Art Expert, Art Curator, Emilya Colliver

'The Australian Art Curator Blog' - Street Art & Public Art

We talk a lot about art in terms of pieces that you can view in a gallery and collect for your own home, but it’s important to consider art as a broader idea and how we interact with art in public spaces.

Through our Culture Scouts tours, I’ve been exposed to some of the most exciting pieces of work that public artists are creating. More recently however, is the evolution of this expression of creativity from its roots as an underground, informal style of art to its inclusion in the more formal sphere of public art.

Sydney has changed so much in this regard, and instead of discouraging artists from using public walls to work, local councils are beginning to recognise that this creative expression is an important part of the community.

Reko Rennie's 'Always was always will be', Taylor Square

Reko Rennie's 'Always was always will be', Taylor Square

Public art can come in a variety of media such as sculpture or murals, and its prime objective is to bring enjoyment to the broader population. When spaces or opportunities are made available they will be put out to tender for which artists can apply.

However this evolution is creating an interesting new framework for artists in that they need to justify their ideas through applications to council and gain development approvals and so forth – which can sometimes change their creative process. Usually in the art world an artist can freely make a work, but in this space the work has to meet certain criteria in order for a council /development company to give the go ahead, and this can be quite challenging for the artist to navigate through the bureaucratic elements of the process.

Now that my work is taking me more and more into the public art space, I think one of the most important aspects of works like this is to create a shared experience among the people who will see it. All art is a form of communication in some way, but the scale of art that is outside and in an urban environment adds a powerful element to the work.

One of the works I really love is by Astra Howard, called Village Voices, which is a very simple but effective piece. It’s on the southern end of Crown Street in Surry Hills, and is a collaborative work with the local community to tell their stories using giant letters, with a new story rotating every few months. This is an incredibly powerful work where Astra has drawn on her experience working with Mission Australia and meeting people who weren’t usually able to share their stories in such a public way. 

Astra Howard's 'Village Voices'

Astra Howard's 'Village Voices'

Although it is wonderful that councils in Sydney and around the country are embracing and actively investing in public art, there is still a long way to go. I often walk past works that have fallen into disrepair or have deteriorated over time and it is such a shame. We need to help in the education process that investing in a work involves a lifetime of care to ensure that the significance is not lost in the years to come.

It’s so positive to see that new developments like Barangaroo have incorporated art into their public spaces, and City of Sydney Council has a hugely exciting body of work that is planned for the next few years – world renowned artists like Tracey Emin, Junya Ishigami, and Hany Armanious will be creating works that will contribute to the cultural landscape of our city for many years to come, to be enjoyed by residents and visitors alike.

To learn more about the City of Sydney’s public art plan visit - http://www.cityartsydney.com.au/about/city-centre-public-art-plan/
Barangaroo Public Art and Cultural Plan - http://www.barangaroo.com/media/236253/barangarooartplan2015.pdf
To read more about the evolution of street and public art, check out this Culture Scouts blog piece featuring Street Art Murals Australia’s Jarrod Wheatley - http://www.culturescouts.com.au/blog/2016/1/20/street-art-acceptance-a-complex-road
 

Fintan Magee's 'The Settler', Marrickville

Fintan Magee's 'The Settler', Marrickville