Large street art has held my interest over the years and I tend spend a great deal of time sniffing out this type of work where ever I travel. The only thing that has changed over the years with this genre of art, is the scale, the sites and the gradual acceptance by administrative authorities and communities that feature the pieces.
This genre of art’s early beginnings were from the tagging and graffiti type images we see dotted around towns and cities seedier areas that featured a simple ‘signature’s and motif relevant to various artists and groups active in the area.
Then came people like Banksy who turned the art form into a world wide political statement, sending anonymous messages through visual imagery painted in prominent locations around the world. The work gained notoriety and a tremendous surge in popularity across the globe.
Local and international the art has mainly shifted in scale and sites. The works have gone from small alleyways, arcades and disused areas to take up prominent locations in upmarket and trendy restaurant quarters to the sides of large industrial style buildings with the blessing of authorities and owners.
This is the big change, the authorities are realising that not all art belongs in an art gallery and can be used tastefully in our towns and cities as an attraction or a tool to lift those abandoned industrial sites into places that can be reused and revitalised. Like Dunedin’s street art area in New Zealand’s South Island.
To most people the most exciting aspect of the new art is its scale and ability to revitalise rural areas. One such example is the Silo Art Trail in Victoria’s Mallee and Wimmera Districts. The scale of the art is one thing, the other is the subject matter. The artists chose local characters and identities from the area that live and survive in what has to be said is a somewhat hostile environment at times. This project stretches 200km fro Patchwollock in the North Malle to Rupanyup in the south. The Art provides an insight into the Mallee/Wimmera people through a series of large scale portraits painted on grain silos that date back to the 1930s.
The team of Australian and International Artists visited and lived in the region, meeting the locals and transforming each grain silo into an amazing outdoor gallery telling a unique story of a host town and their residents.
This one of the best example of an outdoor gallery trail I have seen. This project is a wonderful example of shared partnerships between rural communities, industry and local government working together to make a difference in regions that have seen a malaise between regional and urban Australia in recent years.
Of course this piece would not be complete without the mention of those inner city building owners who have donated their properties and business’s as a blank canvas to the likes of Smug to paint his brightly coloured portraits of local identities that grace the local streets. Our communities and streets are all the better for these wonderful outdoor galleries that bring a surprise at every corner.
Mike Briggs, Margate February 2017