Some Australian street artists like to mix politics with their paint. Given the rich history of political printmaking in this country, the recent do‑it‑yourself street art influx can be viewed as a new chapter in the lineage of political art in Australia. From the pioneering political posters and broadsheets of the 1930s and 1940s to the outpouring of politically and socially concerned posters of the 1980s and early 1990s—produced by artist collectives such as Redback Graphix and Earthworks Poster Collective—art and politics is now in the hands of a new generation of Australian artists.
Left-wing political convictions—including anti‑racism, anti‑war, anti‑globalisation, direct action, animal rights and environmentalism—are transmitted effectively through street stencils and posters. The overriding motivation of this new generation of artists is similar to that of their predecessors: to work on the street is the most effective, direct and unmitigated method of communication with the mass‑public.
A major strength of Australian street art is its ability to mix pop-cultural imagery with political message. From hard-hitting protest to political satire, clever combinations of sarcasm, mockery and paradox in placement, all of the artists here show their skill in utilising the street, and now the gallery, as a means to reach the Australian populous on topics of national and international concern.
Messages definitely change between street and gallery audiences. Whilst bold political statements remain much the same there are nuances that vary between audiences. The contemporary art world doesn’t like didactic political statements as much as the general public does. The general public and their environment is filled with simple, didactic statements as exemplified by advertising and consumer culture. The contemporary art world relies on grey zones, in determinability and complexity to support the very systems that allow it to survive. I am interested in creating works that can be engaging for both of these audiences – maybe this is another component of being ‘cross-over’.
At the time when I began stencilling the streets I was involved in quite a lot of environmental activism so that informed a lot of my early art making and influenced its political nature. My craft was learnt on the streets so it will always be connected to the street. I hope I’m still going out painting the streets when I’m 70!