You know when people get married, they have a photoshoot? I’m at that age now, where a lot of my friends are tying the knot and whilst I’ve been to my fair share of weddings in my time (I’m Gujarati. When I was a kid, the summer holidays consisted of a wedding at least every other weekend, and I do recall having to go to more than one wedding on one day, thought I can’t quite remember who was getting married at either one. Luckily they were in the same city. No prizes for guessing which one… it was Leicester, of course.)
Well anyway, my point is about the pre-wedding shoot. I’ve seen some interesting photos from these sessions, but I don’t often witness these shoots actually happening in real time. That would be a little bit creepy. But I’ve seen the photo albums and framed photos. The last album I had the pleasure to look through was of this lovely Khmer couple who ran a restaurant/bar on the least touristy part of Sok San Road, not far from Bug’s Cafe in Siem Reap. Most of the pictures were the standard for the area. Backdrop of Angkor Wat as the sun rises, casting long silhouettes on the photoshopped green grass, on the edge of Tonle Sap lake where there’s not a cloud to be seen in the bright blue sky… you get the idea. The last photo in the book though, was of the bride and groom standing next to an illuminated Blue Pumpkin sign in the twilight. For all those who don’t know what Blue Pumpkin is, it’s an ice cream bakery that have branched out into foodstuffs, exclusive to Cambodia. Bit odd.
Well, I witnessed an incredible sight down one of the graffitied laneways in the centre of Melbourne a few weekends ago. I really like this couple’s style, and so did Thierry. He totally wanted to get in on the action, but I chickened out of asking them if I could take a photo with them. They had the official photographer there too, and there were so many other people there, and I do kind of regret it now, but I did manage to take this gem (just ignore the actual groom! ).
The artwork in and around Melbourne is really great though. In fact, as well as being the most liveable city in the world for the umpteenth time in a row, I think Melbourne holds the title of the most decorated city, made up of both commissioned and illegal pieces. What’s more is that they are constantly being updated. My awesome friend Lola (you should check out her work here, by the way) took me to Hosier Lane on weekend and she’d been the weekend before with her sister, and they said that certain pieces had been covered up already. Some pieces are a little more permanent, like this beautiful heart-tree which hasn’t been touched in years, but I think it’s more to do with the fact that it is so high up the wall, you can’t easily paint over it. You would need some serious scaffolding or something to work at that kind of height. Plus it’s an amazing piece of art. But also, look at the bins! Just so much colour in an otherwise grey backdrop. I love it.
A lot of these laneways have become a kind of refuge for the homeless of Melbourne. There has been much talk about the drug problems and clear signs of homelessness in a tourist hotspot in the last few years. Whilst I don’t know an awful lot about the situation, I’m aware that there are definitely unwritten rules about the “family” that live on the graffitied streets. They look after their own, that much is clear.
There’s also been a Banksy exhibit behind Federation Square for the last few weeks, but tickets are a little on the pricey side. There is a free area that you can visit and all the pieces are by up and coming Australian street artists and they are now available to auction for charity, so I didn’t take any pictures. It didn’t quite feel right to have copies of them without donating any money, but if you want to see the pieces, they are all available to view online here.
I also visited the National Gallery of Victoria today. I love going to an Art Gallery, and I think it’s because my mum used to work at the one in Cheltenham and every school holiday they would put on events for kids and I spent hours poring over the exhibitions whenever they had a new one in. We were so lucky because just as my friend Chris was telling me that when he went around the Art Gallery in Adelaide he managed to get on a free tour, there was a public service announcement saying there was a tour beginning in the next five minutes, and to meet downstairs in the Atrium. Score! We back-tracked through the first part of the exhibition and waited around for a few minutes, but no one else was going to join us, so we got a personalised tour around the place which was incredible. Admittedly, the lady we had was on a proper mission and ran us around the galleries in chronological order in less than 45 minutes, skipping over some bits completely. She was very knowledgeable, but I couldn’t help but feel rushed. We went back through at our own pace afterwards, but it wasn’t quite the same because you never get a second chance at a first impression, so I’d already experienced a fraction of that awe-inspiring moment and the rest of it sort of disappeared. It was still better than going around without a guide though. I wonder if, in 50-100 years’ time there’ll be an exhibition about the history of street art and how it shaped the socio-economic state of Melbourne over the years. Because it’s not just a bit of colour, is it? It’s political and current and it’s a little humbling that a few words strategically sprayed onto a wall can make you just stop for a second and think.