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We sent Grant Spencer to showcase some of Sydney’s booming street art scene – he returned with a guide and where to find them for yourself.
This photo essay is like walking into the first room at a house party. It’s all anticipation. You recognise people, someone’s already too drunk, your favourite song is playing. As you know, however, all the action that will leave a small scar on your frontal lobe will eventually go on in other rooms you haven’t yet seen. The most happily traumatic stuff might even happen after you leave. So let this be an inspiration to reacquaint yourself with the colour around you.
Street art is an endless rabbit hole of ideas and can inspire different levels of engagement. The photos I have snapped below is street art as I have encountered it, and how it describes my movement through Sydney. Taking these shots after one coffee too many, I found I was moving as I imagine a graf artist would, fast and informed by paranoia. I zipped in and out of traffic, leapt out at the place I’d remembered and quickly captured the art as if some kind of security guard at a gallery had said, “no photos”.
I have also tried to put in examples of street art that speaks on those different levels of engagement. Let’s start with what I call “Dirty Street Tags”.
Obviously, few people are impressed by this stuff except the graf community, and they are hardly doing this for the fine-tuned aesthetics, and nor should they. I have “ideas” about this type of tagging; maybe check my other article.
Now we’ll move onto what reignited my interest in street art. Anthony Lister is a controversial figure in street art. The ballerinas have an amazing sense of movement (also, created with paint rollers which gives the piece a singular aesthetic).
Next up, we’ve moved onto the more mural-like commissions. The lion is for Aslan Coffee in Sydenham; the “Power Chicken” is in the council-approved, street art alley-ways of St Peters and the Trout-and-Prey fits into this category. I have no idea how it came into being, but I don’t care, it colours my commute.
The next pieces are all St Peters’ alleyway pieces, and while I was taking these, there were some boys getting the mull going to put themselves in the mood to finish off a new wall project. Get out there one weekend and talk to some artists, as you’ll rarely get a chance to catch someone in their studio. “Serious art” isn’t really disinhibited enough to tap into this comic-book joy of caricatured figures and blindingly bright colours.
Next up, some tagging. The style is mostly set, but creativity can often flourish when given a set of rules. How can this be considered criminal activity? I don’t care if it’s your property, this person has done you a favour you don’t deserve.
The next two are pieces are by Will Coles who, after a brief Google search I learned has moved to Spain. This kind of sculpture around Sydney is an awesome new dimension to a decorated Sydney space. The Bunnies are clearly just whimsy and I love them for it.
The pieces below all live with me. The first three I just love. No narrative for those, I just wasn’t going to leave them out. Consider them as gratuitous as a Tarantino cameo. The piece with the sailors is well known to most who’ve been to Newtown, that piece has done well to weather the storm (there was no way I was going to let that pun go sailing by), especially when pieces are regularly replaced or touched up.
Next up, another Lister. This one has a living story. The clown didn’t always have a beard. This clown was far less hipster until a couple of local taggers painted over the bottom half of his face. A few days later I saw that he had a beard. A week after that the beard was tagged over. Another month passes and he is biting his bottom lip. Apparently Elvis isn’t a fan of Lister’s. You may also have noticed the “Fuck Lister” tagged over his Iron Man piece included above.
The image below may seem like an odd one to finish on, but it sits in an interesting place in my understanding of street art. “Dirty street tags” definitely have their place in any urban landscape. I’ve noticed in the last decade or less that there is an emerging trend to tag like Louiekat here. It looks like he’s restricted himself to paint rollers. It sits on an abandoned building, as often these type of tags and many others do. What is different in my mind is that these conform to their context, replicating the drab lines and colours of the utilitarian architecture they cover. For instance, the tag above is about six months old at most. Yet it managed to age itself with the building.
There are plenty of other examples, the one that springs to mind the most is the work of some guy called Grime. Is this a new awareness of the tagger for his canvas, or are my ideas the work of that extra coffee? Thankfully it doesn’t matter, because the function is set. I’m thinking about my environment in a new way, my brain is playing with it’s surroundings and I’m better for it. More present and involved.
Time to look up from whatever device upon which you’re reading this.
Editors note: Have you found any amazing street art that we’ve missed? Forward your images to [email protected]