Urban Art: Movement in the City review

Posted on February 22, 2014

Undercoat reviews Urban Art: Movement in the City.

It’s raining outside. The floor is scratched. It’s baltic pine. There’s been people in this room for ages, and as usual, I feel like a displaced historical intruder. In and out, in and out, cityslickers must have waded, with furniture, emotions, duties. Long before the hum of the 112 on Brunswick St, saddles squeaked and hooves clipclopped in this city. I’m standing, musing, awaiting a long forgotten invitation to high tea. Strong tobacco meets my nostrils all the way from 1926, chasing varnish, hops, and sweat. I await the milkman to bang at the door. I open my eyes and get slapped in the face. I’m in a gallery again, the sepia tones of historic Melbourne are gone, and all around the colours are giggling.

Street art in it’s varied form is the subject of the current offering at Brunswick Street Gallery, Urban Art: Movement in the City. This colour-charged vault straps you onto one of Rab Lynch’s decorated skateboards (do not take this literally), and pushes you into today’s Melbourne as only an artist could see it. There’s bits of barbed wire hung over bare-breasted gore-amazons, there’s neon paints splashed wildly over stylised chinese characters, there’s building supplies hung up in frames.

I start my odyssey at the back, where Olga Morris’ Upgrading the View takes hold of me first. It’s a good place to start, as my recent dimension-bending to the past neatly translates into her dimension-bending of the present. There are fantastic visual puns in Morris’ works, which capture urban real estate in it’s clinical immediacy. The black walls of the inner room at BSG show off Morris’ masterful appreciation of digital tonalities; a nice piece of curatorship for a nice piece of art, if ever I saw one.

At Undercoat we’ve just been in touch with Bruno Pasquilini, and his Grafitti shows me why his work is so important in holding this sparse collection together. The thread of disembodied calligraphy that splashes through a darkened wall is the same constant I hear every day of metropolitan life, as the 112 rushes past once more. I’m glad I can spend some time with Summer Time also, which conjures up everything that was right about the 90s, which I always always somehow forget. Why do I do that?

I chat briefly with the volunteer at the counter: ‘…Arts student…’, ‘…oh yeah, whereabouts?…’, ‘…at Melbourne’. I then find myself muttering furiously at her about my impressions of the genre in horribly broad strokes. I don’t really know what I’m trying to say, but whatever it is, it’s a human distraction from the surrounding urbanscape. In my mind I figure I’ll work out what I’m saying later, which is now.

I’m lead into review Natasia Faivre’s first multi-layered plexiglass piece in Green City. I’m fairly disconcerted with all the colour but I try not to let it get to me. ‘Stay calm, hold on, you’re almost there’ I’m saying, as I work my way through it again and again, over and over. Reimagining the cityscape is as much the work of artists as architects; is this where Faivre is heading? I’m distracted by Enjoy’s work opposite; a welcome and challenging annoyance. I look back at Green City and trace the faint outline of a ship burying into the future. The collection is clearly disorientating me now; I’m beginning to feel my eyeballs need to escape to the country like, totes defs real soon.

Dale Hitchcock’s Obey is my catharsis; a fantastic collaged crucifix. This has to be seen in the flesh to be fully appreciated; it’s simplicity of form and the interaction of text and line are exactly what is called for at the end of a hard day’s pop art. Hitchcock’s onto something, and I want to see more.

A friend joins me who is taking me out to dinner. We trudge down the stairs as the pattering starts again at street level. Fitzroy is still here, the living definition, as one work upstairs puts it, of gentrification. The city keeps moving, and my nostalgia takes hold again. I pull up my hood and put on a brave face for dusk. The smell of errant marijuana drifts down cobbled alleys, and the colours have had their fun for another day.

Urban Art: Movement in the City runs until 27 Feb.

Review written by Undercoat scribbler, Eric Brotchie.

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