I have always been a fan of street art. I love the way it makes a statement – in terms of its content or that it may be unsanctioned; but also in its physical presence and scale. With gallery-hung art, the space and the work are often unconnected – with street art they are inextricably linked. Mainly I like street art because of the contribution it makes to urban spaces and challenge it issues to citizens to consider the hidden places. In these places, in our cities, between buildings – often ugly or blemished – the art transforms and creates meaning where none existed before.

My interest in street art has seen me keep a loose eye on what is happening in Adelaide. In April 2013, I was lured for a closer look at the Oi You exhibition featuring international artists like Banksy, Faile and Swoon. The art, hung in a gallery behind glass, got me thinking about context and what was happening in my city.

A couple of days later my questions were answered when an Adelaide street art walking tour map (also by Oi You Festival) appeared in my twitter feed. Walking back from a business breakfast at the Convention Centre, I decided to go and see what I could find – what better way to explore my city than through free art?

Oi You Adelaide Street Art map

Oi You Adelaide Street Art map

In a laneway off Bank Street I went looking for a brand new three- story high piece by Melbourne artist Rone. At first I couldn’t see her – her colour palette all muted greys and blacks. Then, in the corner of my eye, she revealed herself. Her defiant gaze challenging the street opposite and creating a powerful image that is is difficult to forget.

Rone - off Bank Street.

Rone – off Bank Street.

In Topham Mall, I found two ugly slivers of wall running up the side of a carpark transformed by artists Beastman and Adelaide’s own Seb Humphreys (Order 55).

Beastman’s bold, symmetrical work features interlocking shapes and symbols that wend their way to the sky like a creeping vine – casting colours and shapes. It’s only when I looked more closely that the eyes and teeth emerged and it became apparent that I, and the office workers below, were being quietly watched. On the other side, Seb Humphreys’ work seemed darker somehow as shapes swept urgently across a sky perhaps to do battle with an unknown force?

Beastman & Seb Humphreys - Topham Mall.

Beastman & Seb Humphreys – Topham Mall.

I paused here for a moment to observe my fellow commuters as they moved through this city space. Some were oblivious, some paused to look up, others were more appreciative and took photos. It occured to me that all the pieces share a commonality – that is a presence that is almost life-like. The silent, urban giants that now keep a watchful eye over my city.

Continuing my walk in a laneway off Franklin I found another intricate piece woven across yet another nondescript wall. This one framed a window, the reflection creating a focal point that juxtaposed the bland with the beautiful. The work, by another Adelaide artist, KAB 101, was complex and drew me in until I saw boats and barbed wire and industry in the design and began to contemplate what it might mean.

KAB101 - Laneway off Franklin Street.

KAB101 – Laneway off Franklin Street.

More work by Beastman was revealed in Trades Hall Lane next door – again the eyes that followed me as I walked past the vibrant colours that categorise his work.

Beastman - Trades Hall Laneway.

Beastman – Trades Hall Laneway.

There are other beautiful pieces here too that the map tells me are by Fredrock, Gary Seaman and Jayson Fox – all in a laneway I’ve walked passed a thousand times but never ventured into.

Various artists - Trades Hall Laneway.

Various artists – Trades Hall Laneway.

The street art walking trail is an extended gallery space under open air. I felt a bit like Alice in Wonderland (after drinking from the bottle and shrinking) walking amongst this art in my city both because I am daunted by the size and because it is unexpected, challenging and at times magical. As I walked the tour I was discovering new places, hidden spaces and seeing my city, which I often take for granted, with fresh eyes.

Of course these are just a few of the pieces I discovered – I’ll leave the rest for you to uncover so that you can experience that same magic yourself.
When you do, walk around Adelaide with your eyes open – you never know who, or what, might be watching you.

[This piece was first published on Adelaide City Council’s fantastic Already Home site – you can read more great stories about Adelaide city here]

4 thoughts on “The walls that speak

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