I call that safe public art “wallpaper.” Wallpaper is what you get when you mix street art with plop art, those huge, random, mostly abstract or minimalist sculptures that show up in semi-public squares as a result Percent For Art programs. When a developer is legally required to install some public art in front of their building, they often just go for something big, expensive, and (most importantly) benign. Wallpaper, like plop art before it, reinforces existing power structures.
We live in a world of wallpaper. Mural festivals provide plenty of examples. When I see yet another mural by a globe-trotting artist who does most of their sketching on transcontinental flights, I have to ask, “Is this wallpaper productive?” There’s only so much funding for murals each year. Artists only have so much brainspace to create. Maybe more wallpaper isn’t the best use of our resources. Wallpaper is like sugar. Good in small doses, terrible in large doses, and we tend to overdo it.
Take the Coney Art Walls, a project that I actually do enjoy. In many ways, the Coney Art Walls are a prime example of wallpaper: concrete slabs installed solely for the sake of murals, high-end food trucks that the murals are meant to get you to eat at, a neighborhood that functions as an amusement park, funding from a controversial property developer… But unlike most wallpaper festivals, the Coney Art Walls are well curated, there’s a wide range of artists who are well paid and allowed to take risks, and many of the murals reference the historic neighborhood. Still, if the Coney Art Walls is among the best that the street art festival model can offer, it’s safe to say that festivals and similar mural projects generally do not live up street art’s radical roots.
On a good day, what can street art do, when we think beyond wallpaper? It can transform and empower. It can bring people together. It can propose better versions of public space.
Today, I want to highlight two recent murals by Hyuro that I am completely in love with. In both murals, space is as important as content, and the two are intertwined. It’s been a long while since we’ve covered Hyuro on Vandalog, but she’s one of my favorite European muralists for her unique mix of anger, struggle, and beauty.
This first mural from is back in July. It was painted on what Hyuro describes as “a third age care center” in Poggibonsi, Italy for DOTS Festival. Kudos goes in part to the curators at DOTS for this one. The wall in a prime location, facing traffic on what looks to be a curved road. You can probably spot this mural for blocks. Potential wall-hunters, look out for locations like these. Of course, not every artist could do something worthy of such a wall, but Hyuro did.
Rather than pulling out a random page from her sketchbook and turning it into festival-friendly muralvomit, Hyuro painted something specifically for that wall and that building. On a spot that could just as easily have been turned into a massive billboard for a naked woman to sell Coca-Cola (brief aside: That joke doesn’t work if you’re stealing it to sell it), Hyuro’s highly-visible mural honors the building’s residents, a group who are all too often ignored. And yet, that message isn’t overbearing. The mural is, first and foremost, a quiet moment for meditation.
For this mural, Hyuro factored in the setting around her wall and on the other side of it, the whole environment. Hyuro responded intelligently and skillfully to the unique space and the opportunity presented to her. Isn’t that supposed to be a core tenet of quality street art? And yet, work like Hyuro’s is all too rare.
And then there’s Espacios de empoderamiento, which Hyuro painted just a few weeks ago for Fate Festival in San Potito Sannitico, Italy. As the subject for a mural, a group of women standing around and talking is already notable (a Bechdel-Wallace test for street art and muralism is long overdue). Hyuro takes things a step further by playing with scale. Even the side of a building cannot contain these women. This space for empowerment extends beyond the wall, up into the sky and out onto the pavement. Such a simple tweak took what would have been a good mural and made it great.
There are a lot of reasons to like what Hyuro does. Maybe you like her skills with a brush, which she has in spades. Or you appreciate her politics, which are underrepresented in street art and contemporary muralism. But, with these two murals at least, it’s her appreciation of space that any artist working outdoors can learn from.
A friend of mine recently used an interesting phrase: “the open walls movement.” I thought he was using the term as a synonym for “the street art festival circuit,” which upset me, because street art festivals do not have what I would call “open walls.” But really, my friend was commenting on a larger movement perceived to be spreading around the world to use public space differently (insomuch as walls on private property are public space). On the surface, he’s right. Street art festivals, grassroots muralism programs, free walls, curated alleyways and everything in between now exist in cities and small towns around the world.
Does that make a movement? I don’t know. Nobody is getting together to write a manifesto and participants’ aims and methods are diverse, but there is a disparate group of what I’ll call “open walls people” who share a new way of looking at walls and public space: Public walls are for the artists, murals enliven streets and communities, and there should be limited or no government regulation of murals, but advertising in public space should be heavily regulated or eliminated entirely. Simply put, “open walls people” believe in unrestricted art in (often odd) public spaces.
But how open are our walls today? Surfing the web, it sometimes feels like globe-trotting muralists can hop off a plane in any city, find a wall, and begin painting the next day, or that every small European city is covered in murals. That’s simply not true. Despite valiant and well-intentioned efforts, there’s a long way to go before we have anything approaching “open walls.”
I’m back after a brief blogging hiatus. I’ve been meaning to post my review for this great event that happened back in April over in Western Australia for a while now…
Leaving a cold wet 17 degrees in Melbourne, I was pretty damn excited to fly to Perth on the 10th of April, right in time for the grand finale of PUBLIC by Form Gallery in Perth, Western Australia, which I posted a preview of a while ago.
I arrived to a perfect sunny 30 degrees and soon as I hit the ground, I had a good feeling about Perth, I hadn’t been before, but something felt right. I went straight to the hotel and dropped off my bags, and went for an explore. Within a few hundred metres of my hotel, I could see the amazing Phlegm and ROA murals in progress. I made a beeline straight for them. Upon entering the car park I also saw the work of many other great artists. The works were spread throughout the CBD and inner city suburbs. Here’s a selection of some of my favourite pieces from the event.
While the event spanned over ~30 days, the main event was the painting of Perth’s 1st ever giant murals over the last 3/4 days of the event. In total there were around 30 murals painted for the event, spanning across the City of Perth. I was very impressed by the organization of the event by the FORM Gallery crew. With a logistical nightmare trying to coordinate over 45 artists, paint and equipment, all in 35 degree heat, the FORM Crew did an amazing job, Well done guys!!! A very friendly and hospitable crew. Thanks very much for taking such great care of us while we visited.
There was a great selection of artists from ac cross the globe representing all different styles and genres. Unfortunately there was no graffiti, but I suppose street art was a big stretch for conservative Perth, so graffiti may have been avoided for this reason. For a city not really known for street art, the public reaction was encouraging. People of all ages and walks of life filled the city over the weekend. I love walking around randomly and listening to some of the conversations and questions people ask each other. In particular I was really impressed by the public’s reactions to the HEAVY PROJECTS installations (interactive works of art that use Augmented Reality on smart phones and tablets). Here’s a short video the guys out together to document the event (plus some footage from a previous project).
On the Friday night there was also a great show at FORM Gallery – PUBLIC SALON showing off canvases from the contributing artists, some great work on display, check out some shots here.
And finally. This great video by Chad Peacock is a really accurate representation of the event and well put together. Damn it takes me back!!!
The FORM guys also took a number of artists to visit the Pilbara, a very special part of top end of Australia with breathtaking views and incredible nature (also sadly known for mining – the 2 don’t really go hand in hand). A few of the artists had a paint while there, I particularly like the piece by Remed.
After all of the above, any street art fan in Perth would have to be pretty happy, but it didn’t stop there. FORM has continued putting up murals in Perth, with Creepy (aka Kyle Hughes-Odgers) painting at Perth Airport (a sponsor of PUBLIC) and also Vans the Omega and Beastman’s new piece that went up last week.
What I loved most about the event wasn’t just the art, and was not unique to PUBLIC; is the sense of community I felt. This is something I really love about the street art scene. I got to catch up with some great old friends, and made some new ones who I will undoubtedly randomly catch up with again somewhere around the globe.
Fingers crossed that this event is on again next year. I will be there with bells on!
If you are in Perth, check out the full list of artists and the mural map. FORM has also put together this short book called PUBLICation available for Purchase at the Gallery and viewable online for free here. FORM have also started “PUBLIC Urban Art Walks” to give fans a guided tour of the city, well worth checking out.
Ok, so that’s enough, right? Actually no, there’s more. And it’s massive. Due to some logistical 😉 issues SANER was unable to make it over for the original dates. I was gutted to hear this when I found out, but when I found out FORM are still bringing him over in August to paint in Perth and also the Pilbara, I was pretty damn excited! I’ll make sure to cover this later in the month.
A little while ago I heard whispers of something big happening in Perth, Western Australia. I usually only cover Melbourne based art and events, but this is an exception and needs to be shared. I’m heading over to Perth tomorrow so I will be covering the remainder of the event for Vandalog.
PUBLIC started on the 5th of April and continues through to the 13th and will feature street art, projections and installations across the city. 45 amazing artists will paint over 30 giant murals and walls over the fortnight.
The line up is mind blowing and an Australian first, with names like 2501, Phlegm, Yandell Walton, Hayley Welsh, Jordan Seiler, Jerome Davenport, Amok Island, Ian Mutch, Casey Ayres, Chris Nixon, Darren Hutchens, Martin E Wills, Paul Deej, Daek William, Stormie Mills, Hurben, ROA, Ever, Kyle Hughes-Odgers, Peche, Natasha Muhl, Phibs, Beastman, Lucas Grogan, Andrew Frazer, Hyuro, Mekel, Mow Skwoz, Drew Straker, Jaz, Abdul-Rahman Abdullah, Maya Hayuk, Reko Rennie, Pixel Pancho, Jetsonorama, Gaia, Alexis Diaz, Nathan Beard, Remed, Vans the Omega, The Yok and Sheryo and more.
Here’s a couple of work in progress shots I stole from Sam Gorecki via Invurt. More here.
I recently came across this video that does a really nice job of touching on a major issue being faced by a lot of mural festivals and mural programs: The potential that murals are rejected by the communities where the festivals take place. In the last year, two murals organized by Living Walls in Atlanta were removed after they proved controversial. While Living Walls‘ mural removals got a lot of press, this is an issue faced by all mural festivals, and definitely one worth thinking some more about. Is it better to go in and paint whatever and see what works and what doesn’t, or should artists work for the communities and paint murals largely based on the desires expressed by the people who will walk by the wall every day?
I know we’ve extensivelycoveredHyuro‘s recent mural in Copenhagen, but I’ve got one more thing about it to share. Skip to 1 minute and 45 seconds into the above video to see her mural animate as it is shown frame by frame. Such an interesting way to tackle a massive but not particularly tall wall.
Some things need to be seen in person. In terms of massive murals, a picture may be able to transmit small details of a piece and/or the overall wall, but not both at the same time. Hyuro‘s new wall is no exception, so while I am providing several detail shots, it is probably impossibly difficult to get a decent picture of Hyuro’s 271 meter (889 foot) long mural in Copenhagen as a whole.
Hyuro recently had a solo show in Copenhagen. What dazzles me about Hyuro is this cross between slides of an animation and public murals. Despite the fact that she must have painted dozens of deer, the pieces translates as one deer running through a forest. Hyruro has doneseveralmurals that seem like stagnant frames of an animation or motion picture, and frankly it’s incredibly that movement translates so well through a mural. While I have not been fortunate enough to see her work in person, I can only imagine what it would be like to walk down this street in Copenhagen and see this mural animate itself.
In/Between, Hyuro‘s solo show at ArtRebels in Copenhagen, is on now through June 15th. It includes 19 watercolor and ink drawings of her street pieces. I’m curious what fans will prefer, the watercolors or the street pieces?
Hyuro is currently at work in Copenhagen painting a massive (271-meter long) mural. I really want to drive along this road once the piece is done. She also has a solo show, In/Between, of 17 drawings opening in a few days at ArtRebels (Nørre Voldgade 18) in Copenhagen. In/Between opens on Friday the 24th from 5-8pm and runs through June 15th.
About the mural, Hyuro says:
“In the battle of opposites, nobody wins and nobody loses. It’s just a cycle, just another one. A deer runs and disappears in the trees, the forest devouring it in its branches. You can’t win the race against time. The night will come first and bring its darkness, but Copenhagen can sleep peacefully. The sun will rise again in the morning and the deer will continue along his way. Nature takes its course. Nature meets city meets nature; chaos meets order meets chaos; night meets day meets night.”