Have you noticed something different happening in Sydney? A new form of street art has appeared on the streets of Sydney. Not street art in the usual sense of the word, this is urban art creating a vibrant temporary street gallery.
Wandering the streets of Sydney, you are likely to pass large historic photographs and other creative works decorating building hoardings that hide the construction work going on behind them.
It turns out they are the result of a relatively new policy by the City of Sydney. Developers are now required to install approved artworks on their temporary hoardings. Building sites around the city have in effect become temporary galleries for the enjoyment of all who walk by.
This urban art not only enhances the cityscape. It also reduces graffiti and poster build-up on building hoardings which in the past, provided perfect canvases for unauthorised street art and hundreds of advertising posters.
When I first came across a series of historic photographs hiding the renovation of the Children’s Court in Surry Hills, I looked at them with interest and then walked on. Another day, a colourful piece outside Wynyard Station caught my eye.
More recently I discovered “Double Take” (which made me do just that) by Rachel Harris and I decided to discover more about these artworks springing up all over the city.
A Temporary Urban Art Gallery
A form of outdoor art gallery, the pieces create a vibrancy around the city and creatively hide construction sites from view.
Three types of artworks are on display. There are historic photographs, ten specially chosen artworks and approved commissioned pieces.
The historic images provide an insight into what the area was like when it was first settled. These black and white works adorn the temporary structures which surround heritage-listed sites or areas of heritage significance.
Ten Sitework Images
Ten distinctly different and specially created artworks were selected from over 520 submissions by artists and designers. They brighten up the area, elicit reflection or provide food for thought to those who take the time to look more closely.
A third option available to developers is to create or commission their own site-specific piece of urban artwork. These designs must be by a living Australian artist and must be submitted to the City of Sydney for approval.
Discovering the different artworks is rather like taking part in a treasure hunt around Sydney. The pieces that are here today may be gone next week. The length of time the artwork is on display depends on the length of time the building work will take to complete.
My Sydney Treasure Hunt
Today I am on a search for something different in Sydney. Walking the streets of Sydney I am looking for as many examples of this new form of street art can find. Armed with a list of possible sites (that took some researching to find), I set off.
One: “Poly Ubiquitous”
First off, I discover Poly Ubiquitous. This colourful piece has a hidden message. Cynthia Schwertsik photographed plastic bags immersed in water hoping to raise awareness of the menace of plastic. Close up, the image is a swirl of colour and the plastic bags are not really apparent. From afar the plastic bags are clear.
Two: “Double Take”
Next, is the work called Double Take (as mentioned above) by Rachel Harris. This one is certainly worth looking at closely. At first glance, the historic photographs seem to be just that, but look again and notice the subtle additions that change the photograph into what Rachel calls a “subversive celebration of Sydney then and now”.
I am not the only one looking for the modern additions. A man tells me to “look how they put something in there that shouldn’t be in there”.
Three: “Stone Jewels”
Over the road is “Stone Jewels” by Fiona Currey. The individual coloured pieces, mostly made from glass reflect the stone tools made and used by man millions of years ago.
Four “Birds of Australia”
Kent Street proves to be a treasure trove. There I find “Birds of Australia”, by Egg Picnic, which depicts Australian Native birds in a colourful and playful display. The people behind Egg Picnic, Camila De Gregorio and Christopher Macaluso aim to promote wildlife conservation through their work.
Five: “Sydney Opera House at Night”
Nearby is “Sydney Opera House at Night” by Emily Crockford. Emily is an emerging artist from Studio A, which provides support for artists living with intellectual disability. Her bold use of colour and design enhances the areas where her work is displayed.
A bespoke piece
Not on my list is what appears to be lines of unconnected colourful letters on a black background. A closer look reveals that it is a bit of a word search puzzle. A few words jump out at me – meme, tweet, spring, kiss and circle. This is one of the “Bespoke Graphics”, an approved commissioned work.
Getting into Strife
At one point I get into a bit of strife. A woman in a hard hat and orange vest doesn’t like me taking photos of her building site. At least I did get one of the artwork (“Double Take”)on the hoardings.
There is plenty of building work happening around Wynyard Station. Here I discover two bespoke works side by side.
Two more bespoke pieces
One is a colourful selection of work by Christopher O’Doherty (AKA Reg Mombassa) whose playful and insightful work depicts both urban and rural scenes. There are Sydney icons and unique characters typical of the artists style.
Still visible behind the hoardings is a Ghost Sign – for PEAPES Menswear. The sign will be obscured as the new building takes shape.
Next door is the former Shell House (more recently known as the Menzies Hotel) which is undergoing significant refurbishing. The building hoarding artwork is by Luca Ionescu, a Sydney-based typographer. The work makes use of Art Deco elements and reflects the businesses and brands that have had a place in the building since the 1800s. It is another piece that deserves more than a passing glance.
It fascinates me how often people turn back to look at what I am photographing. If the simple fact of taking a photograph encourages others to slow down and look more closely at their surroundings, I am happy.
Six: “Obstacle Course”
Around the corner in George Street is “Obstacle Course”, by Elliot Foulkes. This bold abstract artwork, with its curves and lines, references a person’s experience and journey through the city.
Seven: “Real Myth”
“Real Myth” by Captain Pipe (aka Neil McCann) is a playful and colourful mural. The original artwork was only three-to-five centimetres high.
Eight: “The Terminal Face”
The last piece that I find is a small section of “The Terminal Face of the Perito Moreno Glacier, Patagonia”, by Timothy Harland. The whole piece is an image made from over 50 individual photographs stitched together.
While I haven’t mentioned the historic photographs that I passed on my search for urban art specifically, I did pass a few. They do create a street museum for the City of Sydney and while their colours are not as eye-catching as the others I have mentioned, they are no less interesting.
I have missed Two
I am pleased that I found eight of the ten siteworks today as well as a few bespoke works. Missing is “Children Very Upset”, by Edwin Budhi. This is a series of photographs that depict lost pet signs. I also missed “A Song from Nature” by Danling Xiao (aka Mundane Matters). This work of fruit and vegetable sculptures encourages viewers to think about food waste.
Update: I’ve found number Nine
After going around in circles in Waterloo (you would think by now that I could follow a map), I found “A Song from Nature” in Alexandria. Thanks to Helen who put me onto this one.
There is so much building work happening in Sydney. Most if not all sites have temporary street art on their hoardings. The emphasis is on temporary – some that I hoped to find had already gone . As building work gets completed, this urban art gallery changes and evolves.
When you next walk through the city, be on the lookout for this temporary gallery on the streets of Sydney.