IAN KIRKWOOD: Street art trick or treat

admin | 杭州桑拿
4 Dec 2018

TWO great things happened around here at the weekend.

The first was Halloween on Friday night. And on Saturday and Sunday, it was the second Hit The Bricks festival of street art.

Declaring an interest, our family is friends with Hit The Bricks co-organiser Sally Bourke and her family, and I thought it was a brilliant idea from the start, taking unloved and often deteriorated blank inner-city walls and handing them over to some of the nation’s best street artists.

And so it turned out. Despite inclement weather and the usual difficulties that come with running an event of such scale on the smell of an oily rag, the first Hit The Bricks has had an obvious and positive impact on the city streetscape.

Like most of us, I was absolutely blown away by the sheer quality of the works. The most obvious example is the Aboriginal boy at Wickham painted with the skill of a Renaissance master by Melbourne artist Adnate.

He was back this year, and another two of his hyper-realist faces now adorn the Gibson Street car park, facing King Street.

We joined the steady flow of onlookers visiting the painting sites on Sunday afternoon, and the enthusiastic interplay between the artists and an appreciative public left me feeling good about the city and its sometimes sublimated soul.

And then someone told me about the online comments to the Newcastle Herald’s coverage of events on Monday.

I wasn’t surprised about the people pointing to the Kurri Kurri murals, a collection of more than 50 large-scale artworks begun in 2003 and celebrated each September during Mural Month.

They also attract national attention and I can see why the good folk of Kurri might think we are making a bigger fuss about Hit The Bricks than we do about the town’s Mural Month celebrations each September.

But I was surprised to see various readers describe the Hit The Bricks art as “graffiti” and “junk”. And “typical Newie regressive junk” at that!

I had the same thought as those readers posting comments to counter the whingers. Had they actually looked at any of the walls? The only thing that Hit The Bricks has in common with the “graffiti battles” that one unhappy reader remarked on is that both use aerosol cans in their creations.

But Hit The Bricks went through a hell of a lot of four-litre paint tins and rollers and brushes as well.

And the proof of the social impact of Hit The Bricks? Almost none of the works have been attacked with graffiti this past year.

Newcastle will never be a full-blown tourist destination. But it does have a growing reputation of cool, and Hit The Bricks has most definitely added to it.

Now, to Halloween, the festival that stuck in my throat as American crap.

That is, until we moved to a part of Hamilton where Halloween is a popular street festival, and the unfinished headstones in our backyard – a previous owner was a stonemason – gave our daughters a distinct advantage when it came to creating Halloween tableaux.

Each year for the past few years, Halloween has become bigger and bigger.

And yes, it’s commercial, with the lolly sales and make-up and masks, but it’s worth pointing out that Halloween is All Hallows’ Eve, a set date on the Christian calendar – possibly adopted from an earlier pagan ritual – and beginning in the Old World, not the US.

Around our way, a Halloween protocol has established itself where children, the younger ones accompanied by adults, do the rounds of the streets, knocking only on those houses that welcome such visitors with a witch’s hat or a bat or some other suitably sinister sign.

And our kids, while happy to accept treats, carry their own lollies with them, offering them to the people inside the house as well. It’s amazing what a bit of reciprocation can do.

And no, we didn’t have Halloween when we were kids. I know that. We had cracker night, and we blew up letter boxes, scared the neighbourhood pets and put lots of kids in hospital, some of whom emerged without eyes or fingers.

I miss all that mayhem but, as a parent, I know which celebration I’d rather have.

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