May Lane

The wall art in May Lane is often in the news. This time it’s on page three of the Sydney Morning Herald because there is going to be a national tour of panels from this laneway in St Peters, setting off in October. It all started about five years ago with Tuli Balog encouraging graffiti writers to do pieces on the wall of his picture-framing factory. Kurt Iveson has written about it in his book Publics and the city (Blackwell Publishing, 2007).

But the graffiti on the pavement in May Lane is never mentioned. Walk up and down the lane, though, and you will find all sorts of deliberate and accidental art decorating the gutters, along with the signatures of people whose wall pieces have long since been covered over.

POSTSCRIPT  – Since I wrote this post, May Lane has become the subject of discussion at Marrickville Council (not for the first time). Here’s a report by an onlooker of the discussion at the meeting on 9 November 2010. It’s on the Saving Our Trees website, although I don’t quite get the connection.

Reclaim the Lanes

If they won’t let you Reclaim the Streets any more, then Reclaim the Lanes instead. It’s a bit sad really. The RTL party on 13 February was small but kind of fun anyway, even if everyone was funnelled into just one lane not far from the starting point. There were balloons, bikes, and budgie smugglers. When it became apparent that the procession had come to a halt people started sloping off to the bottlo in Enmore Road for supplies. The music from wheelie bin sound systems was great. And someone stuck up their photographs of the Reclaim the Streets events in Newtown from 1999 and 2000 to remind everyone what it used to be like.

The back lanes of Enmore and Newtown are best known for their wall art, but there is stuff on the ground as well, mostly the signatures of artists who have done the wall pieces. I took photographs of RTL participants partying on the remnants of old pavement graffiti.

Open argument (Guest spot)

Guest spotter Anne Fry takes a walk around Woden, Australian Capital Territory, in her lunch hour

The street art is on the sides of an open stormwater drain that runs through the centre of Woden in the ACT.   It is not discouraged by the Local Government for it beautifies what would be an ordinary part of town. I don’t know a lot about who created the graffiti but I was interested to see that there were ‘rules’. The conversation about these rules, written on the bed of the drain, is very heated.

Tomb darers

09hmay27-cp1060557-wfreewaytagtombSome people take huge risks to put their tags up (or, in this case, down). And some people also take big risks to get a photo. These two examples are on the Warringah Freeway near Naremburn. It’s late afternoon and most of the traffic is heading north away from the city. But in the mornings the volume of traffic over these tags is enormous. So they have an audience of thousands – if anyone actually notices them. What’s amazing is how long they’ve lasted without being worn away. The photograph was taken in May and they are still there three months later.09hmay27-cp1060585-wfreewaytag

 

Text and texture

Welcome to pavement graffiti, where asphalt rules and grey is good. The focus is on roadways and footpaths, and ‘graffiti’ means anything written, drawn, scrawled or stencilled on them.

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First up, one of my favourite photographs. It shows a lane off Enmore Road in Newtown.  I took it in 1999, not long after I started noticing pavement graffiti, and somehow managed to capture the texture and colours of worn asphalt on a rainy day. Some months later a smart coffee shop opened at the end of the lane and crumbling asphalt was replaced by regimented pavers.

The graffiti is by Phibs. He is a big boy now, his art is used by advertisers, and his framed works sell for thousands. Currently he is based in Melbourne but he recently visited his roots. His show was at Oh Really Gallery, not far from the laneway in the photograph.  For the exhibition he sprayed the gallery floor with geometric figures like some of the stuff he was spraying on Newtown pavements back in 1999.

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