New York, London, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Paris, Melbourne, Rio, and Sao Paulo are palimpsests of visual information in the consumerist attention economy, every visual signifier discharged in a real-time competition and rivalry for observers’ attention. World cities have known territories and hierarchies, Irvine, The Work on the Street peripheries and zones for industry or marginalized classes, all of which are assumed and exploited in street art. For street artists, a city is an information engine… Walls and structures can be de-purposed, repurposed, de-faced, refaced, de-made, remade. - Martin Irvine, The Handbook of Visual Culture.
Images: Street art, Brunswick Street, Fitzroy, Melbourne, Australia. August 2013.
Photos: Zuleyka Zevallos. If this is your art, please get in touch so I can credit you.
We Can Be Heroes is a photographic series by Indigenous artist Tony Albert. It was awarded the National Aborginal and Torres Straight Islander Art Award. The artist “made the work after Sydney police shot two Aboriginal teenagers who drove into a Kings Cross footpath in April 2012.” He says: “We are kind of walking targets in society, whether that be through police violence or brutality, or being followed around in shops.”
Abdul Abdullah, I wanted to paint him as a mountain, 2014
Oil on canvas.
Perth artist Abdul Abdullah is a wildly talented second-generation Australian-Muslim painter. This piece is his third finalist entry in the Archibald Prize (his work was selected in 2011, 2013 and 2014). This portrait features Indigenous artist and activist Richard Bell. Bell is a founding member of Indigenous art collective proppaNOW. The artist says of Bell:
I see him as mountainous – hence the title – the type of person who fills a room when he enters it. From there it was a small step to visualising him in a space suit, casting a discerning, critical gaze on this country from space as if to say, “you’ve messed it all up.”
‘The ANSA logo on the suit points to this proposition, being the same logo that Charlton Heston’s character wears in Planet of the apes. In this way I have portrayed him as an outspoken astronaut who has arrived on a planet gone mad, and is the only one making sense.’
Alick Tipoti is a Torres Strait Islands (north of Queensland’s Cape York Peninsula).
Tipoti looks to his elders for permission to retell, in linocut prints, narratives of earlier times when warrior heroes reigned. The large scale and visual density of his starkly contrasting black-and-white images capture the eye and absorb the mind, propelling the viewer into another space and time. These images are often inspired by traditional motifs, once incised on ritual artefacts.
Kobupa thoerapiese means ‘preparing for war’ in the Kala Kawaw Ya language of the north-western islands of the Torres Strait. The central image is of a Saibai Island warrior in a typically dramatic dancing posture, wearing the traditional regalia worn in inter-island conflict.
The figure is interwoven with a complex background design, embodying the spirit and meaning of a song about Aka (a legendary tame crocodile) disguised among ritual objects, and land and sea creatures. Through this representation, the artist reclaims the history of his people and asserts their deep links with their marine environment.
Maringka Baker (b. 1952-). Kuru Ala, 2007. Painting, synthetic polymer paint on canvas.
Born in South Australia and a member of the Pitjantjatjara people, Maringka Baker uses this landscape to tell a story of spirituality:
This is Kuru Ala. These are creeks and rock holes everywhere, and many trees. There is puli (rocks) and apu (rocky hills). This is Minyma Tjuta Tjukurrpa (Seven Sisters Creation Story). This area is close to Tjuntjuntjarra [in Western Australia, near the South Australian border].