August 22, 2017
Street art and the north
Home to some of Melbourne’s most culturally significant works, the north has a long standing history of being a champion of local and international street artists.
Melbourne-based documenter, Dean Sunshine, has published two books on street art, Land of Sunshine and Street Art now, and is immersed in the vibrant urban culture of the north.
We sat down with him to chat all things street art and learn more about its influence on the north.
Q. When/how did you find your passion for street art?
Through my day-to-day work in the rag trade, I spent a lot of time driving around the northern suburbs and over the years, more and more street art appeared. I started casually capturing photos with my point-and-shoot camera – a hobby, until my wife, Liz, encouraged me to do something more with the collection of shots. Thus, my blog Land of Sunshine was born.
Q. What is your impression of art in the north and how has it helped shape the urban culture?
Melbourne has a long history of a graffiti culture that dates back to the 1980s. In the early 2000s, the city was actually the largest base for stencil art in the world. This was validated in 2003 when renowned artist, Banksy went on record commending our creative city.
At that time, street art was still largely concentrated to the northern suburbs, its influence and popularity shaping council laws around public artworks in those areas. Typically regulations are more relaxed towards this form of street art and this regulatory change is something that other councils are now supporting, seeing past the stigma of ‘vandalism’ and appreciating the art for what it is.
It’s taken a long time but we’re seeing businesses commission murals and really value what this adds to their business and the urban culture of the area.
Q. The street art filled laneway behind your company “Rathdowne Fabrics” has quite a reputation, how did this come to be?
Back in 2010 when I started the blog, I was visiting a lot of street art exhibitions and each artist I met, I invited to paint the walls of my Brunswick store.
Over the years it’s evolved and piece-by-piece, it just keeps getting bigger. We have around 20 to 30 large-scale graffiti and street art murals all over our building and neighbouring buildings. On weekends, people come from all over to visit, not unlike Hosier Lane in the CBD.
Q. Where do you see street art in Melbourne going?
When I started my blog, street art was not widely accepted. While it has always been a facet of the north’s urban identity, now a lot more councils and larger companies are supporting it. It’s a completely different landscape now. It has become more mainstream and the industry is thriving because of the funding behind commissioned art.
Q. What’s next for you?
Through my work with the blog, I get a lot of people approaching me for commissions. As long as people want me to organise artists for them to create amazing artwork, I will.
Whether or not I do another book is still to be decided. I have a few potential ideas in mind for the next one but at this stage, raising my two year old is my main priority.
This piece was painted in 1984 by one of the first major international street artists – Keith Haring. It’s one of his only large-scale murals still around, so we are extremely fortunate to have it.
This mural is known around the world as one of his key pieces and at the time it was created, it was the biggest mural he’d ever done. It has sentimental value for me, I drive past it frequently and have been doing so since I was a kid.
The mural has been added to the heritage register, so fortunately, it will always grace our streets.
Heesco, Steve Cross, Ruskidd, Mike Eleven, Putos, Shame, Mayonaize, Duke Style, Ghost, 23rd Key, Jack Douglas, Tanea, Dvate, Sabeth, Bailer and Cam Scale.
This piece was commissioned by a local business. The building, which used to be the old bingo hall and part of Preston Market, had been empty for many years so the objective was to create something that reinvigorated the space.
This mural brings together both graffiti and street art with intricate details by notable graff artists who have spent years in the graffiti community. The work is respected by local residents and other artists which perhaps is a reason it has not been touched.
Commissioned by Darebin Library, this artwork appeals to me for its transformative effect. It has turned a very drab water tank into a beautiful mural for people to enjoy.
I do a lot of work with Deams, he is one of my favourite artists. This piece is a really good example of venues using street art to create impact within their spaces using existing walls.
This is a relatively new work and was completed by 23rd Key in April. 23rd Key is one of Australia’s premier stencil artists and she is well-known for her incredibly photo-realistic artwork. I love the detail of this.