If there ever was a real danger to street art, it’s years and miles away from the toothsome, cloistered inner-north drags of Melbourne. Commissioned graffiti colludes with the gig bills and kebabery shopfronts, adding bulk to what the For Lease hoardings celebrate as colour. In a city which sells itself as an illustrated-wall capital, barely an exposed brick is saved from the spray of the can, and like that 3am felafel, the result can be transcendence or the fierce unrest of a long Sunday morning perched on the latrine.
At the corner of Fitzroy’s Johnston and Young streets is the 35×5 metre ‘Welcome to Sunny Fitzroy’ graff-mural by the ubiquitous Everfresh group. Their works look down on streets and gallery floors of the globe, and their success is remarkable. Black, white and grey, ‘Welcome to…’ frames its Hollywood text within a village of familiar, urban-grotesque characters: all oozing smiles, citied birds and sighted palms. All should align to make it the local landmark it could be; but something fetid lies dormant in that tahina sauce. With its unspoiled execution and aspirations to urban totemism, ‘Welcome to…’ somehow is that wonky Sunday sunrise, and we’re missing the bowl, and we’re missing big.
3CR radio HQ is just the hew and haw walk of Smith Street away, meeting Little Victoria, and the community station called in the hands of Reko Rennie, Bindi Cole and Tom Civil to mark up its alley-side wall. Winter keeping company; they papered, painted, and made childish the rusted-on idea that we should measure the piece on its working. Instead, the illustrated 3CR building is simply good — subjectively, dramatically, actually stinking good.
The radio station has made a loud history of involvement with the local area and its people: great diagonals of white and black become yellow, red, then a fleece of stick-figured humans and emblems. Outlines of protesters bookend the staring faces of native animals. At the centre; taller, more impressive than a football god, an aboriginal man with a spear stands over the solid street. There, real people look up. They balance their Safeway shopping, they look up, and I ask for their opinions of the wall. “Beautiful.” “F-ckin’ aye.”
Everfresh has given us chewing gum on the concrete. Reni, Cole, and Civil remind us of our old and recent occupation of a place. These two oversized visual broadcasts are bound by a common, inescapable brief: to be present to their community. These aren’t quick tags. These are very legal, considered, daylight executions by respected contractors of the craft, and they began with the same lack of limitations.
Standing in the road, in the heavy heat before a storm, I ask a man at the nearby petrol station what he thinks of the Everfresh creation — “Dunno. Never noticed it before.” Bespoke faultlessness; ‘Welcome to…’ is graffiti without any of the energy or defiance of its origins. It is not brave, and because of this, it is invisible. A living alternative, the 3CR mural is imperfect and thoughtful, and so courageous.
The details: The 3CR Radio mural is at the corners of Smith and Little Victoria Streets, Collingwood.