Street art is beautifying towns and landscapes across the country
Over recent years, Australian cities have started to take on a new vibrancy, boasting a spate of outdoor artistic spaces, well-designed street murals, and clever and colourful graffiti that includes social comment and political portraiture.
Large bare concrete walls are increasingly the domain of street artists. The clandestine late night aerosol-spraying of fences and buildings by a masked graffiti artist has now frequently evolved into an accepted and recognised art form.
Street artists are being commissioned, often by local councils, and their work lauded by local residents and neighbourhood communities. They are an intrinsic part of festivals and events at which their work is on display, often becoming an enduring part of the landscape.
And now Australia’s regional areas are also beginning to show their creative side with towering artworks and trails of painted silos that are being promoted as tourist destinations in their own right.
Melbourne has long been recognised as one of the leading street art capitals globally. Hosier and Rutledge Lanes (opposite Federation Square in the CBD) and Centre Place are among the most colourfully created streets, with some of the city’s best open-air galleries.
Street art tours are also readily available and have become a major draw-card for the city. Melbourne has led the way and Victoria has now developed a 200-kilometre Silo Art Trail, in the western Wimmera/Mallee region, with important works by internationally recognised street artists such as Guido van Helten and Kaff-eine.
In Sydney some of the best street art can be found in Newtown and Enmore, including works that private homeowners have commissioned for the outside of their houses, elevating graffiti murals to the status of coveted art pieces.
Adelaide has a vibrant street art scene, known as ‘Radelaide’ locally and recognised as a hot destination for public art. Graffiti-splashed Anster Street, the Rhino Room on Pirie Street and the Wonderwalls project in Port Adelaide are all home to some of the city’s street art highlights.
In Canberra, 30 sites are designated ‘free spaces’, inviting graffiti and street artists to inject colour and creativity into the country’s political hub. This council-backed program has allowed artists such as Geoff Filmer to (legally) make a splash on laneway walls, farm sheds and storage containers, with his bold, brightly-coloured murals.
Perth’s historic laneways have also been revitalised under the Forgotten Spaces initiative, now home to the 99-metre Grant Lane Mural, by Scott Neoh and Hiroyasu Tsuri, and the Light Locker Art Space, a public exhibition showcasing 2D and 3D works from local emerging artists. Outside of Perth, the PUBLIC Silo Trail wanders through regional towns showcasing massive murals on grain silos, transformer boxes and iconic infrastructure.
Laneways, walls, buildings and other public spaces show off Hobart’s street art to great advantage. West Australian artist Jae Criddle displays some quirky characters on Kemp Street, while local artist Jamin’s murals decorate Harrington Lane. The Dark Mofo and Vibrance festivals have helped to transform Bidencopes Lane in central Hobart into a colourful street art car park utilising designs from over 20 artists.
Darwin’s Street Art Festival
Darwin’s history and culture have also been brought to life by some exciting street art. Two bronze jellyfish by renowned Australian artist Aly de Groot feature symbols of food and medicine traditionally important to the Larrakia people. The Bagot Community Painting Home Project includes huge lifelike portraits of community elders.
The success of Darwin’s public artwork initiatives led to the development of the Darwin Street Art Festival (DSAF), which launched in 2017 and is now presented over two weeks in August/September annually. DSAF puts out a call for expressions of interest from artists, and then engages a range of local, national and international artists to create a living outdoor art gallery of murals. It has become a major event for the city, attracting thousands of visitors.
Paint the Town in NSW
The Southern Highlands region of New South Wales boasts four separate street art festivals, called Paint the Town in Wingecarribee (11-23 April 2023). Festivals will also roll out in Wollondilly, Upper Lachlan and Goulburn Mulwaree over the next two years.
The brainchild of local street artist, Joe Quilter, Paint the Town brings together established and emerging local artists to create a series of celebratory murals bringing colour, vibrancy and culture to the region. The aim is to reflect its recovery journey since the 2019 Black Summer fires, while representing the voices and insights of fire-affected community members through a series of co-designed workshops, facilitated by the Stress and Trauma Clinic.
Artists include Sophi Odling, a well-known social painter specialising in large-scale murals; public art enterprise, Muralisto; plus local Indigenous artists, Dashanti Carr and Warwick Keen, among others.
In summary, there is plenty of street art to observe and relish in our urban cities and towns, no matter where you live across Australia. The recently created projects that are the silo and large installations tours can be enjoyed across many regional areas, including specially created trails in Victoria and West Australia. And, in Queensland, the Brisbane Street Art Festival, with over 40 new installations and murals, gets underway in locations around the city from 6-21 May 2023.