Carmelle LeVin, Director of Programs in Australia
Vera Bacash, Program Manager for Australia programs
Art in Australia is part of who we are, from the rock art of Indigenous Australians 60,000 years ago, to the art of Arthur Boyd, to the modern images of Jeffrey Smart. Our people understand the world we live in through the artists who emerge out of this exciting and ever reforming culture. We breathe into our energies the cultures that are east, west, south and north of us, and understand ourselves at one moment dislocated from all other landmasses, and at the same time, an integral part of the countries around us. We are a nation of migrants, we stand in solidarity with the great nations of the world, we are responsive to our geography, we are our environment and we remember our history with both joy and sorrow. We are serious, while at the same time we laugh out loud at ourselves. Such traits make art a way of saying something about who and what we are. Indigenous art reveals the myth, the legend, the joys and the sorrows of this land and contemporary street art makes statements about what is loved, what is respected, what we remember and what we surrender.
Melbourne, with its numerous galleries and exhibitions, is Australia’s second largest city, which is home to many emerging forms of art. Melbourne has also gained an international reputation for its diverse range of street art and has spawned interesting associated subcultures. Between the mid 1970’s to the early 1990’s, many city street walls were covered with varieties of graffiti images not so different to what one may see in certain pockets of London or New York; Graffiti, because it traditionally required speed and easy access to spaces is often found around train stations and other transport hubs. Today however, graffiti, as a recognized art form is giving us amazing images, almost intellectual in their scope and vision, aided and abetted by small grants and special donations. Please see www.melbournestreetart.com
Historically speaking, as ‘stencil art’ became prominent in Melbourne, (art that is easily reproducible and transferable through cardboard, and cut out designs) people became more aware of the art that appeared on street walls. No longer was it just graffiti. It slowly became labeled as “Street Art,” allowing perceptions of what that art means to the city and its buildings.
As we turned into this century, other forms of street art began to appear in Melbourne such as wood blocking, sticker art, poster art, wheat pasting, graphs, more street installations and reverse graffiti. An interesting shift in the way street art is understood is the move by local Councils to create “Tags.”
Translated, this means that Government committees and groups decide how they choose to view street art so that increasingly, people are recognizing that there is a distinction to be made between the idea of street art and the view that street art is nothing more that vandalism. Please view online www.melbournestreetart.com/tag/caledonian-lane.
With the support of such revised perceptions of street art, local artists have also pushed for a stronger sense of Wall ownership, which sets aside particular spaces for the expression of Art Artists in Melbourne have a commitment to take art into the community, so that over the past twenty years, art has become accessible to everybody and not just to those who can afford to purchase it.
Thus budding artists are able to expose their own art shapes and themes, and tourists have been able to visit and take photos of the ever changing street art within Melbourne streets.
So with the opportunity you may have to visit Melbourne’s streets and lanes, make sure you see our beloved and famous Hosier Lane, Degraves St., and Hardware Lane in the city center; Argyle and Rose Street in Fitzroy; and Sydney Road in Brunswick. All flourish with street art, colors and imagery along various side streets that often surround cafes and shopping strips. See www.melbournestreettours.com for more information.
Melbourne is of course a city famous for its tram lines, (electric cables that that travel through the inner and outer parts of the city where trains seldom go or can access). These trams have also become another face of street art. As a reflection of the idea of bringing art to the community, between 1978 and 1993, many of the tram exteriors were decorated by artists such as Michael Leunig, Clifton Pugh, David Larwill and Lin Onus; all gifted and well known Artists in Victoria. Such decorated trams become known as “moving canvasses and the most public of art”. Over time, these old trams have been sold or have faded in the scrapheap but as they traveled through Melbourne, Street Art became mobile and readily accessible to those living and visiting Victoria’s capital. Please view their website www.mickyallan.com.
Today, over 1800 Melbourne street walls are covered with some type of ‘street art’ some people will still argue that it is all graffiti and should be removed but as with most art, it really depends on the representation and the mindset of those who are looking at it www.designflavr.com.