Another massive month in Melbourne in April with some great events, shows and work on the streets. This month I’ve also decided to include a bit more on graff and also some work off the streets in some of Melbourne’s awesome abandos.
There’s been an explosion of panels running in Melbourne recently, including a couple of whole cars. Whilst some of the pieces are not the best in quality it’s still rad to see so much graff on trains again lately. Are the authorities asleep? Or is it our lack of trains to meet demand to blame so they HAVE to run them? The best of Melbourne graffiti Facebook page is a good place to keep up with what’s running, they cover anything running each day on the Melbourne rail network (good and bad). Here’s my favourite flick from the page for April. Continue reading “Melbourne Monthly Madness – April 2013”
A note from the editor: This is a guest post by Australian street artist CDH. Although I personally disagree with some of the conclusions CDH reaches in this post, I think it may be the start of a debate well-worth having, and it’s one that connects closely to my upcoming book, Viral Art. – RJ
Street art is primarily consumed as digital images online, rather than as paintings on walls in the physical world. Juggernaut sites like Street Art Utopia pump out new images each day to their million plus audience. Street art fans are likely to subscribe to multiple sites and so this audience encounters far more street art online, than on the streets. The street art fades away but the digital images live on, which makes them the primary cultural product that we engage with.
In many ways it’s very positive; I can view global works from locations I may never visit, or the works may be gone by the time I do visit. It’s also just more efficient; I don’t need to travel all over my city to view the latest works, I can just check out the Melbourne Street Art page. There are many other consequences of online consumption to the street art medium that I don’t intend to investigate here. I’m primarily interested in exploring two consequences of online consumption:
Audacity: Before the internet, placing works in a high traffic location was the only way to ensure a large audience (of generally passive observers). Today a work can be painted in any back alley, photographed and shared online with a huge audience of active consumers. Contextual spatial elements like the police station around the corner and the legality of the work are typically discarded online. So connecting with the audience doesn’t implicitly demand the same personal risk.
Lifespan: Digital images of street art bounce around the internet long after the original work has been buffed into oblivion. In Melbourne, the limited legal spaces make it common to see writers paint a piece, photograph it and buff it immediately for their mate to use the space. The works exist in the physical world for just a few minutes, but live on indefinitely online. They’re made for online consumption.
Online dissemination has generally diminished the audacity and the physical-world lifespan of street art. In the experiment here, I will take these 2 elements to their logical minimum and reduce them to zero. I have created street artworks that require no audacity and have no physical-world lifespan. I do this by photoshopping street art images into photographs of physical locations. Ultimately if we primarily engage with street art online and the digital image has effectively become the art (rather than the physical object), why not make this cultural production more efficient? This just cuts out the laborious middle step of painting a physical object, to then photograph, to then share online.
This is an art experiment, so we should examine these images honestly. My interpretation is this: I think this is an interesting idea but ultimately I think these works are really just a bit shit. If the images were printed out, framed and hung in a gallery it would feel completely in place. But on a street art blog it feels out of place. It seems dishonest. An unspoken rule of street art has been cheated- it’s not on the actual street anymore, so can it even be street art? We had a similar debate in the early 2000s, when street art first transitioned into the gallery system; it’s a weird limbo space outside of what’s really street art. Perhaps it can be called ‘street inspired art’, like the gallery street art was originally described. The term ‘street art’ again appears amorphous and manipulable.
This experiment also draws attention to the idea that street art is really something halfway between art and mountain climbing. These photoshopped street art images are like photoshopping yourself into a picture at the top of Mt. Everest; the real point is that you climbed the mountain, not that you got a photo. Street art is less about the image and more about the task of creating the image. The street art audience is continually fascinated with large scale works. It seems absurd that artistic merit could be proportionate to the scale of a work, but when interpreted through the prism of the ‘audacity and the task’, it seems perfectly reasonable. Perhaps it’s why street art is closely tied to cultures that are intertwined with physicality, like skateboarding or parkour.
What are we actually engaging with when we view street art images online? We’re consuming a digital facsimile of a street work, not the actual street art in its original psychogeographical location. People sometimes falsely believe the photograph is an objective representation of truth. In reality the photographer’s eye subjectively selects images to present. Those images are then open to the same forms of manipulation as the photoshopped images above: Perspectives are forced; contrast and lighting can be adjusted in Photoshop; colours can be enhanced; the photograph might be taken from a crane or an angle that is inaccessible to a viewer in physical reality. So who is really the author of the online content we consume? Is it the street artist, the photographer or a convolution of the two? This photographic subjectivity and influence become even more noticeable when images of the same artwork by different photographers are compared side by side; sometimes they look like completely different artworks. With the online dissemination of the digital image, where exactly does street art end and digital art begin? Perhaps it’s tied up in abstract elements like the intent of the photographer or the place of exhibition.
Post-Script: Coincidentally, after submitting this article, thesephotos, which depict one of my pieces, appeared on the Melbourne Street Art Facebook page. The tagging has been photoshopped out of the original image by the photographer. Random experiences like this never cease to amaze me in street art. On a personal level, it’s flattering that someone has taken the time to digitally restore the work but it also demonstrates that the digital image is not an objective record of reality. Similar to a restoration, the photographer constructs their interpretation of my original intention, not the work as it exists today. What if I tagged the work or intended for it to be tagged? Like a photoshopped image of a girl in a magazine, this photograph represents a mutable, aspirational reality. The photographer and I become collaborators in the construction of a new cultural artifact, that is consumed by the online audience but only exists in a digital realm.
Damn. It’s almost May! Sorry this is so late but it’s worth the wait. March was another action packed month in Melbourne.
Starting off with Baby Guerrilla‘s show in Footscray. Baby Guerrilla’s paste ups have been adorning Melbourne’s walls for a few years now, and they are some of my favourites, her gallery work was new for me and I loved seeing a different side of the artist.
Adnate was 1 of 3 Melbourne graffiti/street artists that entered the renowned Archibald prize. From the Archibald website “The Archibald Prize is awarded annually to the best portrait, ‘preferentially of some man or woman distinguished in art, letters, science or politics, painted by any artist resident in Australasia’.” It’s great to see some more modern painting techniques making it into this more conventional competition. Adnate painted a portrait of Samantha Harris; an Australian indigenous model. Also make sure you check out the video by Michael Danischewski below.
Adnate‘s work is some of my absolute favourite in Melbourne right now and has been for a while. He has been hitting the streets hard lately, both solo and in multiple collaborations with AWOL Crew and others. Adnate started out painting graffiti and letters over 10 years ago. More recently he has moved into painting beautifully detailed characters, which also still incorporate some of his tags and lettering, which I love. His characters are not only amazingly detailed, most of them also have a story, which make them even more special. Last year Adnate had his solo show “Lost Culture” at RTIST Gallery and exhibited alongside the rest of the AWOL crew at their collective show “Fabric”. Adnate has also traveled the world painting and exhibiting in cities such as Barcelona, Mumbai, New York, Paris and Berlin.
I sat down with Adnate recently and this is what we talked about.
LM: I mentioned above that many of your characters have a story, which I learned by talking to you at some of your shows and while watching you paint. Tell us about some of them?
Adnate: Most of the subjects in my paintings are of people that I have met and personally photographed. It’s important that I know the subjects as I am always trying to communicate certain emotions and stories through my portraits.
With the aboriginal portraits, which I feel are my strongest, I spent the last years getting to know local and national Indigenous Australians. It has been a crazy journey meeting and learning about these incredible people, particularly the current and past climate of their survival.
LM: Apart from your solo and AWOL group shows, give us a recap of what you got up to in 2012?
Adnate: Last year was the first year that I went bigger and higher with my portraits. It’s a great feeling being elevated that high in the air whilst painting and although I only managed two walls on this scale for 2012 they were definitely a highlight. When painting on the ground you get all sorts of distractions but being up high it’s just you and a few birds (one almost flew into my head recently).
I had some great opportunities to travel around Australia too. I got to travel through the western desert and met some of the oldest indigenous Australians alive. You wouldn’t believe what’s out there, that’s what you call “real country”.
LM: I read in a recent interview on artshub your work is “Inspired by Renaissance artists such as Da Vinci and Caravaggio, Adnate taught himself classical chiaroscuro techniques to communicate drama and emotion in his subjects”. This is quite an evolution from tagging and letters, what brought about this change in style?
Adnate: I worked on making my own style for 10 years and it was time to try something new. So I flipped my work on its head and began trying to reach a level of portrait realism that’s second to a photo. I’ve never been a big sketcher, so when I was painting letters I did so in a free flowing manner from the beginning to the end. Now with portraits I reference a photo, spending just as much time studying the photo as I do the painting. There is always a point in which I battle with the painting and the photo to make things as realistic as possible. It’s a completely different method of painting that I am used to and I think that’s what I love about it. It’s important to stay stimulated and challenge myself wherever possible.
LM: Tell me about some of the other work you do using your art?
Adnate: Over the years I’ve done regular youth work using graffiti art as a way to sway them off drugs and hard crime. I’m currently doing most of this now in a Juvenile Prison that houses the most volatile and “at risk” young boys and girls in the state. It’s an awesome job and the best part is getting to know these guys, they all have the craziest stories to tell and its really rewarding when you get to make their day. Plus there are some really talented writers and artists in there, which is definitely inspiring.
LM: Tell me about your background. How did you get into graff?
Adnate: Well I didn’t grow up on a train line, so my first memories were being a little gromit skater and studying all the designs on the clothes and decks. When I hit high school I begun to travel around Melbourne on the trains, in particular the Hurstbridge Line and I got to see all the WCA productions. This blew my mind and I quickly dropped off from skating and graff became my life.
LM: What does your name mean?
Adnate: ad·nate [ad-neyt] adjective Biology: grown fast to something; congenitally attached.
I get asked this all the time and to be honest I didn’t choose it for the meaning but simply for the letter structure. I was 16 when I choose it from a dictionary and I loved it because it was a word that gave me lots of kicks and flares with my tags.
Here’s some of the amazing stuff that happened in Melbourne last month. I’m sorry it’s so late – I am already working on the March post. Damn I am proud to post about my home town. So much goodness every month. Enjoy!
Since forming in 2006 the AWOL Crew have been producing some amazing work. (The crew is: Adnate, Deams, Itch, Li-Hill, Lucy Lucy and Slicer). This is the collectives first group show since they painted the NGV studio (National Gallery of Victoria) mural back in 2011.
With backgrounds predominately in graffiti it’s great to see the guys pushing their artistic skills. Each artist with their own signature style, but also as a group, the collaboration between the crew for Fabric, seamlessly combining elements of each others work into pieces is hands down the best work I’ve seen from the crew.
The exhibition itself was also somewhat unique and different to most shows. The show was announced a while ago and was to be held at a secret location (announced the day before the show). Not knowing what to expect when I arrived made it even more special. The space was amazing. An old gas works warehouse suited the show really well and provided the perfect backdrop for the art.
Make sure you check out the video. Also, here’s a few shots from the show.
Combining his amazing hand style and painting skills he explores different cultures through a series of amazing portraits incorporating both ancient typography and his signature lettering.
From the RTIST website:
Adnate has established himself as a unique Street-Portrait Artist. His realistic style is the signature to his work, using spray paint as his main medium.”
Beginning as a graffiti writer more than 10 years ago, Adnate spent most of his youth painting the streets of Melbourne with his letters. He has continued to paint walls in multiple continents, flourishing as an internationally recognised street artist.
In recent years Adnate broke from his obsession of painting letters and begun to study the human form. It was then he quickly realized his passion for portraiture. Inspired by Renaissance artists such as Da Vinci and Caravaggio, he taught himself classical chiaroscuro techniques to communicate drama and emotion in his subjects.
For his most recent exhibition ‘Point of View’ in Berlin, Germany, he took inspiration from his travels through India and Europe. “I’ve seen a lot of faces that have been burnt into my memory. Particularly the kids that experience the lives of adults in India, to people losing their faces in clubs in Berlin. Each piece was an interpretation of a person I saw or met.”
Adnate’s next exhibition will be held at the renowned RTIST Gallery in Melbourne, Australia. This time he has chosen to focus on the historical cultures of Tibetan, Persian and Indigenous Australian. Each with their own alluring beauty and spirituality, they have surpassed cultural genocides due to the depth of their rich culture.
Awol Crew, from Melbourne, produce some beautiful collaborations. These two walls display how the members of the AWOL Crew have very different personal styles, yet can pull them all together. Slicer describes it all as “a collaboration of all our unique diverse styles. Adnate’s realism style portraits, Itch’s surrealist style characters, Deams’ bold graphic letter forms and Slicers chaotic tags and line work. a pure AWOL wall”.