Melbourne is an artistic, hip and cosmopolitan city.
It distinguishes itself from its – almost – neighbour Sydney, being, according to me, more “affordable and dynamic”.
It only takes a stroll down the CBD to realise why Melbourne is the Australian capital of art: Street Art in Melbourne is taken very seriously/is no monkey business!
For 2 days, we roamed the city’s lanes to discover their inspiring urban master pieces. As an abstract painter and photographer, I realised that loving street art comes with a lot of frustration, trying to understand the meaning behind an artist’s piece. I don’t know about you, but for me the meaning of an art piece really matters.
That is the reason why I decided to dig in and do some research (credits at the end of the article) to be able to talk to you about Melbourne’s Street Art.
How it all began
Street art in Melbourne started in the 60’s. Back then, the messages were highly political and you would find them painted on doors or in the pub’s toilets. It’s only in the 80’s that more aesthetically pleasing paintings and drawings would see the light of day. They made their first appearance along the train tracks and in the dark tunnels, and continued to spread through the 90’s. But, of course, this practice was highly illegal at the time.
However, Street Art became more modern and it wasn’t perceived as a means of protest anymore.
Nowadays Street Art is legal in some of the streets in Melbourne (all it takes is a phone call to the number written on the walls to obtain an authorisation from the city; the piece will then be on display for a maximum of 6 months). It still remains illegal and penalties may apply if you are caught in any other street. It is nevertheless not considered as a criminal offence of the same range as it used to be.
Hosier lane, Union lane and ACDC lane are the streets to benefit from the special treatment. They are constantly buzzing with artistic movement: the walls are changing from one day to the other, and an abundance of onlookers gather along the streets to revel in the artsy atmosphere. Through time and the evolution of urban art, these lanes have become touristic attractions in their own right: some people are taking the pose over here, others are snapping pictures over there, tourists and locals are flocking all year round to the Melbourne CBD to come and admire those works of art. Not only are artists paid for their work but some even gain national (or even international) fame.
This tiny little street named after the famous Aussie rock band is one of the most famous ones when it comes to street art in Melbourne. Case in point, right this moment if you were to walk down ACDC lane, you would get the chance to admire – among others – the work of Melbourne-based artist Makatron. A bit of background story about the piece: before realising the painting, Makatron sent out a call on social media asking parents to send him their kids’ drawing. He would then turn those drawings into a piece of art. And that’s how the selected pictures ended up on the walls of one of the busiest lanes in Melbourne! I personally love this fun idea!
On the opposite side, the whole entire wall is covered in posters of the famous American rock band Foo Fighters: amazing!
The “Melbourne” mural with the red roses (pictured on the right), by artist Steen Jones, can be found in the lane perpendicular to ACDC lane. It is facing another remarkable piece by Fintan Magee, addressing the sensitive subject of refugees, uprooted from their native country (pictured on the left).
All around you can admire works mingling graffiti and drawing, like the one below by Mongolian artist Heesco.
On the left you can see a portrait of one of his friends who is a model. And on the right is a picture of the mural he painted in honour of the ceremony for the World’s 50 best restaurants 2017 that took place in Melbourne in April.
But the pieces that touched me the most were definitely the ones by the artist Adnate, very engaged in the cause for Australian aboriginals and whose aim is to raise awareness. He paints portraits with the idea that “everyone has a story worth telling”. I am very connected to this idea because I feel the same way when I take pictures, but also in general in my daily life. And what is surprising is that even before knowing the concept behind the pictures, those were the paintings that touched me the most compared to all the others! Why yes, I’m a highly sensitive person!
Like the rest of the city, Fitzroy offers a mix between surprising murals, bright graffiti and the chaos of bins, milk crates and cardboard boxes lying on the floor. This is what makes the city – especially its lanes – so vibrant and animated.
I could go on and on talking about Melbourne street art! There are so many pieces scattered across the city, making it, according to me, the best city for urban art in the world. My eyes wandered from the little details to the bigger pictures. Being a fervent art amateur, Melbourne was a real feast for the eyes. Not only for the eyes actually, but also for my camera. However, even with all the megapixels in the world and the best equipment, it is impossible to recreate the emotions and feelings you get while you’re walking down those open-air galleries. I revelled in the mix between all the different styles, from the detailed pieces to the collages on the walls, from the graffiti on the side of the bins to the breathtaking murals and the various “exhibitions”.
For more information:
I did some research and came across a street art collective called The Blender studio who organises tours through the CBD and gives you some insight on urban art and its history.
The tour is led by the artists themselves! I find this concept extremely interesting because it’s more of an exchange with the artists than a traditional guided tour. They offer a different perspective, more detailed, more professional on urban art in Melbourne!
Street art: who? What? Where? How? Why? Follow the guide!
Where: The Blender studios, 20 Wharf Street, Level One, Harbour Town, Docklands, Melbourne 3008
Contact: 03 9328 5556 Website: http://theblenderstudios.com/
Price: $69 (€50)