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Street art in Sydney is booming.

Joel Moore Mulga the artist Sydney Street Art

Elizabeth Fortescue, Arts Editor, The Daily Telegraph, September 30, 2016 6:49am

The news from the leading street artists of inner Sydney goes like this.

Mulga, as Joel Moore signs his street art, has written and illustrated a rhyming children’s picture book, published this week by Lothian Books, which calls him a “creative mogul in the making”.

Mural painter extraordinaire Fintan Magee is now overseas, living a peripatetic life that sees him flown around the world to wherever his clients need him to paint his lavish and luscious murals on their walls. Italy, Portugal, Norway and Kiev are some recent pit-stops.

Jumboist and Beastman are collaborating on their own line of children’s bed linen. Mulga also puts his designs on children’s and adults’ clothes, and last year he published an adult colouring-in book.

And we could go on. But you get the point.

With companies such as Mirvac and ANZ seeking to align themselves with street art cool, it’s clear the art form has entered a new chapter. And with greater acceptance and appreciation, the artists have been able to work in daylight, producing murals of greater artistry.

Now they find themselves in demand. Walk down Martin Place, Sydney, and you can’t miss the life-size piece of stencil art depicting Fighting Father Dave of Dulwich Hill by successful street artist Luke Cornish (aka ELK).

Cornish painted the mural earlier this year for ANZ’s Inspiring Locals street
art project.

“It’s so much better when people pay you for it,” he says.

Cornish says street art has the “cool factor” that corporates want to tap into. Indeed, his work is still rooted in the streets. In a stencil he did in Erskineville, Father Dave — Cornish’s boxing coach — holds a sign reading “Hands Off Syria”. But someone keeps painting over the message and writing a new one. And Cornish doesn’t mind at all.

Just as he is sanguine about his street work being augmented by other people, Cornish is no “purist” when it comes to the new-found commodification of street art. He has exhibited his work in the up-market Nanda/Hobbs gallery in Sydney, although he doesn’t call this side of his production street art.

“It’s hard to say any work in a gallery is street art,” Cornish says. “It ceases to be ephemeral, which is the beauty of street art.”

He has no problem with artists being paid for their street art. “If you’ve spent 10, 15, 20 years honing your craft, I’m not a purist about that,” he says. “It’s not selling out, it’s cashing in.”

Cornish used some of his ANZ remuneration to accompany Father Dave on the Anglican priest’s recent “boxing mission” to Syria.

The ANZ project gave other well-known street artists a paid commission, including Stormie Mills who will exhibit more of his work in a Sydney art gallery later this month.

Street art has come to the CBD, but its true home is still the inner west despite the area’s rapid gentrification.

The Urban Hotel Newtown, a hip new spot, boasts a multistorey mural by Fintan Magee that riffs on Sydney’s inflated property prices. Called the Housing Bubble, Magee’s mural shows a Sydney terrace house attached to a balloon floating out of reach of a young couple.

The Urban is keen to connect with Newtown’s creatives, and the mural is part of that push, according to business development manager Carolin Reimnitz.

“Being in Newtown, it obviously marries very well with the area,” Reimnitz says.

“In all of our rooms we have street art from all around the inner west. So we’re pretty much a street art hotel.”

Matt Adnate is another street talent who has been commissioned by corporates, and there are many others.

It’s not just business owners who commission street art. The Inner West Council’s annual Perfect Match project links willing wall owners with street artists. This year, one of these properties was a townhouse whose end wall had become a target for graffiti taggers. The council commissioned street artist Alex Lehours, who painted it with a mashup of imagery.

Lehours believes street art evolved out of graffiti, and the distinction is important. The common view seems to be that street art is skilful and artistic, while graffiti is often illegal and revolves around tagging.

Having said that, many people view graffiti as an art form in its own right.

“A lot of people that do graffiti-style writing, do that legally,” says Melinda Vassallo, street art tour 

guide with Sydney company Culture Scouts.

Fine art has woven a rather exclusive cocoon around itself, and street art sits outside of that, according to Bill Dimas of aMBUSH gallery in Chippendale, which promotes street artists.

“Street artists have a strong belief that street art should be for the people,” Dimas says.

Corporate support for street art results in a “beautiful synergy”, he says. “Of course there’s benefits for (the corporates), but it’s equal benefits to the artists that were engaged for that project.”

It’s a matter of joy that some street artists manage to maintain their families just by their art. Mulga, for instance, has three small children and is thrilled that he can turn his talents into an income.

Vassallo says it was only a decade ago that “people thought anyone with a spray can was a vandal”. Now the art form is validated. It creates instant landmarks and symbols of community, she says.

One such piece is Nadia Hernandez’s new mural in Loftus Lane, Sydney, called To Be Free Is To Have No Fear.

Street art will always be free. It’s just street artists are starting to earn a living from it.

This article was taken directly from The Daily Telegraph, September 30, 2016

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