THE ART OF GRAFFITI | MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA
Melbourne is a city exploding with culture, sport, festivals, music, film and the ever changing colors of Street Art. Australia’s second largest city has gained international notoriety for it’s support of street art subcultures. The city, nicknamed the “stencil capital of the world”, approves permits for artistic expression on public spaces, with the building owner's permission, and hires contract artists from around the world.
I recently ventured down Hosier Lane in Melbourne and photographed Mark Harrison aka "Sleep for Dinner", a street artist from Leeds, UK, while he was working on a large scale art piece. I was fascinated by his process and style, showing influences from New York Style Graffiti among wild styles from his high school days and abstract artwork. Harrison commented: "I'll paint on pretty much anything with whatever is in my head at the time. I often enjoy using bright colors and materials like inks and acrylics with spray paint on my canvases to create contrast between the two elements.”
Harrison has been traveling around Australia since 2012, floating between Melbourne, Sydney and Byron Bay, making and selling his artwork in the form of pieces, murals, characters, canvases, illustrations and street art. When he landed in Melbourne he instantly felt at home. “It’s somewhere between a European, American and British City, the culture and artwork about the place grabbed me, it felt chilled, it had both good graffiti and street art scenes…”
Harrison studied fine art at Kirklees College and later at Leeds Metropolitan University in the UK. "Spending my high school career with my head phones on sketching away in a smokey haze I knew I could never work a 9-5 with artwork in my head and an itch to paint... My grades weren't good and I struggled to attend but even the teachers would ask to look at my sketchbook…”
Graffiti is often considered vandalism in most places and there appears to be a fine line between the realm of legal and illegal artwork. Hence my interest was sparked when I learned that Harrison was a contracted street artist for the city. "I began doing commissioned pieces and murals after been approached through friends of friends...or a piece I have done has caught someone's eye and they look me up... I just enjoy painting and I have to earn a living somehow so it is nice to be paid for something I would otherwise be doing illegally anyway.”
The continually changing colors of the walls of Melbourne contribute to the vibrant urban environment of the city, which has been profiting from tourists keen to walk down the colorful lane ways and alleys. Undoubtably I have only skimmed the surface of Melbourne's street art and have no doubt that there are plenty more artists who share Harrison’s love of the sub-culture. "I live to paint, explore cities and new spaces and leave a mark spreading color on our environment in and amongst all the hustle and bustle of modern life.”