Anyone that follows me via Instagram (tpegler) will know I’ve been posting a lot of photos of street art. Partly this is a reflection of the city I live in. Melbourne is blessed with great artists and a culture that is evolving – becoming better at recognising differences between random acts of public art and mindless vandalism.
There were other factors that drew me to the street artists, too. When I made the difficult decision to walk away from a regular income to concentrate on creativity, family and health, I was drawn to others who have made similar choices. I wanted to surround myself with ideas, courage and creativity.
The main reason I began photographing street art is I became acutely aware of transience. What’s here today isn’t necessarily still with us tomorrow. An artist can spend days on a magnificent piece, only to have idiot taggers deface it the following night or a council whitewash it after a week or two. To my mind, this makes sharing images of guerilla art important. As an author, I write a book but my work doesn’t really exist unless people read it. Art needs to be seen so I wanted the street art to live and be enjoyed beyond the back lanes and alleys around town.
After talking to a couple of street artists, I learned that there are different perspectives on the impermanence of their work. Some see the damage wrought by weather, wildlife and taggers as organic, unpredictable enhancements of their work. The art takes on a life of its own and grows into its setting.
At other public places, such as Hosier Lane in the CBD, artists take turns at showing their wares. A doorway off Flinders Street that featured a powerful portrait of Heath Ledger as the Joker, by OD, was recently repainted with an intricate stencil of an elderly woman’s lined face, by ELK. For all I know the door might have a new identity now. The artists understand their work has a limited time in the sun.
That said, there’s anger, too. When a significant piece of work is attacked by someone who clearly only aims to deface or destroy something they couldn’t do themselves, the art community understandably bristles. Sadly, no matter how savvy the town becomes, there will always be morons and vandals.
Anyway, just as I feel honoured to hang out with other authors and illustrators, I get a great deal of pleasure wandering around the city and recognising the work of local artists. I now have a small piece by Baby Guerilla on the wall in my office (purchased from a gallery) and hope to collect other artists’ works. Why? Because each piece is a reminder of the power of art – to make us think, feel and understand other people’s stories.
I’ll share some favourite images here and in posts to come. Maybe the inspiration will flow through to you, too.
All photos are my own. For further insight into street art, check out Dean Sunshine’s Land of Sunshine or, for a YA spin, Cath Crowley’s fantastic Graffiti Moon.