I wonder how many people know the story behind the coloured flowers on the traffic island at Newtown Bridge? They were originally painted during a day-long Reclaim the Streets party in November 1999, but if that were the whole story they would have worn off long ago. In fact, these flowers were deliberately preserved by friends of Kathy Jones.
Kathy was an artist who worked with advocacy groups for disadvantaged people in the Newtown area. On the day of the Reclaim the Streets demo it was Kathy who organised the decoration of roadways, kerbs and traffic islands at the intersection of King Street and Enmore Road. Just a few months later Kathy died. Her friends tied notices to the light poles to let local people know she had gone and coated this particular set of painted flowers with marine varnish. My photograph was taken in 2005 when regular applications of varnish had kept the bouquet fresh for six years. In 2009 the flowers, while still visible, are gradually fading away.
Dribble and splash are becoming more common as ways of writing pavement graffiti. H2OE was busy making large and small versions of his watery mark around Newtown-Stanmore-Petersham in 2008. How does he actually do it?
Over the years I have found York Street in the CBD to be a very fruitful site for pavement observation. Last week I spotted this line of scribbles near Barrack Street. These scribbles are not meaningless – they are a record of the City of Sydney’s Rapid Removal policy on graffiti. I missed out on seeing the advertising stencils they replaced.
‘Rapid’ is a relative term, of course. A larger and less dainty scribble at the south end of King Street, Newtown shows where a ‘No war’ pavement art work used to be. It must have been there for some years before it was overwritten in 2008. I was very sorry to find it gone, especially as it was in a precinct where there is some tolerance for graffiti.
There are city roads and there are shity roads. Pavement graffiti is not just an urban phenomenon. This was on the Castlereagh Highway near Walgett in far northern New South Wales.
Even if you weren’t a graffiti aficionado you would probably recognize that this is somewhere in Melbourne because of the bluestone cobbles. It’s Hosier Lane in November 2005. Amongst the different styles of wall graffiti there is one stencil on the kerbstone. It might have been there for some years. Australia has long had poor reputation for its treatment of refugees. It is appropriate that graffiti should carry subversive messages. But do small and inconspicuous stencils on the ground make any difference to political processes?
In a week when we are reminded that influenza is from pigs and birds, perhaps it’s time to reflect on the message spread by some aggrieved crusader in 2007-2008. This person broadcast their warning widely around Sydney’s northern beach suburbs and also in the city itself. Pavement graffiti is fairly rare in the CBD — it soon gets scrubbed off by cleaning machines. This example was on the corner of Elizabeth Street and Martin Place, and judging from the reddish remnants on the greasy writing the medium was lipstick.
Mine is not the first blog to mention the Cancer is from dog’s campaigner (see here for example). The apparently errant apostrophe drives some people mad. In this case it is not a matter of incorrect grammar but rather an indicator of the writer’s social delicacy. However the graffitist was feeling less constrained when they wrote the full message in texta on a hoarding in George Street: Cancer is from dog’s poo (then again, maybe it was an indelicate apostrophe vigilante who filled in the missing word).
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.
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.