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Published April 16th 2017
Sydney's open air galleries
The Sydney street art scene has been undergoing a revolution in the last few years, mainly due to the decision by the councils to cut the red tape and to allow building owners and artists to work together on giving the neighbourhoods an artistic makeover. As a result, Sydney alleyways are being transformed into open-air art galleries.
Mural by Peque on the wall of Revolver cafe, Annandale
One of the best areas in Sydney to see both the new and the iconic street art is in the inner west, particularly around Newtown. Newtown has always been a colourful neighbourhood, yet where there used to be ad hoc graffiti, now there are artistic murals, some painted on walls two or three story-high.
As with any gallery visit, it pays to know who the artists are and where to see their work. Many street artists have distinct and easily recognisable styles and a walk through the laneways of Newtown and surrounding suburbs is a good way to familiarise yourself with them.
Newtown Street Art Walk
Stop one on any street art walk in Newtown should be May lane in the neighbouring St Peters. May lane is Sydney's answer to Melbourne's famous laneways where every inch of wall space, every garage door and stairwell are covered in a striking collage of shapes and colours.
One of particular points of interest here is a vast mural by Peque. Peque is a Mexican Australian artist whose murals adorn buildings all over the Inner West. Just opposite his mural on May lane, there is anoher one of his works that is perhaps more reminiscent of his animated style.
From May lane make your way to King lane in Newtown. One of the most arresting murals on the lane, Fintan Magee's 'Bracing a Falling Sky' is guaranteed to stop you in your tracks. The image is of a young woman lying on her back, trying to hold the sky that seems to be descending onto her. Magee has been a prominent artist in Sydney for many years and his work can also be seen on the walls in Columbia, Miami, Jakarta, Bogota and Beunos Aires, to name a few.
Just a few meters up the lane is another stunning mural by Peque, that looks like a window to an alternative animated world. It is similar in style and composition to his mural on the side wall of Revolver Cafe in Annandale.
The next part of the walk takes you away from bustling King Street into the quiet residential streets of Newtown. From Holmwood lane, stroll to the corner of Alice Street and Edgeware road to see another mural by Fintan Magee on the side of The Wolf & Honeybee café. Characteristic of Magee's style this is a large-scale mural that draws you in and makes you ponder its meaning. Most of Magee's work carries a message in it, highlighting social or environmental issues that we face today.
Neighbouring Simmons Street introduces a new artist – Phibs. His style is characterised by wild patterns of interweaving and overlapping letters and characters in a vibrant mix of complementary colours. This particular mural, that takes up half a side wall of a houses, was painted by him in collaboration with Kyle Hughes-Odgers. Phibs has also left his mark on the international street art scene, with his work featured on the walls in Berlin, Miami and New York.
From Simmons Street, head back to Enmore road via Pemmell Street to check out Murdoc's stencil on the corner house.
Back on Enmore Rd, there is another epic mural by Fintan Magee on the exterior of The Urban Hotel. Titled "The housing buble" this mural spans 4 stories of the building wall and is best viewed from across the road.
Top Left: Phibs; Bottom left: Murdoc; Right: Fintan Magee "The housing buble"
It is a good idea to break up the walk at this point and to have lunch or a cup of coffee. The options in this part of the city are almost endless.
Part two of the walk starts on Holt Street, just a short stroll away from Urban hotel. This small street is the domain of Phibs. The walls on both sides of the street are covered in intricately detailed murals painted in vibrant colours. It is quite a feast for the eyes.
Just one block away from Holt street is the true open air gallery of street art on Goddard St. Instead of large scale murals, the walls on Goddard street are studded with gallery-size artworks by different artists. The most easily recognisable are perhaps the works by Ears, with his consistent focus on the eyes and Drew Funk's fish-themed murals.
There are a number of new murals on Lennox street as well. Of particular interest are the large scale works that have transformed the car park behind the Dendy Cinema into a real life wonderland.
Around the corner from Lennox Street is another mural by Fintan Magee on Church Street. Interestingly, this mural replaces his previous work – the Archer, that was painted over as a result of miscommunication between the building owner and the tenants only 9 months after it was created.