601 - a picture paints (not quite) a thousand words
Ever taken much notice of the graffiti I use as an identifier? I took it on an instamatic camera (ah life before digital) when I was a teenager spending six months living in Sydney. I’d been catapulted from Wellington (population under 300,000) to a city of more than 3 million. It was 1982. Despite this era being the dizzy intersection of punk and post-punk, I put on my best frock and got a proper job, in an office doing the most menial work on a big government health study.
My time in Sydney cemented my love of graffiti. BUGA UP was at its height. Writings on walls, pre-tagging, were witty, political and an emerging art form. One sunny day in Paddington, the following spray made me laugh.
Oh the irony.
Fast forward 25 years and I am living in Australia again. As I flipped through some old photos, the words seemed just a relevant now I find myself amidst the whole food blog/foodie pretension/food porn thing. It seemed the perfect bridge between my disparate blogs. Ironic? Moi!
Then a short while ago, while bringing yet another blog to life, I got a comment from one of the people responsible for the words on the wall. I’ve got Andra’s (coincidentally another outspoken kiwi) permission to share the story. Here it, as she told me via email.
…if you remember the period and the area. Darlinghurst was full of arty squats. Kings Cross was squalid. Paddington was the height of pretension south of the bridge.
My friends and I lived (and died) in the coffee shops of Darlo, Victoria Rd and Oxford St. We fancied ourselves as real punks, feminists, artists and voyagers but we were complete wankers.
That was when the book "Real Men Don't Eat Quiche" had become popular. I think the Sydney Morning Herald Good Weekend (which we read) did a big feature on the 'arty punks of paddington.. or darlo.. and the coffee shop scene'. We stayed up all night (as we did) and decided that my 'real punks can't spell cappoc cuppa.. coffee' was clever.
We were so artschool! The trouble we had organising the logistics. Who had access to a car! What sort of paint. Who was going to be lookout. Where were we going to paint. I think we ended up with 5 lookouts, 1 driver and 1 painter. I think we sprayed in 3 locations, Darlo, Ultimo and Paddington. The Paddo location stayed up for a while. I can't remember exactly where cause it's all changed and I've moved but the bottom end of Glenmore Rd near Oxford St on the borders of Kings Cross/Rushcutters/Darlo is where I remember that one.
We really were ahead of the graffiti curve in Australia! I think that spray also got featured shortly after in a coffee table type book on public art or punk art.
I love stories that come full circle.
Words on walls, tags, public art, whatever – is by nature temporary. I'm glad this story has had its moment in the sun again, even if it is in yet another transient medium.