I recently attended the OUTPOST street art and graffiti exhibition on Cockatoo Island in Sydney Harbour. I had never actually been to Cockatoo Island before and was very impressed by the ways in which this former industrial site is being utilised. It makes for an excellent exhibition space, as well as a good venue for festivals, concerts and the like. The timing of this seemed surprisingly appropriate, as it comes shortly after my having developed more of an interest in contemporary street art around Sydney. I recall a few years ago a friend from Melbourne lamenting the lack of stencil art and other, more creative and, indeed, political forms of street art in Sydney. Whilst Melbourne may still be ahead on this front, Sydney has certainly taken to stencil art and there seems to be a greater diversity of styles of graffiti generally, many of which are immediately recognisable as belonging to particular artists.
I must confess that I’m hopeless on the attribution front. I should take more of an interest in the artists themselves, yet seem to have a blind-spot for tags and signatures on murals, which all too often are left out of the composition when I take a photograph. Perhaps it’s time to reintroduce the old photographer’s notebook.
The other current point of fascination is shop windows, both on account of their content and their reflections, but also a combination of the two. It’s nice to have an almost-human subject that does not move, just as it is equally nice to be surprised by the unexpected rhythms of human motion.
Then, of course, there is the hottest topic of the summer: The weather.
The rain has kept on coming and the many lovers of summer seem baffled. I suppose sunshine is the predominant narrative of Australia, in much the same way that the bush and, subsequently, the beach, has dominated Australian identity. These are all narratives that I have, at various times, embraced and rejected with equal enthusiasm. After a pale and indoor childhood of nerdy pursuits, I finally took an interest in outdoor activities with the arrival of puberty. By the summers of 1991-93, I went to the beach almost five days a week. From December 1995 to late April, 1996, I lived at Bronte and swam at the beach pretty well every day. Soon after this, my excitement about summer began to wane. In 1997, after a five and a half month trip around Europe, I returned to a more bookish, autumnal and wintry mood. This despite an undercurrent of yearning, almost poetic in character, inspired by Lawrence of Arabia, for a desert aesthetic: I painted my Glebe apartment a combination of sky blue and pale desert sand.
When I lived in England from 1999 to 2003, I craved the beach, hot weather and sunshine. I remember enthusing, with my good friend Chris, about “stinkers” – really disgustingly hot days that began very hot indeed. If anyone can recall New Year’s Day 2006, when it was 38 by 0800AM and ultimately hit 46 centigrade, then you know what I’m talking about. Stuff died. People died. Yet once my time in England was through, I realised how little of a sop the hot weather and beaches of Australia were, compared to the urban centres, archaeological sites, museums, galleries, and indeed, more mountainous landscape of Europe. Since then I’ve hardly gone to the beach at all, despite enjoying it every time I do. Unless a lift is on offer, getting there seems more hassle than it’s worth. Without the beach, summer is almost entirely redundant, with the exception of a dimly flickering interest in the outcome of the seasonal cricket tests…
So, we’ve been privy to plenty of rain, plenty of incredible cloud formations, plenty of slick, wet streets and almost endemic umbrella use. Not a day goes by where I don’t check the radar from the meteorological bureau to see how best to prepare. I’m people will curse me for wishing so, but I do hope the summer continues as is; anything to spare me from the horrors of humid February!