An under-appreciated art form – and is it art?
Of course it is. Poster art can be as legitimate as any other form, but the divide between art, advertising, and messaging is often hard to know.
McLuhan said the medium is the message. Never truer with posters, which also clearly carry a backstory of who put it up and why. Posters may be whimsical, purely expressive – but nearly always are trying to say something.
Where posters and art clash. Docs at Union and Hunter streets vacated in 2004 became an instant billboard. The local art community fought back, and found the posters a handy substrate covering the glass.
This gallery is a haphazard collection gathered incidentally while roaming about the place seeking juicier targets. It chronicles not only genuine poster art, but an ongoing battle between the street artists and that urban blight, commercial billposters that by any measure were far more degrading to a city’s appearance than any amount of unsolicited street art.
The poster-plastering brigade can be a damaging force, but they’re just trying to earn a living and for the most part will target derelict buildings – and, like canines, find a nearby lamppost irresistible.
We begin in 2004 when Throsby’s daily sojourn to work found himself increasingly aware and appreciative of the varied efforts appearing along Hunter Street, and especially decorating a former S&W Miller building – on the site of Council’s new chambers.
Billposters had begun to blaspheme the sacred site with their commercial graffiti, and likewise other iconic works of street art dotting the wasteland that Hunter Street was becoming.
A half-block east, the ugly 741 Hunter Street displayed another stirring work, emblazoned dozens of metres up the side with the now-famous message “This is not art” – while the building’s eastern face announced in similarly giant graffiti “One fine day.”
Being an old political contrarian, and a lover of the unconventional, these two creations combined to send Throsby into a camera shop to buy his first digital camera, and his first camera in the 30 years since playing with a Polaroid back in the 70s. An irresistible urge to capture the disappearing works that floated by the car window each day, and to capture and preserve the new ones that suddenly seemed to be everywhere.
In June 2004 this building displayed a fine body of work in many styles. The poster-pasters couldn’t resist the high-profile location and, much to my regret, had no camera to capture the untarnished originals until it was too late.
Empathy, who features elsewhere under Serial Taggers, made the news as a nuisance back around 2008. In this ‘poster’ he becomes quite philosophical. And, btw, he’s right. We don’t exist. Reductio, nothing but nothing can explain the existence of either God or the universe. Meaningfulness alone denies them. But I digress…
The Kensington. One of its many incarnations was as the Tatler in the 1950s that ran non-stop featurettes, I fondly recall.
Around 2009, the city’s most visible “tramp” could be seen roaming down Hunter Street and crossing whichever road he deemed convenient, purportedly oblivious to cars and traffic lights. No surprise he photo-bombed Throsby while recording the work in progress below.
At Civic Court in 2016 David Bowie was memorialised in art. Nearby, stickers (well, they look like Post-its) went up with messages of love.
And by October ’05 the poster brigade determined it was all over.
Opposite Hunter Street’s art campus an enclave of creatives busied themselves for few productive years in disused shops at 569 beside Devonshire St.
And, to finish the gallery, our pièce de résistance ~ a fabulous montage.