Published 2011 | By Tanya Wakeley
The emergence of the legitimate street artist has polarized opinion within the public art scene. What was once the singular domain of graffiti – an urban subculture in its own right – street art has diversified to include many varied media, techniques and practitioners. Previously thought to be the preferred medium of expression for the fringe of society and the lower class, illegal street art has become de rigueur for others such as art school graduates looking to promote their talents.
Tension between these two disparate groups, traditional graffiti crews and modern street art proponents has begun boiling over in cities across the world. Some graffiti artists have felt slighted by the emergence of street art and particularly the perceived disrespect of street artists for their graffiti roots. Street art stencils and wheatpasting over previous graffiti works have been met with retribution and retaliation by graffiti groups.
This conflict and disunity within the street art community is only compounded by the threat of local governments in their attacks on public art. This has been evident in our own city of Brisbane as publicly funded street artworks such as those by world-renowned Australian artist Anthony Lister were destroyed by overzealous council cleanup crews only days after completion. Whilst the protection of private property should always be considered this should be weighed against the cultural footprint that street art can lend to a city. One only needs to look as far as Melbourne to see a vibrant street art scene, which has only served to enhance the cities reputation as a cultural hub.
Brisbane is home to scores of talented artists with few means or facilities to showcase their skills. If traditional means of exhibition and expression cannot be found then perhaps the only option for some is to turn to the streets. Perhaps local authorities should take heed of this opportunity to sanction and legitimize street artworks whilst simultaneously encouraging the cultural profile of our city.
Photography by Tanya Wakeley