On the Outside Looking In / by Eryn Withawhy


Eryn With a Why on Look Hear's Hit The Bricks

“His work is different. It actually says something about who he is. He means it...”

I was talking to Lindsey as we sat in the Shop Friday afternoon. My intention was to work late into the night on a large scale project with a looming deadline. The overhead projector was on, the door was open and there were tins, canvases, and mdf boards scattered haphazardly in the front room. I was justifying why I would take a break from working to check out some of Look Hear’s Hit The Bricks over the weekend. “So what brings you to Newcastle, are you artists yourselves?” Is a standard greeting in the Shop, the majority of our customers being artists from Sydney or international backpackers seeking aesthetic stimulation while they wait for a connecting flight. I was not expecting to meet Shida, who Lindsey was quick to announce I had just stopped talking about. For the majority of us, streetart and graffiti is something that occurs under cover of darkness. It’s anonymous, unexpected, daring, exciting, and transient. For others it’s a nuisance, a crime, or at worst; uninteresting or unnoticed. For the likes of Shida, Askew, Adnate, Bafcat, Jumbo, Numskull, Mike Watt, Grizzle, Fintan, Umpel, Mike Maka, Beastman, and Phibs however, their passion for painting is a pastime, a profession, and a plane ticket.

Image from APM Photography (https://www.facebook.com/pages/APM-Photography/141183872583150)

Hit The Bricks, Newcastle offered us the paradoxical experience of being at once within this other world, while still remaining very much on the outside looking in. Innocently enough, I made my disappointment at the lack of female representation known with a question posed to the panel on Friday night at Newcastle Art Gallery. Though organiser Carl Morgan later satisfied me with an explanation of the lengths gone to in trying to arrange more female artists for the event, I was surprised and pleased by the responses I received from other members of the community. The demand for higher visibility of the achievements of women in street art and graffiti is certainly alive in Newcastle. Serendipitously, I was alerted to the all-girl crew from all over Australia painting in Broadmeadow. Even more serendipitously, I had access to an empty wall in the CBD. An invitation was extended and the result was a beautiful, fast, authentic, highly visible mark left by women including Joske and Sear (Coordinators of Ladie Killers, Melbourne), Dsent, Ivey, and Daisy in the city centre. Though no comparison to their wall replete with a top to bottom portrait in Broadmeadow, the Union Lane project was a fitting way to christen the Steel City Collective wall - one we hope to refresh in the coming weeks with vibrant and conceptual work by some of our crew as well as planned guests including HTB secret artist Marguerite Tierney.

As his latest Ironlak video Limitless went viral, Sofles humbly and masterfully made the streets of Newcastle his canvas. His effortless control and technique drew a crowd to his Hunter Street wall on Sunday where one of his “trademark female characters came to life in no time at all.” Local artist Bloks was quick to praise Sofles work adding that he “managed to snag a quick one” for his own book from the talented writer. Simone Sheridan, director of Street Art Walking, described the man as “just genuine” and was on hand to keep him in supply of Banana Paddle-pops. Her role in the execution of the event was well appreciated by the artists involved - she has a car boot full of Laks to show for it. Closer to home, Mike Watt is a Sydney based commercial illustrator and artist who shares this down to earth humility. Not one to boast of his talents, the creator of Super Ugly heaped thanks on organisers Carl, Sally, and Michael as well as saying, “I’m really stoked I was part of Hit The Bricks, it was such a great event!”. He described Askew’s colourful and expressive work as incredible; gushing, “I still haven’t seen his finished piece but it was looking amazing when I last saw it,” which is a statement that could equally be applied to any of Mike’s works. His unique, dynamic and quirky style brought a flavour to Hit The Bricks that Newcastle was certainly lacking. 

Photo from Simone Sheridan

Streetart and graffiti is not immune to the subjectivity of it’s finer counterparts and so it is with an emphasis on my own personal taste that I divulge that what draws me to both Askew’s and Mike Watt’s art is the sense of urgency that is communicated through their expressive strokes. It’s the same intensity and movement that I see in Shida’s art - it’s almost as though some essence of the action is embedded within the artefact, much more so than with other styles. I’m reminded of the action painting of Jackson Pollock or the grand violence of Willem De Kooning, and I’m affronted by Shida’s disclosure that he has never been anything other than an artist. Though in jest and fueled by exhaustion and alcohol, a comparison was made to Picasso. And though it was laughed off by the group, including Mike Maka and Shida himself, it got me thinking. Revered as a young and successful trailblazer by his peers as well as broader audiences, could Shida stand the test of time and leave his mark not only on every lamppost in Newcastle, but art history?



For more images head to LOOK HEAR