The scale and the way people interact with the work, plus the fact it’s accessible art, are all part of the appeal. Rose started doing large work full-time in 2016 and her process changes depending on the location. “Access is a big one, if I’ve got a boom or a scissor lift,” she says. “I bounce around the wall quite a lot depending on what I need to do. I generally cover the whole wall with paint and do a lot of gradations and then go back and do line work.”
“When you get used to painting bigger, it’s not daunting … It’s almost like an addiction, I want bigger and bigger.”
Known as House of Meggs, David Meggs Hooke describes himself as an abstract expressionist. “A lot of my work is about a flow and a movement, a collage of objects or references that have a narrative or a story: the colour and the textures, energy and the elements, air, water and fire.”
Having started in 2004, his painting has taken him around the world, inclduing to the US where he lived and worked for six years, in Los Angeles, Detroit and Hawaii. Recent local works include Richmond’s Sister of Soul restaurant, off Swan Street, Croydon Central Shopping Centre, and another at the campus bar at La Trobe University. With time his work has become more abstract and more poignant, “that I feel will align itself with the messages and movement of climate change and awareness”.
To create his large-scale work, Hooke often breaks the image down, starting with a big, broad image then working back to front, focusing on any detailed elements in the foreground, leaves for example, then moving to the background.
Reflecting the genre’s cultural significance, State Library Victoria recently added a photographic series about street artists to its collection. Photographer Shannyn Higgins created most of the works at street art festival Can’t Do Tomorrow in February. As well as Rose, Higgins shot David Lee Pereira, Jason Parker, Justine McAllister, Callum Preston, Chuck Mayfield, Silkroy, Lucy Lucy, Creature Creature, Chehehe, Steve Leadbeater and Ruskidd. She shot Hooke in his studio at the Everfresh collective in Collingwood.
The series, called Behind the Paint, reflects another stage in the evolution of street art – from graffiti in laneways to a recognised art form. The State Library’s collection curation and engagement manager Toni Burton says public artists play a pivotal role in shaping Victoria’s urban fabric, arguing they tell our story in a way distinct from other art forms.
Rose agrees, saying people often don’t understand the difference between street art and graffiti and muralism but that doesn’t change the reaction it evokes or the joy of the artistry.
“There’s something really beautiful about it, different aspects beyond creating the artwork,” she says. “I also love that they are an ephemeral piece of art that will have a life and then eventually disappear.”
For the full gallery, see slv.vic.gov.au/search-discover/galleries/behind-the-paint
Kerrie is a senior culture writer at The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald