On a recent visit to Melbourne I joined a tour of the laneways led by “We Make Stuff Good Art Tours”. The tour started in the lanes opposite RMIT, and over a couple of hours we walked across Melbourne’s CBD to Union Lane, Little Bourke Street, Paynes Place and Hosier Lane.
We saw lots of examples of the different types of street art including tags, paste-ups, stencils, moss bombs, stickers and even guerrilla knitting and crochet! Our guide pointed out examples by well known street artists including Ha-Ha, Vexta, and Space Invaders. It was interesting to hear that although in some ways encouraged by the City of Melbourne, and the existence of legal graffiti areas, the underground / illegal nature of this type of art lives on. The art on the walls is forever changing and being painted over – sometimes by the Council and at other times by artists making their own mark on Melbourne’s walls. Being caught with spray cans can still get you charged with causing malicious damage, while sticking paste-ups to walls will get you a littering fine. One artist we came across had worked out how to get around all this by ‘painting’ on the footpath with water. His giant fish may only have lasted for less than an hour, but it was beautiful to see. It appears that some businesses have embraced the street art vibe and invited artists to adorn their walls. The QV Centre has several examples of stencil art adorning its walls.
At first glance a lane full of graffiti and street art can look overwhelmingly chaotic, but having taken the time to look a little further I found lots of instances of work that I really enjoyed, and even a nod to the disenfranchised youth of West Side Story through a sticker that simply read JETS.
Elizabeth Little has a B. Art Theory (Hons)and M Art Admin, COFA UNSW. She lives and works in Sydney.
All images supplied by the writer.