Street Art: The Community's Gallery
The Glenferrie Hawthorn area currently boasts an increasing trend towards large scale murals, with commissioned works attracting talented artists and admirers alike to our neck of the woods. Our recent and not-so-recent history informs some local pieces, while education and beautification are represented as well. Our street art is not only educational, abstract and informal, but also fulfils a commercial role in business promotion. However, this very public art form has fought long and hard for the recognition it enjoys today.
Initially, street art was an expressive form of spray painting, often seen in dense urban areas, with artists utilising pseudonyms or ‘tags’ as their only form of identification. In late-’70s New York, this emerging art-form earned the title of ‘Neo-expressionism’, somewhat legitimising it. Attitudes to street art began to change and artists who had previously favoured anonymity, began gaining recognition and respect for their compositions, leading to this once underground art movement shaking off its stigma as a sign of urban decline. Nowadays, many street artists use public spaces to tell visual stories that tap into the zeitgeist and reflect a changing society. At a fundamental level, these artworks brighten up our streetscapes and act as colourful landmarks. Yet they also invite speculation, educate the viewer and celebrate people’s stories.
Many examples of street art’s wide reaching subject matter and purpose can be found locally, and in abundance. In our laneways, large scale murals that neatly combine beautification, promotion and local history are presented in full, panoramic glory. On Glenferrie Road, there are bold images inspired by recent traumatic events that have gone on to shape and reshape our community. These tributes sit neatly alongside more whimsical, promotional works which in turn are barely a stone’s throw from art celebrating growing indigenous recognition and reconciliation as well as mankind’s relationship with nature and progress. Herein lies the primary difference between graffiti and street art, as the latter can be defined as having an inclusive purpose beyond graffiti’s more antisocial connotations.
Further differences can be found in street art’s medium as well as its desire to connect with, rather than confront its audience. Developing from hastily applied aerosol spray paint into high quality weather-proof enamel, modern street art captures the feeling of longevity. This, as well as its rebranding, is certainly in part a side effect of gentrification. Graffiti grew out of social dissonance during a time when opportunity for personal growth existed only for the wealthy and well-connected. In the same way that punk and hip hop music gave a voice to the so-called underclasses, graffiti became their own form of visual expressionism. Nowadays, artists who work in this field are not reacting to oppressive social standards that exclude them, they are controlling the narrative around street art as a perpetually changing format that now is now viewed as a legitimate form of expression rather than an act of vandalism.
Speaking on street art’s perpetuity in public spaces, artist James Price, whose sports-themed mural can be seen in Grace Park, states, “Permanence in public art doesn’t do a service to the community. Communities change, and their artwork needs to reflect that.”
Mural 1; Coles Local in Linda Crescent. Artist Justine McAllister
Mural 2; Swinburne University in Burwood Road. Artist Adnate
Mural 3; Open Windows/Kilburn in Burwood Road. Artist Rone
Mural 4; Grace Park. Artist James Price
Mural 5; Electricity Substation in Luton Lane. Artist Alex Sugar
Mural 6; Lido Cinemas in Grace Street. Artist Jimmy DVate
Mural 7; Glenferrie Station, Railway Arcade. Artist Creature Creature
Mural 8; Ninety-Nine Pancakes in Glenferrie Place. Artist Lynne Bremner