Today’s guest spotter is Jeff Stewart – author, artist and sometime bread-seller at his local Sunday market
I love Lu Xun Park. It’s in Hongkou, Shanghai, and is my most favourite place on earth at the moment. Everything happens here – there is dance, tai chi, singing, talking, and sitting. Lovely, to me, and I can’t even speak Chinese.
People also write on the footpath there in water or chalk. They often write poetry, advertise their calligraphy skills, or quote common Chinese sayings. In the first photograph the man is writing characters in outline, which is very difficult.
Sometimes migrant workers write their story on the ground asking for help. They come to the city from rural areas and often have trouble finding work. The second photograph was taken after rain had blurred a woman’s story about her current living situation.
Jeff’s photograph of a man writing on the pavement in water accompanies his journal entry Translating Lu Xun Park on the Kai Xin (Happy Heart)website
Canberra writer Doug Fry is Pavement Graffiti’s inaugural guest spotter.
Apart from a failed first year university class (and my weekly trash TV fix of Bones) I don’t really have any experience in the field of psychology, so I’m only making a vaguely educated guess when I say that the author/illustrator of this work is probably a paranoid schizophrenic.
The author/illustrator is a gentleman who appears to be in his early 40s, and his chaotic ‘thought pattern’-type works can occasionally be spotted on public surfaces – bus shelters, powerline poles, shopping centre walls – around the inner southern suburbs of Canberra. This particular work was done on the footpath along Macgregor Street in Deakin, not far from the local shopping centre.
I passed the gentleman in the middle of sketching this particular ‘thought pattern’ during a stroll to fetch some groceries in December 2008. On my way home, he was sitting on a nearby bench, his work complete, so I stopped to chat with him – unsuccessfully. The gentleman immediately grew suspicious of my attention, muttered a few words, and then walked off in a hurry, leaving the mystery of his works intact.
Arrow chases are the urban version of Hare and Hounds. Kids chalk arrows on the pavement instead of leaving paper trails, and Hash House Harrier clubs sometimes write esoteric instructions beside their arrows. I spotted the ‘Walkers’ arrow near Stanmore Station.
AF remembers being on a run with his club some years ago in Melbourne when the arrows petered out near a tram stop. Not knowing what else to do the group of sweaty runners got onto the next tram that came along and rode to the end of the line. There they found that the arrow trail had resumed with the instruction ‘ON ON’.
Arrow chases probably explain many of the chalk arrows you see in the streets, but others are written on the pavement for the benefit of strollers and shoppers, pointing the way to shops, markets and garage sales. These arrows come in all sizes with all kinds of text and embellishment. The ‘Psst – garage sale’ arrow and a set of others like it were in King Street, South Newtown, last year.
Sydney’s most famous pavement graffitist was Arthur Stace, a reformed no-hoper who walked the city’s streets writing the single copperplate word ‘Eternity’, after being dramatically converted to Christianity in the 1930s. Some years after his death in 1967, Sydney artist Martin Sharp adopted his chalked word and began incorporating it into prints, posters, tapestries, postcards and T-shirts. Thanks to Sharp’s thirty-year Eternity industry, what was originally a religious message has become a product of popular culture. In 2001 ‘Eternity’ in Arthur Stace script was registered as a trademark by the City of Sydney because of its ‘iconic value … to the people of Sydney’.*
A replica of Stace’s one-word sermon is preserved in metal near a fountain below Town Hall Square. Unfortunately is it is hidden from most people except the patrons of a café whose outdoor chairs and tables surround it. It was raining the day I took this photograph – the cascades off the café umbrellas matched the cascading fountain.
Every now and then I come across ‘Eternity’ written in chalk by someone trying to imitate Stace. And a stencil artist in Melbourne has used the form of Stace’s word to write ‘Optimism’ on the pavements there.
(* I have written about chalk and pavement writing in ‘The Eternal City’, Meanjin 65(2), 2006, pp.139-146).