Thursday, 2 August 2012

We need to talk ...

As a new Melburnian I see beautiful art everywhere I look. Not just in the galleries, and not just commissioned street sculptures that come with the obligatory plaque. On almost every street in every suburb, and in some of the great laneways of the city, there is a flourishing gallery of new and interesting art works popping up every day.  

There is humour, sadness, loneliness, savagery, reverence, illumination and obscurity.
There is sly, wry and spry.
Graffiti, from the Italian word graffiato, means scratched. So let's scratch beneath the surface. We've been doing it for thousands of years, and we've been doing it everywhere. Cave paintings of family or gods applied with sticks, or records of hunting trips daubed on with animal bones are found in Australia, France, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey. In ancient Rome and Pompeii they declared their love, threw curses at each other, promoted political agendas, even prostitutes used graffiti for their business.Back to the here and now, in Melbourne many of the works are faces. And I believe this expression is a very human attempt to paint ourselves into the city that surrounds us. A skyscraper cannot overpower us if we, at ground level at least, mark it with an artist's name or a cartoon and bring it down to human level. But these works do not just humanise the city; they also create a legacy, an "I was here" moment in time.       
That this legacy is often painted over or scrubbed away hours or days later does not matter.              
It was still seen and remembered.

And then some of the works are messages of a more literal type. Some of the artists casting their lines into the sea of walls catch your eye immediately with grand designs and bold, electrifying colour. But look closer at the spaces between the large artworks and there are silly sentences, quiet whispers, cries for help, declarations of love, and coded secrets. Much like graffiti on a toilet wall, these messages become conversations as the next person, and the next after that, have their say too. Organic and real, these dialogues are messy, colourful, overlapping - these artists literally talk over the top of one another. But I'd much prefer the passion and simplicity of "Eat me" over the brainstormed, workshopped, focus grouped, key messaged and expensive banality that is flashed onto prime time television each night or writ large, many metres high, on spotlit billboards.                                                               

As a dynamic, these conversations may grow into a tree with many branches, or wither as the writers become stumped. Clever conversations now include internet links so the talk walks off the wall and online. And there are websites like that have archived the works of many. Even this post on this blog carries the conversation onwards. To you. 

Where on Earth will it go next ... 

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