Archive for the ‘Miso’ Tag

The city-as-light

Over the years that I have been writing about street art, I’ve come across the work of many different artists. Out of all of these, the work of Miso is always there among my very favourites. (Full disclosure: along with Ghostpatrol and Timba Smits, Miso and I co-wrote a book about street art in Melbourne.) As regular readers of this blog will know, I’ve written about Miso’s work a number of times here, and her recent show, Les Lumières, demonstrates that she continues to be one of the most interesting artists in Melbourne (and indeed on the international scene).

Miso is well known for her beautifully placed, delicately drawn paste-ups on city walls, such as this:

But both Les Lumières and a previous solo show, Tschusse!, are evidence of her increasing interest in engaging with the shape and form of the city itself, by raising questions about how we experience it, about who owns it, and about how cities look and feel and are developed.

Les Lumières transformed the gallery space of No Vacancy at Federation Square into a vision of an urban space inflected by pockets of calm, of a city lit by white neon light, and composed of spaces oscillating between the functional and the beautiful. Gorgeously drawn works were present, of course, but also doorways, pieces of wood, and a range of objects, implements and plants that evoke the city and some of the possible things we do in urban space (such as move through it, make gardens in it, go out drinking in it, live in it…). It was a show that seemed influenced by travel (in that Miso has in the last couple of years been to the Ukraine, Japan, London and New York) but also by a lot of reading and thinking: the result was a show that invited us as spectators to look, think, and perhaps even to read…

The show finished several weeks ago, so apologies in that you are not able to go and have a look. But Miso’s website has some photos of the works, here, and if you are interested in reading about new ways thinking city spaces, have a look at the website of This Is Not A Gateway, which promotes ‘knowledge and agitation from emerging urbanists’.

New works in Fitzroy….

After a lot of travelling this year, it’s good to be home, and to be here to stay for a while (except for a weekend in Canberra that’s coming up, about which more later).

And it’s wonderful to be back in Fitzroy, where a lot of activity has been taking place on the streets.

Here are some of the things I’ve seen since returning:

Close up of a new work by Miso

Sticker by Miso

Ghostpatrol

There’s an interesting installation piece on Smith Street, involving boxes attached to poles, with text on mirrored surfaces:

As you can see, this one reads ‘thief'; there are others which read ‘liar’ and ‘loser’. Nice stuff. Since first posting about this, Vetti (of Live in Northcote) contacted me to let me know this installation is by Nick Ilton, and Nick himself has sent me a link to a little video which provides a nice summary of the guerilla sculptures he has been placing around Melbourne in recent weeks. Check it out here.

I’ve seen a lot of fresh paste-ups, such as these, outside the Sutton Gallery on Brunswick Street:

You can find these near Alimentari, where there’s been a lot of activity:

And this is pretty striking:

It’s nice to be home.

Street/Studio: the Place of Street Art in Melbourne

I’m really proud to announce my involvement in a book which is about to be published by Thames & Hudson Australia.

It’s called Street/Studio: the Place of Street Art in Melbourne.

Here’s what it’s about:

“Through a series of intimate conversations, Street/Studio offers an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at how street art has entered the mainstream and become one of the most collectable new art forms. It offers an unparalleled insight into the work of ten of Australia’s most influential, dynamic and creative artists living in Melbourne.

Read about the adventures and challenges of the street as well as the demands of the studio and gallery as told by the artists themselves. Stylishly designed with extensive archival photographs, Street/Studio is an exceptional book written by artists about artists.”

Ghostpatrol, Miso, Timba and I have been working on this since last August, and it has been an amazing experience to put the material together. The book features ten different artists (or group of artists, in the case of Everfresh): Ash Keating, Al Stark, Tai Snaith, Miso, Ghostpatrol, Everfresh, Mic Porter, Twoone, Tom Sevil and Niels Oeltjen, and their work is explored through conversations about their work and some really amazing photographs… There’s also a long essay describing the evolution and distinctiveness of the street art scene in Melbourne.

There are a few events coming up to mark the book’s publication:

Friday, 4 June 7:00 pm
Official launch of Street/Studio at No Vacancy Gallery, Atrium, Federation Square

Sunday, 6 June 2:00 pm
ACMI Screening of Exit through the Gift Shop followed by panel discussion including Miso and myself
Book signing at 5pm with the authors

Saturday, 12 June 1:00 pm
Outre Gallery, CBD
Book signing with Miso, Ghostpatrol and me

Tuesday, 15 June 6:30 pm
Readings, Lygon St, Carlton
Signing and discussion with Miso, Ghostpatrol, myself, Niels and Meggs

Details about these events, the artists, and the authors can be found on the Street/Studio website.

The book should be available in all good bookstores, as they say, in Australia, or, soon, from Thames & Hudson’s own website. You can also order direct from Ghostpatrol.

The City and the City

Imagine that the city you live in actually intersects with another city… Every street, every building exists in your city, but also in another city, which occupies the same space as your own…

This is the premise of the wonderful novel by China Miéville, The City and the City, which I read during the summer vacation. It tells of a fictional city, Beszel, somewhere on the far edges of Eastern Europe, which intersects with another city, Ul Qoma, in the way I’ve described. People live in the same space, but they are citizens of one city and not the other. The inhabitants of Beszel speak a different language to that spoken in the other city; each citizen of Beszel has to learn to ‘un-see’ the presence of the citizens of the other place, and vice versa.

It’s a fascinating idea and makes for some amazing reading. But it has also made me think about street art and the city, and about some recent work by Miso, in her show in December (which I wrote about really briefly here just before the summer break). Although the show is no longer on, I think that there were some really interesting ideas going on in it, and wanted to write a little about it.

Miso’s show, Tchusse, was at Gorker Gallery in Fitzroy,.  I went there on an extremely hot night in December, to see the show and to hear Miso speak about the work. The gallery was crowded, indicating how much interest there is in Melbourne in her work.

In some ways it’s hard to think of the show as having individual works within it (although it does), because it also worked very well as a large installation. Have a look at these pictures, from Miso’s website.The gallery was transformed into a street space, by virtue of the layers of drawings and objects hung on the walls and criss-crossing the corners of the space on string. There were many of Miso’s beautiful drawings, often showing women in the midst of various activities, and many object that she had made: for example, small models of buildings lit from within.

But there were also objects that had been brought into the gallery as part of the setting for the works, some of which had themselves been transformed by the artist. There were wooden doors, upon which pages from books, or posters and notices had been affixed. Items of clothing were suspended from string like laundry from washing-lines; tea-bags also hung drying in corners. There were pages taken from books, pinned upon the wall, next to framed photographs of some of Miso’s street-based art works (which brought other, real, locations into the simulated location within the gallery, but did so through the means of mediation themselves).

The result, when one walked into the gallery, was a sense of entering city space rather than gallery space, albeit a city whose dimensions had been compressed and constrained into multiple layers around and across the gallery.

And it was not simply any city that was being created here: it was in fact Kharkhov in the Ukraine, the city that Miso is originally from; a city which inspires much of her art and which her art in turn remembers and recreates.

On that hot, hot night in December when we all crowded into the gallery to hear Miso speak about the work, I was struck by the way she spoke about her aims – to bring Kharkhov into Melbourne, through her drawings of its inhabitants, through the wooden doors covered with notices of items for sale or pages torn from books, through the tiny scale models of buildings with bullet holes in them, through the clothing hanging from the string. It is not a literal Kharkhov that is being created, but rather a representation of the city, a city that is sensed and experienced through standing in the gallery.

And so Kharkhov becomes a part of Melbourne, rather than a city on the other side of the world. It seems to me that such an achievement testifies to what art is capable of  – to make another city within the city that we all take for granted.  Miso’s show is an example of what street art and graffiti can do to and for the cities we live in.

China Miéville’s book The City and the City describes what it’s like to live in a city which is inhabited also by ‘others’ (people who speak differently from us, people who think differently about the same streets and spaces). Miso’s work allowed us to see the city of Kharkhov by temporarily bringing it into the physical space of Melbourne. And street artists and graffiti writers do this for us over and over again, pointing out that for every person who inhabits Melbourne as a space determined by private property and ‘clean’ walls, there is another citizen of the city, one who sees walls as surfaces to be painted. Miéville’s book may be classified as an ‘ urban fantasy’ on amazon.com, but the split experience described in his novel is one which certainly applies both to the art created by Miso and to the day-to-day experiences of anyone living in Melbourne today.

‘Tchusse': new show by Miso at Gorker Gallery

It seems like every recent post I have uploaded to this blog has begun with an apology about how busy/sick/distracted/hectic I have been…. Well, why break a pattern by doing something different! Apologies for taking such a long time to add a new post here. I had been holding off on doing so because I was due to travel overseas (to Berlin, Paris and London) and I wanted to create lots of posts about the street art I would be seeing there. Instead, my daughter got pneumonia, and I managed to catch it from her, so my trip was postponed, then postponed again, then I finally said, ‘I give up and admit it, I am too sick to travel this year’. So I have had to delay with visits to those amazing cities until next year.

And then just when I thought that I would resume blogging about the fabulous street art in my home town  of Melbourne, my partner managed to get sick (yes, apparently I passed on the whole pneumonia thing to him) plus we decided on an impulse to move house, so we have been consumed by the obsessive, stressful and depressing process of selling and buying. And while that’s not over yet, some of it is (we sold our house last week), and it’s definitely good to be able to feel that there’s a little more time in the week as a result.

I wanted this first-post-in-ages to be about something very special, and I’m happy that it is indeed. Miso, one of my very favourite artists in the world is having a new solo show in Melbourne at Gorker Gallery in Fitzroy. It opened a little while ago so to some of you this will hardly come as news (did I mention that I have been crazy busy?) but it is on until 20 December and in fact on Wed 16th there will be an artist talk by Miso at the Gallery.

Some info about the show and what to expect, which I have taken from Miso’s website:

Miso – Tchusse

Miso – Tchusse
{Stanislava Pinchuk}

Opening Night: Thursday, 3rd December {6-9 pm}
Gorker Gallery – crnr Gore & Kerr Streets, Melbourne.

“‘Tchusse’ sees Miso re-create & condense her home city into a gallery.
Kharkov {Ukraine} becomes a floor to ceiling installation – portraits of
strangers in the street, of friends, folk stories and things otherwise
forgotten, turned into a city built from paper, material and decaying wood,
as Miso replicates buildings, street signs and notices, ladders, empty
bottles, criminal tattoos and clothesline and clothesline from memory.
In this way, Tchusse becomes an extension if Miso’s widely renowned
work as a street artist, as well as being her most ambitious installation &
gallery project yet.”

Miso will be doing an artists talk on the wine tasting evening – Wednesday,
16th of December, at 6 pm. ‘Tchusse’ will also be the launch of a
collaborative clothing project with Warren Harrison.

The exhibition will run until 20th December;
3-7 pm Wednesday-Friday // 11am – 7pm Saturday-Sunday.

If you click on the link for Gorker, you will see some shots from the opening night and get a sense of how amazing the show is. And if you know Miso’s work already, you will realise that this is definitely a show not to be missed.

It’s also a great way for Gorker to end the year. In 2009, they have put on some of the most interesting exhibitions in Melbourne, and I’m looking forward to see what they have lined up for 2010….

Fade to grey

Recently I wrote about buffing, the different ways in which councils, governments and property owners seek to erase any graffiti or street art that has been added to a wall or surface.

For many works of street art, the buff represents their fate, sometimes far sooner than the artist would like. One day the image is there, next day it’s gone – painted over, scraped off.

But sometimes an image evades the buff and remains in place for a long, long time. Its longevity might derive from its being tucked away in a hard-to-notice spot, so that years go by and the work has actually only been seen by a few people. Or it might have been placed somewhere that’s hard to reach – hard for the artist who put it there, but also hard for any cleaning crew, which means that a work can stay up for years. And sometimes, even when a work is prominently visible, easy to access, and illegally located, it somehow escapes the buff, and just slowly and gradually disappears, fading back into the stone.

Within street art culture, there seems to be a lot of admiration, and often rightly so, for newly painted work: images that look glossy and shiny, which haven’t been weathered or degraded in any way (by the addition of tags or the application of posters on top, for example). And I’ve heard people say that work which is fading ‘looks old’, ‘tired’ and so on, and to a certain extent that’s true.

But some artists like to see the effects of these external forces and circumstances on their artworks. Miso, for example, is interested in the peeling and fraying that can arise when a pasted-up image experiences the effects of hot sun, rain, wind. And JR’s pasted-up photographic posters register the impact of the environment pretty fast – his work on the façade of the Tate Modern was repaired by the gallery after only a matter of weeks in place, thanks to a damp British summer. For these artists, though, the possibility of deterioration isn’t a problem, but is rather an integral part of their artistic practice – it’s something they actively invite.

Beyond this, though, I think it’s also worth looking at fading artworks, even when that gradual disappearance and deterioration isn’t part of the artist’s stated intentions. It takes quite a time for a painted work on stone to fade – usually months or even years, which means these greying images have a lifespan that’s quite remarkable given the frequency of buffing and going-over by other artists.

Here’s a fading Banksy. To see the remains of it, it’s best to click on the image to make it bigger. Look at the top step, where there are some words still faintly visible:
dsc_0166

It reads ‘designated picnic area’ and is stencilled on the steps of an office building in a busy road in Shoreditch in London. It’s scarcely legible now, almost vanished back into the steps, its humour and incongruity about to depart the scene.

And take a look at this one:

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It looks like a red smudge on the pavement, but it’s the remains of another Banksy. If you look more closely at the wall next to the smudge, you can see the traces of the two rats stencilled on the walls:

dsc_0164

These rats were kitted out as waiters in a fancy restaurant, with the red smudge actually a red carpet. The rats have faded more than the red carpet, and you need to know what was there in order to make sense of what remains. I’m indebted in this respect to Martin Bull’s useful little book, Banksy Locations and Tours (details available from his website), which has a photograph of the work before it started to fade.

So how should we make sense of the fading artwork? Do we dismiss it as occupying some transitional zone between ‘freshness’ and oblivion? Do we paint over it so that new work can take its place? Does its faded nature mean that it is no longer worth noticing or thinking about?

In some ways, I think it’s the very ‘in between-ness’ of the fading image that makes it interesting. Not quite here and not quite gone, maybe having an almost historical value as a record of what was done in the past, but gradually relinquishing any claim on our attention amidst the visual hubbub of the contemporary city. So next time you walk through the streets, perhaps it’s worth paying homage to these fading images, these survivors who have, through chance or circumstance, escaped both the buff and the privileging of the new work of art.

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