In all artists lies the need to be appreciated. We don’t create in a vacuum, so to not have an audience to bounce off and give feed-back, makes the creative process rather maddening. After all, is not recognition the measure of success? Or at least that is what we are led to believe. I find success an elusive concept as well as attribute. Something the young are primed with, that wry “when I’m famous” sentiment, that can be laughed away. Now that I’m older, and seemingly no closer to any kind of measurable success, it just isn’t funny anymore. I have bills to pay and mouths to feed and I spend all this time creating art works only for them to accumulate in my studio/garage. I am guilty of not networking, of not making the most of my opportunities when they arrive and so the pattern is perpetuated and self doubt swamps self belief. I kid myself that there is some nobility in being a failed artist, but it is the sting of rejection that represents the ultimate road block.
Despite a positive reception at The Belconnen show, it concluded with my feeling somewhat disillusioned. It seemed like traditional avenues were no longer what I wanted to pursue and I began researching street art, finding much cross over with the purpose and intent of early Extended Vision performances.
Street art has emerged in recent decades as a significant force in contemporary art expression. A movement defined by its embrace of hybridism rather than by its adherence to prescribed boundaries. The urban environment then becomes integrated in the conception, purpose and display of the art works – it becomes the new canvas. Museum and gallery art has become largely about preservation of the art object and adoration of the anointed ones. Street art attacks this idea, born of a need for artists to engage with the emotions of the audience in a direct and powerful way, uncluttered by art theory and esoteric conceptual frameworks and wearisome middlemen. It is this desire for accessibility that drives its conception. While street art is identified as being ephemeral with scant consideration for the durability and longevity of the piece, it still relies on the artefact to carry its message.
When I first came to Canberra in 2005, the bus shelters with their unique circular design were one of the signature features of the place – one of the things that helped distinguish the city from others I had lived in, Melbourne and Brisbane. I was told to expect manicured lawns, white picket fences and lots of round-abouts, apparently indicative of the political machinations in our seat of power. The thing that struck me was how small the city is. I remember passing a five-story apartment block and thinking “wow, that’s the tallest building in Canberra! Of course there is Black Mountain Tower, another land mark and veritable light house for those of us who are directionally challenged. It was quite a relief really to think that I could navigate from one side to the other in 45 minutes, half the time it took me to make it home from work in a Brisbane evening amongst the traffic crawl on Gympie road at peak hour. As for the picket fences, well there weren’t too many of those, but with a shortage of housing came rows and rows of identical display homes huddled together in new estates slowly eroding the nature reserves and remnant farm land. Every place you live in gets under your skin eventually, if only through association with significant events in life, and I’ve had four of those since residing here – four beautiful children. I guess they are genuine Canberra kids, despite my feeling of misplacement.
I continued to experiment with stencils, not so much as a means of delivering the image directly to walls, but as a way of generating large quantities of work that could then be used as paste-up street art. Although what I soon called my “Canberra Bus Stop Exhibition” featured a variety of imagery, significantly those relating to Asylum Seekers, many of the works also had a thematic basis.
“Flowers” Sray enamel on paper 60 x 50 cm. Most of these were pasted up in bus shelters around Canberra in 2012,