Compiling a list of top Australian street artists is always going to be controversial; I am stoked that I made the list in the following article drawn directly from artsHub:
TEN TOP AUSTRALIAN STREET ARTISTS
By Leo Ribeiro artsHub | Tuesday, June 26, 2012
Street artists these days have more than run-ins with the law to look forward to. Earlier this year stencil artist, Luke Cornish (E.L.K.) became the first street artist to make the finals of the Archibald Prize while students of the National Institute of Circus Arts (NICA) recently based their latest show, Lucy and the Lost Boy, on works from artists such as Urban Cake Lady and Vexta, whose pieces are pasted throughout Melbourne’s iconic laneways.
Australia’s incredibly active and diverse street art scene is recognised and appreciated both by local and international audiences. Street art tours are now more popular than ever with overseas visitors, who often arrive armed with smart phone apps that unveil hidden works in most Australian capital cities. Phone screens aren’t the only digital arena for street art with a massive online community of fans connecting through forums, Facebook and Instagram, proving this subculture is fast emerging from the underground.
If the world is wondering about the identity of UK’s Banksy or still laughing about US artist Mark Jenkin’s latest prank, rest assured they have also heard about the exquisite street art of Brisbane’s Anthony Lister and Perth’s Kid Zoom. It’s no wonder New York City has taken them away from us.
At the risk of sounding like a bad reality show, it must be said: Australia’s got talent. Despite the ephemeral and anonymous nature of street art, we have put together a list of some of the most inspiring Australian street artists around. Keep an eye out for them next time you go for a wander.
David Meggs Hooke is one of the founding members of Everfresh Studios, one of Australia’s most renowned and respected street art collectives and home to some of the country’s leading street artists including Sync, Phibs, Reka, Rone, Wonderlust, Prizm, Makatron and The Tooth. Meggs’ multi-layer stencils and posters initially helped cement his reputation on the streets of Melbourne, before he developed his painting skills to include aerosol and large scale mural works. His energetic and subverted collages of hybrid characters and pop culture symbology have reached the streets and galleries of cities such as London, Paris, Tokyo, Hawaii and Los Angeles. Meggs’ next solo exhibition will take place in San Francisco at WhiteWalls Gallery this July, but the artist returns to Australia for another solo show (title to be announced) at Melbourne’s Backwoods Gallery in October 2012.
Adam Hill is a Koori painter, photographer, cartoonist, didgeridoo performer, MC and workshop educator. An advocate for social justice and acclaimed painter of acrylics (both canvasses and murals), Hill often creates provocative works that avoid being politically didactic or predictable. Besides his message of social justice, his work is imbued with a deadly sense of humour that’s sympathetic to those who have lived it tough in the face of the European occupation of Australia. He was arguably the first Indigenous artist to stage major solo exhibitions in his hometown, Penrith, NSW. He now lives and works in Sydney’s Redfern. Hill has staged over 14 solo exhibitions and his work is collected by the National Gallery of Australia, NSW Parliament and international private collections.
Kaff-eine joins the likes of Baby Guerilla, Klara, Be Free, Suki, MISO, Urban Cake Lady, Precious Little and I & The Others as one of many talented Melbourne ladies spreading their mind-blowing paste-ups across the city. Kaff-eine also works with aerosol, marker pens and upcycling for her paste-ups, which often feature characters from her vivid imagination: kids, her signature ‘Kaffoxes’ and a stag skull headed figure. Kaff-eine was one of the artists handpicked to collaborate for the L’Oreal Melbourne Fashion Festival Windows by Design project and was also recently featured in Curvy’s annual book celebrating the work of the latest wave of female visual artists from across the globe. Her recent exhibitions include Urban Scrawl for Melbourne’s Midsumma Festival and Sydney’s aMBUSH gallery for the Curvy book launch. Although, if you visit or live in Melbourne it’ll be hard to go past her interventions at Melbourne Central Shopping Centre, which has commissioned the artist to paint two murals and a column on the Ground Floor.
Originally from Hobart, Ghostpatrol is a multi-talented, self-taught artist now living in Melbourne. According to his website, “Ghostpatrol creates worlds across mediums exploring ideas of space exploration, cosmic scale and the super future. His visual worlds invite ideas and questions to methods of seeing beyond our own existence scale and atomic configuration, through the concepts of curiosity lead science and quantum physics.” Ghostpatrol works closely with his partner Miso in their Melbourne studio and artist collective, the Mitten Fortress, where the artist explores a wide range of mediums, from dolls to gocco prints, watercolour paintings and tattoos. Recent commissioned work has seen the artist design water coolers for Coca-Cola alongside artists Beci Orpin and Twoone and a residency at Melbourne Zoo, where he was one of 50 artists selected to paint a life-sized sculpture of one their most popular attractions: Mali. The sculptures of the famous elephant calf, including Ghostpatrol’s Enceladus will be seen around the streets of Melbourne in August and September.
Hailing from Ardrossan on South Australia’s Yorke Peninsula, prolific stencil artist Joshua Smith is a key figure in Adelaide’s street art scene and the owner of Adelaide’s mecca of urban art, Espionage Gallery. Smith has twice been a finalist for the Australian Stencil Art Prize (winning the Avant Card prize in 2011), was the winner of the King of Canvas first place and stencil category prize and has had over 100 exhibitions of his artwork worldwide. Smith, who is self-taught and has been working with stencil art for over 13 years, also has extensive experience teaching stencil art to a range of groups including refugees and disadvantaged youth. His work is often inspired by Japanese monster movies and B-grade classics from the 1950s.
Regan Tamanui aka Ha-ha is a self-taught artist who ‘started off by spray painting elaborate stencils on the street and has since graduated to the gallery’. Born in Hamilton, New Zealand, Ha-ha is one of the masterminds behind Blender Studios, the hub of the street art movement in Australia’s graffiti capital, Melbourne, which he now calls home. In 2003, Ha-ha ran stencil gallery Early Independent Space, which alongside Blender Studios paved the way for many of Australia’s leading street art figures including Nu-Rock, Vexta, Civil, Dlux, 70K and many more. Tamanui’s skills and cutting technique are still envied by many as the artist does not use Photoshop or digital tricks to produce his amazing figures and characters to comment on the power of mass media within Australian popular culture in refined stencils involving up to 40 layers. Although he has taken on reality TV, the religion of sport and society’s obsession with fame and fortune, it might be his stencil of bushranger Ned Kelly that we’ll never ever forget. “[Ned Kelly] was like the Robin Hood of the southern hemisphere. He was for the oppressed to look towards as someone who said no to the tyranny of the British Empire; that is why Ned Kelly will never die,” he once told The Australian. He is also known for saying street artists are the ‘bushrangers of the 21st century.’ We couldn’t agree more.
Street art made of masking tape? Yes, that is correct. In his own words, Buff Diss explains: “Originally from Melbourne, Australia but have been travelling the last few years. I started using masking tape instead of paint about five years ago by accident. It’s mainly the lack of precedent, no dos & dont’s, etc. that I like most about using it. I’ve never studied art or design but I think graff is a bit like skating, once you start you learn to see the city differently. The same with graffiti, you never see the city the same again. Melbourne was an awesome place to come up, with innovators like Dskyz, Merda, Puzle, Renks, Bones and the SDM guys.” Free-hand bold imagery, usually composed in large scale and within urban contexts make Buff Diss’ work unique. It’s just a shame his works don’t usually last very long.
Trina Collins aka Poncho Army is a visual artist working across a wide range of media. Army’s mix of hand drawn illustrations, screen printing and stencil art have made her popular among fellow street artists and high art collectors alike. Her work is held in private collections in New York, Japan and London. She was a finalist for the Australian Stencil Art Prize (in 2009, 2010 and 2011), Meroogal Women’s and BSG Works on Paper (2012). Poncho Army likes to explore universal themes of loneliness and claustrophobia, often creating contrasts to celebrate realities that seem uncertain in her works. Last year, she opened Sinking Ship Studio in Wollongong and was an artist in residence at Gallery: 5 Crown Lane. Currently Poncho Army is the new artist-in-residence at Wollongong City Gallery and, curiously, one of the people recently made redundant by Fairfax for whom she worked as a graphic designer.
Perth artist Ryan Boserio was born in England in 1985 and spent 14 years travelling across the globe before landing in Western Australia. Initially a graffiti artist, Boserio has also incorporated multimedia design into his practice, which is often described as a mix of ‘low brow’ illustration and contemporary fine art. His narrative works often feature planes as a logo or branding and are clearly influenced by the worlds of sci-fi, fantasy and surrealism. His distinctive imagery caught the attention of clients and collaborators, which include government departments and big brands such as Converse, Becks and Absolut. Boserio is currently exhibiting Vignettes at Fremantle’s Hole in the Wall Gallery until July 14.
Brisbane has recently seen large scale artworks pop up around its inner suburbs and Fintan Magee could well be the reason why. Not that he’s alone; artists Sofles, Shida, Andy Harwood and Guido Van Helten also hail from the sunshine state, but Magee really has been creating some of the largest street pieces in the country. Born in Lismore NSW, and raised in Brisbane, Magee’s artistic calling manifested early in his childhood through his drawings. He was unable to resist the temptations of graffiti as a teen, when he was first introduced to Brisbane’s underground street art scene. Knowing he was more than your average train bomber, Magee quickly moved onto painting walls while incorporating more than the usual spray can and exploring more complex themes in within his paintings. Cardboard boxes, balloons, teddy bears and rubbish bags all seem to populate his original imagery, seemingly inspired by children’s books, as viewers are forced to reflect on themes such as the environment, waste, consumption, loss and transition. Currently, Magee’s latest Downfall Series’ murals address the issue of homelessness in Brisbane and the Gold Coast.
Our list is a celebration of both established and emerging artists who continue to inspire and colour public spaces with their talent. Who are some of the street artists that most inspire you?
This article previously featured an image by Vexta, a legendary Melbourne artist who is at the forefront of women in the street art movement in Australia, as its hero image. The inclusion of the stencil “Welcome to Australia” from the National Gallery of Australia’s collection was intended as a homage to the artist, the significance of the piece, and to represent the success of street artists in the wider arts sector.