Expat, engineer, writer. Life, facts and creativity in Perth WA.
Published April 8th 2014
Talk a back street tour of Perth's magical murals
They're there. They've always been there. Lurking down quiet alleys and behind inconspicuous buildings, on the corners of the trendy bars in Northbridge and beside the gleaming skyscrapers of the CBD, quiet companions to the city's urban spaces.
As the cliché goes: you can't know where you are going until you know where you have been. So, with the Public: Art in the City festival now in full swing, I thought it might be intriguing to look at what street art is already adorning the city's walls before I soak in the brand new pieces that will soon form part of Perth's landscape. To look back, in a sense, before looking forward. Where we've been, I would soon discover, is somewhere quite special.
A while ago, when I first arrived in Perth, I remember picking up a Perth Arts & Culture tourist map (available at all major tourist spots) that was soon buried in the ever expanding pile of tourist paraphernalia that I had subsequently accumulated as a new arrival to the city. After some digging, I retrieved it, dusted it off and spread it out on the kitchen table. There, in neat, easy to follow steps, lay a perfect day's itinerary. An Idiot's guide, so to speak, to Perth's murals.
Most of the city's murals are split between the CBD and Northbridge, so the logical strategy is to take in the CBD murals in the morning, stopping by a Northbridge eatery for lunch (which is a wonderful experience in itself) before completing the tour with the Northern artworks. The results astounded me. Indistinct and ordinary lanes and alleys concealed magnificent pieces, often spanning metres across. I wandered down unnamed lanes and, turning a corner or two, found myself alone with a masterpiece in technicolour. Exotic characters in purples and greens and luminescent orange smirking at me, concealing private jokes between one artwork and the next. After a long while staring, I would return to the street, stupid smile affixed to my face, much to the bemusement of the passers-by.
My hunt took me through all of the murals on the formal map with the highlights being the Grand Lane Mural just off the Murray Street Mall, the magnificent trio of pieces (Night Forrest, The Swing Overlooking the Field and The Conversation) in the lane beside Howard St and A Fragmented Tale in a lane off Hay Street Mall.
In addition to the mapped artworks though, my wanderings led me to several gorgeous additional pieces that have not been listed in the tourist map and warrant a visit on any city mural tour. Look out for the mural in the lane leading to the Cuban Boxing Gym (144 Murray Street, CBD), the magnificent pieces on the walls behind Ezra Pound Bar (189 William St, Northbridge), and the small but psychedelic artworks adorning the walls around the service entrance of La Cholita (279 William St, Northbridge). In the case of the latter, the pieces are particularly special for being constantly changing, the building owner offering up the space to local artists to tag whenever they wish.
Perhaps best of all though, this type of walking tour offers an opportunity to interact with the city in a way that can only be described as intimate. Visiting hidden pieces of brick and plaster, peeling away the urban coverings and sharing the quiet places in between the skyscrapers and the busy bars; a look into the soul of the city and its creative citizens. I finished my tour down a back street in Northbridge and shared the artwork with a barman hauling empty beer kegs into the street. A mixture of beer and water had produced a foul smelling rivulet that was trickling slowly down the alleyway, passing an assortment of bins en route. And against the wall, in this most ordinary of settings, was another magnificent mural. Buildings, lighthouses and caricatured characters in a jigsaw of wild blues and erratic brushstrokes; beauty beside the beast. And this really is the great value of these pieces. They are things to wonder at in an otherwise ugly urban space; colour, creativity and social commentary in perfect contrast to the scene unfolding beside it. There are many artworks, more noted and famed than these, hanging in the air conditioned spaces of the city's galleries. And while I mean no disrespect, I prefer these street savvy artworks. There is something about a piece of art that is willing to get its hands dirty, even if you have to navigate some old beer kegs to see it.
Hi!!! I was just wondering whether you could perhaps upload the map? Super keen to explore the street art too, but there is so much to see that I think a map guide would be super helpful to set a structure to my adventures!!