To make in an unfamiliar city less so, I hit the streets. Often without a map but never without a camera. I explore alleyways and littered lanes, I peer into buildings that stand derelict. I’m seeking words written on walls, paste ups on poles, and painted walls. Some call it graffiti.
I call it Street Art.
Having only lived in Brisbane for a year, most days I have no idea if I’m north or south of the river. She’s not too familiar. Yet! Excitingly though, Brisbane provides plenty of motivation to hit the street and explore, given how well she is decorated.
Not far from work, a walk down Fish Lane in South Bank showcases not just food but food for the soul. There is the large scale mural of Muhammed Ali by well known street artist Drapl (@drapl), who has made his career from such commissioned pieces. Close by is the full wall of Head in the Clouds by Brisbane-raised, world renowned Fintan Magee (@fintan_magee) which is perfectly lit up at night to admire while having a drink at the Fox Hotel.
Still in Fish Lane, there are some pieces that also form part of the Pillars Project, including another piece by Drapl known as Ripples and Afloat and Horse by Sortwo (@mr.sor2). The Pillars Project started five years ago with 9 artists painting 8 murals on pillars under the South Brisbane trainline. Each year an additional pillar is painted, so that they now extend down towards the river. Near the Go Between Bridge my favourite artist Adnate (@Adnate) has spray painted a realistic portrait an Indigenous Australian infant: the land of his people reclaimed and reflected in his eyes, a statement often made in Adnate’s pieces which adorn walls around Australia, and the world.
In recent years, some of the pillars have been painted during the now annual Brisbane Street Art festival – my new favourite time of year! It stretches over two weeks in May, bringing together artists from around Brisbane, Australia and the world to add more colour to the city, and provide opportunities for street art fans like myself to watch artists in action and engage in workshops and activations.
It’s a far cry from the days of former Lord Mayor Campbell Newman’s Taskforce Against Graffitti. The legacy of which meant that, as recently as 2014, one of Australia’s most prolific street artists and successful modern artists (referred to as Australia’s Banksy) Lister
(@anthonylister) was charged with willful damage for his gift of a mural on a public wall. This was at same time when he was exhibiting his work in New York with asking prices in the thousands!
A Brisbane boy (now based in Sydney) Lister’s art continues to adorn fences, freeways, buildings and even garbage bins from West End to Teneriffe to Wynnum and everywhere in between. Most recently he’s left a gift for us close to my new place: at Howard Street Wharves, a fantastic place to enjoy a picnic on the lawns by the river as the sun sets.
It’s always exciting to see Lister’s distinctive signature on wanders through the area I call home: Fortitude Valley. The Valley drew me with its energy and buzz, as well as the colour and creativity on its streets. The mural on Ivory Street near the Story Bridge is a stunning spray painted scene of hunter chasing prey: lion – wolf – hare - cheetah – swallow – butterfly, thanks to Chinese artist SATR (@satrxx) and easily outshines any artwork for sale in the nearby art galleries.
The Bloodhound Bar on the corner of my street is painted both outside and in, with a wall by Mouf (@sodamouf) as is the empty lot next to the Pig & Whistle. It’s is only devoid of development, every inch of its façade used as a canvas, also with a wall by Mouf! Laneways house Blu Xinja’s (@blu.artxinja) guerilla installations of blue painted hardboard sculptures and Ric’s Bar on Ann Street hosts a monthly live event called Scribble Slam on the first Sunday of every month.
That Brisbane has embraced her street art scene gives a voice to diverse and often underrepresented artists. It celebrates emerging talent and their creativity. And that such vibrant and beautiful pieces of Street Art are shared by their creators, free and accessible, is a gift to us all.
My Brisbane is a canvas.
To see more Brisbane Street Art, follow me on Insta @kulhandle