Legal street art in Sydney
Graffiti artists don't choose their medium for its safe parameters, and rarely seek validation or permission from authorities.
But a movement by local street artists is creating legal walls all over the city.
The recently elected state government is taking a zero-tolerance approach to tackling graffiti crime. Attorney General Greg Smith told the Sydney Morning Herald that offenders would be sent to prison.
“Phibs” is one of Sydney’s most prolific graffiti artists who has made the artistic leap from wanted criminal to toast of galleries. His art was part of the National Gallery of Australia’s recent street art exhibition, Space Invaders.
Not surprisingly, “Phibs” disagrees with the government’s approach. He argues for a more pragmatic approach and more council-sanctioned legal walls.
Recently returning to live in Sydney from the more graffiti-friendly Melbourne, “Phibs” believes the city’s underground graffiti is symptomatic of artistic youths starved of an outlet for their work.
He sees hope within local government: “The cogs are turning and there are more people becoming interested… People who have grown up with this sort of stuff will understand that there’s other ways to deal with it.”
“Legal walls will reduce the criminal element, allowing a safe avenue to produce high quality art,” he says.
Read more on CNNGo about Sydney's underground graffiti scene.
For the time being, let’s take a tour of the city’s best legal walls.
Bondi Beach’s promenade has been a site for graffiti since the 1960s.
Waverley Council says it is helping Bondi to “lead the way in being a vibrant and inspiring place that supports its diverse population, creative culture, enriching lifestyle and stunning natural features.”
While traditional graffiti pieces are on show, you’ll also find new school street art and two memorial murals for Bali bombing victim and Bondi local, “Chloe,” as well as a commemorative ANZAC mural.
Application forms at www.waverley.nsw.gov.au.
Mays Lane, St. Peters
St. Peters’ May Lane Art Project is an initiative by local resident, Tugi Balog.
Council and some residents have been unsupportive of the project, but it has spilled further along the lane’s private walls and garages.
Currently in the laneway gallery space, Melbourne artist Vexta shows off her psychedelic creations.
For more on “Mays,” view the Youtube documentary, From Vandalism to Art.
Camperdown Memorial Rest Park
In Camperdown Memorial Rest Park -– a popular spot for artists, with long surrounding walls –- “Phibs,” “Makatron,” and “Presto” paint a wall with the permission of the building’s owner.
“The walls that we obtain are re-done every couple of months or up to a year,” says “Phibs.” “For us it’s a social activity. It’s just like going surfing or skateboarding; to get together and enjoy this side of our subculture.”
“It’s all organised by us,” says “Phibs.” “This scene runs because of the people who are involved in it.”
Foveaux Street, Surry Hills
Last year, in protest at the Anti-Graffiti Day and whitewashing organized by "Keep Australia Beautiful," artists ran a counter-campaign: “Keep Australia Colourful.” It saw the collaborative work of prominent local artists “Beastman,” “Numskull,” “Roach,” and “Saynt,” which read: “They Keep Painting, We Keep Painting.”
Located on Foveaux Street between Crown and Bourke streets in Surry Hills, it mixes new street art and traditional graffiti styles.
Lipton Ice Tea Positive Project, Surry Hills
Using brushes, aerosol and even moss, its more pleasing to the eye than a billboard.
Venture up Whittle Street, toward the Brett Whiteley Gallery to see more traditional graffiti and paste-ups.
I Have A Dream -- MLK, Newtown
The iconic mural of Martin Luther King, with his famous quote on Newtown’s busy King Street, was painted during two August nights in 1991 by Andrew Aiken and Juilee Pryor using a cherry picker and $1,000 worth of paint. The Aboriginal flag was added later.
Aiken was a major graffiti artist around the inner west in the early 1990s.
The City of Sydney Council has recognised and protected major murals around Newtown and the inner west as public domain works.
University of Sydney graffiti tunnel
Another site, the University of Sydney graffiti tunnel, shows pragmatism by a major organisation, sanctioning the tunnel for students wanting to graffiti. “I met one of the kids who organised it,” says “Phibs.” “He’s not one of these kids who is going to go down a path to get locked up.”