Chased by uniforms – Perth’s artistic underbelly
Guest blog post by the wonderful Tracy Brown.
Chased by uniformed, badge wearing officers by torchlight… down dark alleys and laneways and out onto the night streets of cities… lugging a bag of spray cans and concealing your identity with a balaclava…. The traditional life of a street artist is not generally seen as glamorous. I mean, ok perhaps Banksy makes it work… just look at him… oh no, that’s right, you can’t… And why? Because he knows he would be in deep shit if anyone ever saw him. That’s the problem with tagging your art, they catch you red handed at one wall, they can track your little trail all over town. But I doubt he’s ever been fined, and probably never will be. Why? Because people LIKE IT. We like art, we like our walls exploding with colour and creative political statements that drive a message home, and nowhere have we seen more love for street art than Perth in WA.
Western Australia got the message a while back, their youth were leaving – in droves. Perth as a city was renowned for cultivating brilliant minds, but suffered a mass exodus once the university degree was in the travel pouch. They were sending budding entrepreneurs with innovative ideas into the waiting arms of other states and bigger cities, where they also found street culture and vibrant communities. Perth said “We want you back!” and the crew at FORM, stepped up. PUBLIC was born, and communities rejoiced!
You can position yourself in Perth city’s Wolf Lane and observe travellers mouths drop. They will stand transfixed by the mind-boggling amount of hours, litres of paint (ahh .. this year alone that would be an easy 4,245 litres, plus a lazy 2,406 aerosol cans), creative genius and pure vision it would have taken to create such inspirational work. As you traverse the city and regional areas throughout the state, you will see Giant Octopuses (hey, what’s the correct plural for an eight legged sea creature… I should really look that up), towering Big Bad Wolves and teeny tiny mice murals, and colour – SO MUCH COLOUR!
60 artists took part in the creation of 70 walls this year, and international street artists are clambering to get a spot on the next round in 2016. Competition is fierce. People are talking, and the youth are not so keen to leave a progressive, culturally aware and inclusive region. A place where their contributions are valued and they feel part of their community. Creative spaces breed positive mindsets, the energy attracts young travelers who feel welcome in a city that embraces art and culture.
Does the “legal” street artist feel as though they can still be taken seriously if what they are creating is sanctioned and **GASP – PAID FOR? Nope, not a typo – PAID, with real-to-goodness CASH. Yes, unsurprisingly, yes they do. Local businesses (as in Penang – check out the Rat & Dragon frontline report) are claiming economic growth from increased foot traffic and trendy coffee shops and eateries are sprouting next to Grasshoppers the size of Godzilla. Bland alleyways have become friendlier places for pedestrians. Professionally designed artwork gives a desirable ambience where once you would be afraid to set foot. Working alongside local councils also ensures that relationships between artists, businesses and the general community are fostered in a direction that benefits everyone involved.
Breaking free of the city, just an hour and a half outside of Perth, you will see what the community of Northam has decided is it’s best attraction. PUBLIC’s largest murals for 2015 by PHLEGM & HENSE.. 36 wheat silos covered in paint by the world’s best.
(Film by Peacock Visuals, with kind permission of Form)
Hense: “Painting the grain silos in Northam, Australia was amazing. I’d say it’s one of the most interesting structures and projects I’ve worked on thus far.”
From the world’s first collaborative, legal murals on the remains of the Berlin Wall in 1989, people have collectively seen how art brings communities together. It fosters hope, ambition and spirit. Perth is bursting with youth, life and … that little something extra that you just can’t quite put your finger on. But don’t take my word for it, be inspired and come find it for yourself.