Street artists whose work I recognise include Fintan Magee, Scottie Marsh, Ears, Phibs and Birdhat. They’re all male. Apart from Nastia Gladushchenko, who I saw painting a mural when exploring Paddington, and Karen Farmer, I don’t know the names of any female street artists.
A New Street Art Tour
The weather forecast is for rain and showers so, with umbrella at hand, I leave Redfern Station hoping I don’t get too wet.
Leaving Redfern Station
Orange bollards barricade Little Eveleigh Street off as part of the station upgrade. I peer around the corner. A young blonde woman in workwear sits outside the corner café. She tells me “You can walk down that way”. The very narrow path only allows pedestrians through in single file, trickier still with an umbrella in hand.
Rain gently patters on my umbrella. I’m going to be soaked by the end of the day.
I know the Skippy Girls by Rose Strachen. Their simple but happy blue figures skip joyfully along the corrugated fence near Carriageworks. Over the years they’ve been renewed and added to. Each one differs slightly from the others.
Painted on a side wall is ‘Darlington Incorporated’, a new one for me. It features Aunty Beryl van Oploo, a local Indigenous Elder and educator. Dame Marie Bashir is there too as well as Billy. He’s a Westie Terrier belonging to the owner of the house. The real Billy peers out at me from his bed at the glass front door.
The tour notes suggest I look for three objects hidden in the artwork. They are important to the three students who also feature in the mural. I study the mural closely and find all three.
Noticing the Neighbourhood
Walking beside a row of old terrace houses, I notice how differently people use their porches. Some are well kept, others used as a dumping ground. There’s a cactus growing in an old hiking boot, a canvas chair and potted plants.
I pass little pocket parks and a front door with a brass bee door knocker. One house has a yellow door. Its neighbour a red door and the one after that a black one. Did the neighbours collaborate to reference the Aboriginal flag?
An old corner house, erected in 1896 has seen better days. Further on, Sals Corner Store is undergoing renovation.
“Emblam” has left their mark on a rain-streaked corner wall. A little frond of wattle, the carefully painted green leaves spotted with fluffy yellow dots.
Stepping back, I admire the very large-scale work by Shannon Crees, George Rose and Ollie Ruskidd. On the left-hand side, there’s a fun recent addition. The head of Trump, his mouth spraying forth.
Thai Pothong Restaurant
Gold Buddhas fill the window of the Thai Pothong restaurant. I peer inside at the two larger than life size yellow and black robotic figures standing at attention. The next window has more large mechanical (and mythical) figures made from bicycle chains, disc brakes and other spare metal parts. My grandson would love this.
Two men get out of an unmarked car, guns hanging from their belts. One walks to the restaurant door and peers inside. They walk to the traffic lights and cross the road.
Street Art and More in Newtown
Newtown, very different from other Sydney suburbs is vibrant and eclectic. People have their own individual style of dress. The man standing in front of me at the lights has a purple pony tail, the hair below shaved to a number one or two.
Here you’ll find vintage and op shops and shops perfect for finding unusual gifts. There are vegan restaurants and restaurants offering a wide range of international cuisines. I’m early. Most shops only open at 10am, but I’m happy window shopping.
There’s a ‘For Lease’ sign in what used to be a Vegan Butcher. I wonder, not for the first time, how vegan and butcher go together.
On a brick wall, ‘Bad Magpies’ by Karen Farmer eyes stare out at me. Some people find their beady red eyes scary. I love them. Karen Farmer also paints her ‘Bad Magpies’ on repurposed road signs. There are a couple on my boatshed.
I’m interested in the portrait of Emily Kngwarreye painted on a fence by an unknown artist. She was a prolific and internationally acclaimed Indigenous artist from an area north-east of Alice Springs. I hadn’t heard of her before.
More Street Art by Female Artists
‘Mary’, a monochrome mural, holds my attention for some time. Sharon Billinge’s clever use of light draws me in. The piece was inspired by Mary Reibey who graces our $20 note and who owned property in Newtown.
Lights on inside homes on this dull and dreary day indicate that someone is home, possibly working from home. Pigeons peck at oats strewn on the pavement. They scatter as I pass.
‘A House on Sarah Street’ by Georgia Norton Rose is just that. A line drawing (painting) of the house itself. I walk around the corner to check. Yes, she has perfectly captured the house features.
Pretty window boxes almost disappear in the colourful work ‘Bring Back the Butterflies’ by Rebecca Lourey. Then, following my notes, I walk down Pemell Lane to the back of an old and rather dilapidated house. Mary Reibey built this house for her daughter Elizabeth. It has had several uses since then and has been altered considerably.
After crossing Enmore Road at the Enmore Theatre (don’t you love its’ Art Deco features?) I’m excited to discover a shop window filled with Turkish Delight. Turkish delight covered in rose petals. Unfortunately the shop is closed.
If it were later in the day, I might stop for a beer at Young Henry’s. Instead, I watch as a truck driver struggles to reverse out of their driveway. He gets impatient and manoeuvres very close to a car parked on the corner. There’s a horrible sound of metal tearing metal. A person on the pavement filming the incident asks me “Did you see that? I’ve had my car parked there and literally the same thing happened”.
‘Detail 2020’ by Merilyn Fairskye is a smaller piece in the form of a mirror image. Cute pretty blue robins hide behind blades of grass. I try walking down Wilfred Lane to the next mural. A large pool of water blocks my path. I backtrack and go round a different way.
Caroline Chisholm by Fintan Magee
After walking through an underpass, dodging pools of water and water dripping down from the ceiling, I try to orient myself. A man offers to help with directions, but he has no idea who Fintan Magee is or where to find the next mural.
I’m excited to see this work depicting Caroline Chisholm in person. Magee has used an interesting and time-consuming technique, making it seem as if Caroline Chisholm is looking out through frosted glass.
A Fitting End to this Street Art Tour
The walk ends in a car park not far from Newtown Station. ‘Women’s Honour Roll’ by Brad Robson features four local women, a description of their achievements in a plaque next to each. As I watch people walk to and from their cars I wonder if they know anything about the women featured here?
- You can find the free notes to the self-guided tour here
- The walk begins at Redfern Station and ends not far from Newtown Station
- It is a flat walk and just under 5km long and will take around 1.5 to 2 hours without stops
- Break for coffee at one of many cafes along the route or have a beer at Young Henrys
- I prepared this map to complement the tour notes. You can download it here