There is a trend transpiring amongst the new generation of young adults, to heavily romanticise events and movements that have happened in the past, and passionately revere anything and everything that is happening anywhere in the world except for where they currently call home. Anyone would think that the celebration of human creativity peaked during the 60′s and 70′s past the point of no-return; and if you are, heaven-forbid, unlucky enough to live in Adelaide, it’s all happening in Sydney; if you’re wasting your life in L.A, Brooklyn is where it’s at; disillusioned Londoners desperately want to be tagged in photos at Berlin cafes on some strange image-based pilgrimage with their worn Moleskin in hand….and so on and so forth.
Australian artists, AWOL crew, are a perfect example of worthwhile happenings right here in Melbourne, giving us all something to celebrate and enjoy in the midst of our own 21stcentury creative renaissance. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more impressive aerosol mural, with a more artful integrity or presence, anywhere in Europe, Asia, the USA or South America- and one thing that is not up for debate, is the fact that this wall, spearheaded by an incredible portrait by Adnate, is world-class.
"I first painted the wall with Phibs in 2003 and it was the first wall I painted in the area. It was in 2011 that it became an AWOL wall and it was the first time I painted a portrait of an Indigenous Australian. The wall became renowned due to the indigenous theme and also because of the Fitzroy location. This area has always been significant for theWurundjeri tribe and Indigenous Australians, so it was more than just a wall- I heard some crazy stories of the effect it had on some people."
However impressive the centerpiece, AWOL crew is exactly that, a crew- and the pervading feeling this wall emanates is in no small part due to the collaborative nature of the artwork. Adnate describes each AWOL production as having"one architect, and this time I took the role. I shot the reference image of the indigenous boy, made a digital mockup and Slicer and Itch worked amazingly with the spaces. Most AWOL walls aren’t planned much, we generally prefer to work spontaneously."
The symbolism of this piece is undeniable; Australia has one of the most abominable track records in the world in regards to the historic treatment of its indigenous people. Adnate goes on to say "I consider myself racist due to my own ignorance before I begun my research and connected with the people. As ‘Australians’, it’s incredible how little we know and understand what it is about. The stance of the boy is symbolic to the strength of their culture after everything they’ve been through."
Central to the immensely impressive stature of the work, is the physical presence and the confronting, realistic nature of the aerosol portrait in such an urban location. “It’s definitely the biggest portrait I’ve ever painted" Adnate continues, "but I still used the same technique I always do which goes against conventional art teachings, starting with the eye and building it out from there. The reference image was a photograph of a local aboriginal boy that I took in Fitzroy. The expression in his eyes and the stance is the reason I chose that particular shot. Working with aerosols allows me to work on almost any surface quickly and effectively to create a juxtaposition of realism on a wall where it shouldn’t exist.”
When asked about what else we could expect from the AWOL crew in the future, Adnate coyly responded that we’d have to “wait and see”.
And so the waiting begins.
Words / Photographs: James Watkins.