City walls the world over are increasingly being seen as canvases ripe for art. Many wear epic murals, some have seething political commentary and others human- scale images pasted, sprayed, painted and stencilled on.
Here in Perth, the latest orientation leans heavily towards large-scale design in the inaugural street-art festival Public: Art in the City. In and around Wolf Lane, William Street and other locations such as the Subiaco/Leederville underpass and a Fremantle housing block, urban artworks are screaming up walls and around corners.
Projections, temporary interventions and a range of associated events are also activating urban spaces.
Public marks a radical transformation of the urban fabric of Perth, writ large as well as discretely tucked away in alleyways. The most accessibly striking array can be seen in the open-air carpark on Murray Street. Here the likes of Stormie Mills, the Yok and Sheryo, Roa, Alexis Diaz, Jaz, Phlegm, Kid Zoom and Gaia festoon the walls. Every direction you turn you encounter yet another explosion of warping, writhing, absolutely mad design.
A sinuous echo runs through the massive works of Roa and Phlegm. Belgium artist Roa is known for his close attention to detail when painting his trademark subject of native fauna. In Fremantle he has a large numbat on a wall opposite the Fremantle Markets and for Public he has created a six-storey high serpent with thick scales that appears to launch off the wall.
Alongside this snake, Phlegm has created an equally striking black-and-white character in the form of a pregnant hybrid of bird, machine and mammal. The pattern and detail in this piece is exquisite and as with Roa’s serpent it undeniably stands out from its otherwise nondescript architectural background.
Around the corner and down an alley, less figurative, more blobular and multicolour designs flow along the walls by the likes of Saner, Vans the Omega and Phibs. They become the hum of the city, a background of bubblegum elation. Wolf Lane is then another space of over-saturation, with greater attention to pattern, repetition and geometry in the designs.
This celebration of urban art, as with the culture itself, is largely male-dominated but there is a sprinkling of works by female artists. Not least of whom are Maya Hayuk, Clare McFarlane and Hyuro, whose intricate poetic works add depth to the overall selection.
Street artists are always facing challenges with their art, largely to do with issues of legality and access to walls. There was doubtlessly a great deal of red tape to clear in launching this project.
It is amusing to witness the same artists — who on other days might be chased down by the law — here given cherry pickers and commissioned to access wall space.
As contentious as it is, street art is a unique art form in that it is freely accessible as a repurposing of urban space, whether we like it or not. It also has a strong global following as evidenced by websites such as Street Art Locator and the Wooster Collective, and the associated phone apps that document its appearance around the globe.
It is generally perceived as a transitory phenomenon and only time will tell how long these pieces survive in their current states of fresh and crafty grandeur.
Public: Art in the City culminates this weekend with The Public House, a street party with the artists, DJs, pop-up bar and hawker’s food market in Wolf Lane tonight and from 3-11pm tomorrow.
On Sunday, artists will create artworks along William Street, between Bulwer and Newcastle streets, for the Dear William celebration.