it really fascinating too. There is no doubt in my mind that the movement will have to be taken seriously in the history of art. It is evolving. We were talking about that before; has Banksy peaked? It does just keep on changing and evolving. Lately I’ve seen more tags. It turns into an abstract piece of art.
Andrew: If we achieve our aim of setting up a street art museum, that will help bring it to the fore. The Space Invader show at the NGA last year, that has given a lot of cred to the movement too. Also having the Everfresh boys in the Atrium (studio space in Fed Square) gave the movement a lot of credibility. We’ve been told that more people went to the Atrium exhibition space that month than went to the Vienna exhibition in the international part of the NGV – what does that say?
Sandra: I also recognize that there must be many people in the movement who hate people like us – people who are supposedly trying to gentrify the movement, but that’s really cool too. I must admit, we’ve met quite a few rough nuts.
I think your enthusiasm for street art cuts through a lot of that. People who haven’t met you might feel that way, but I think once people meet you they see a more sympathetic side.
Sandra: I think that’s what happens. We have met a few guys who were not aggressive but were very nonchalant. They were like ‘who are you and why are you interested, and why do I care?’ But then, within a few days, they’re emailing me photos of what they’ve done.
Andrew: Some of the really hardcore artists, you could just see how stand off-ish they were. When you’ve got this dichotomy with the council; on the one hand they’re encouraging street art and using it for tourism. On the other hand you’ve got the Lord Mayor calling the artists peanut brains and graffiti vandals – I just don’t get it. A lot of people in the movement can’t speak up for the movement. I think it helps to have someone who knows the way of the world better than some of the artists do – hopefully that doesn’t sound too arrogant.
Sandra: We also know how to run a business. In bits like that we can help the artists because a lot of them are trying to run their businesses – we can help with things like that.
Who else have you met that stands out in your mind?
Andrew: Well Saber, what a guy he is! He’s done the biggest piece of street art in the world. We’ve been to his studio. One time he was being chased by the cops, he jumps over a fence (not very successfully) and impales himself on this iron spike. He’s got a piece of the fence and framed it. Luckily it stopped just next to his stomach lining. So he’s stuck on the fence and has to push up with the cops still following him – and he got away. He is as hard core as you can get.
Sandra: After the MOCA opening in LA (in April) we had a dinner at our hotel and we invited Swoon and her family. She didn’t get back to us and I assumed she had gone back to New York. I had booked a really nice table, so we asked Saber and his partner to join us instead. He’d just said yes and then we got a text from Swoon, saying ‘I’m sorry, I’d lost my phone, we’d love to come.’ So I thought uh-oh we’ve got Swoon and Saber. They are at completely opposite ends of the spectrum. Saber is a gang guy. He’s got these holes in his ears. They’re like plugs but they’re not plugs that can heal, they’re punched holes in his ear lobes. He told me it’s a gang rite thing. They’ve got some bit of iron – they bash out the center part of your ear and you’ve got to eat it.
… No way. That’s made up.
Sandra: No, no, no. It’s true. He had to eat it in front of people. This guy is really hard core – and Swoon is just so gorgeous. So, I rang her up and explained that I hadn’t heard back so I’d asked someone else to dinner. I said you’re welcome to come but I don’t know that you’ll get on with the person we’ve asked. She said ‘Oh, who have you asked?’ I told her it was Saber.
She replied, ‘Oh my god I love Saber. He’s my favourite person in the world.’ – we had such a cool night!
At one of those openings, the ones that seem to consist of my entire social life these days – beer on an empty stomach, still suited up from work and the taste of too many cigarettes in my mouth, a friend and I got to talking about artists who we felt were “on the rise”. It was an interesting run of names, some old, some new, some that I hadn’t heard of – and then, she mentioned E.L.K. “He seems to just be everywhere at the moment,” she explained. I remember standing there for a moment, agreeing, and that pretty much prompted a whole new line of conversation – one that I’m still thinking about as I write this.
From his first place in last years Australian Stencil Art Prize, to his recent sell out solo show in Sydney, which was also covered in a saturation of media (and courted a small amount of controversy, in the form of protests from a Christian fundamental group), to his cover appearance on the latest issue of Australian Art Monthly, its no wonder that E.L.K.s name has been coming up with random regularity – he does, after all, seem to be everywhere.
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.