EDITORIAL | Empty-Nursery Blue by Adrian Doyle

Rarely does yours truly comment on a particular piece of work on Melbourne’s streets, but the scale and overall response to this piece/installation by Adrian Doyle has been on every ones lips. As someone who actively documents and comments on Melbourne street art and graffiti scene, I think it’s only right that I also throw my two cents into the, already overflowing, barrel.

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I should state that: this is merely my opinion on the matter and certainly not a definition of the outcome. As the old saying goes, opinions are like assholes, everyone has one.

For those who have possibly been living under a rock over the last few days and have no idea what I’m talking about, I’ll try explain this as quickly as possible. On Sunday afternoon, Melbourne artist Adrian Doyle went on down to Hosier Lane’s sister alley Rutledge and painted the whole space in a custom made colour he named, Empty-Nursery Blue. When I say he painted the whole thing, I mean, the whole space. Every wall, every piece, every bin, the floor, pretty much as low and as high as he possibly could. Posting an artist statement on his website, Doyle claims that the colour is a representation of, what he describes, a pretty bleak childhood. As per usual, the mainstream media grabbed onto it and decided to include it into their daily feed, making it public knowledge in the process. The street art and graffiti community have both applauded and denounced that act, calling it [among other things]: selfish, rubbish, fresh, artistic and confusing. But within minutes, hours and days since the ‘installation’ was finished, a new crops of tags, throws and pieces were already being put up in it’s place, with the space slowly, but surely, getting back to business as usual.

[Note: The images you see in this post were taken this morning 28/08/2013 10:10am – 10:40am-ish]

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To get the discussion going here, we’ve really got to talk about the lane in questions itself, Rutledge. While the larger and more famous, Hosier Lane, showcases and is open for artist to do their thing on, within some of the unwritten laws of graffiti, to put it in short, don’t cap what you can’t burn. Whereas Rutledge Lane is generally considered an outstanding free for, paint whatever you want, wherever you want, practice, refine and begin your venture into the graffiti and street art culture. The wall is open for everybody to paint and while that’s a great thing, it doesn’t necessarily mean the best of the best in Melbourne’s scene is down there painting. Capping is a regular sight and most of the cities best writers and artist, generally, avoid the space. But that’s what the lane is there for, for people to get exciting about the Melbourne scene, whether it be by contributing work or sharing photo’s [less wedding ones thanks]. While there was some long lasting layers of paint, from some great contributors [it has been said a lot, but I also feel the TEKNO roller is a great loss, I feel that it’s some what synonymous with the whole space] there was no real great loss as a whole, let’s be honest. It’s because of this also that I think the entire space is no longer the great contribution to Melbourne’s street art and graffiti culture it used to be and it’s probably been that way for the passed year or 2. When I began studying in the city [3 years ago now], I went there regularly and was pretty excited by the ever changing space, by the end of my course, I just couldn’t be bothered with it. It either stayed the same on one side, or was completely trashed on the other, it became stale and was always a space where [some] street artists in particular went to paint because they could. This is why I loved the idea when I first heard about, it gave the lane a fresh start and a possible new approach, the colour wasn’t great, [I mean who wants a that blue in their background?] but a clean slate, is a clean slate. It doesn’t surprise me that the place was already back to business as usual, 20 minutes after the final layer was added [probably to allow it to dry]. My only wish with this project was to actually stand there in the middle of it all, as it was nothing but blue, the surreal feeling would have been quite a sight and I envy those who got to experience it for that short time. And while I’m never a fan of clean walls, they’re also just sitting their waiting to be painted, it’s up to the individual to do something about it.

Overall, I understand the concept Doyle was going for here, his artist statement paints a pretty clear picture of what the idea, colour and location is for, even if he did try to polish it with some fancy pants words. It certainly has its weight in substance and whether you agree or agree to disagree, it was a ballsy move for a number of accounts, something lacking in Melbourne’s street art culture today.

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In my opinion, Rutledge and even Hosier Lane is free for those who want to paint it, no matter the intention, quality or scale. 2005 was when the stencil revolution in Melbourne was in full swing, but those days are well and truly gone and with everybody picking up a tin of paint these days, ‘quality control’ is impossible to stay on top of, in terms of those spaces. While I did enjoy and understand the idea from the get go, the more I looked into it, the more I was confused and, in some cases, baffled by the project. This obviously wasn’t the first time I had heard of Adrian Doyle, he has been an important part of developing Melbourne’s street art culture for some time now and his contributions have been integral. But there has always been one thing that has bothered me with his more recent experiences and contributions: his intention. I don’t know the man personally, so you shouldn’t base your opinion on what I say, but it I feel like for a lot of his projects recently, have been an attempt to legitimize and expose Melbourne’s street art culture towards a more governmental/mainstream acceptance. To which on one side I can support and appreciate, as I can always support artists earning a living off their craft [no matter their artistic background], but not at the lose of the integrity of the culture. Doyle is obviously very good at getting peoples attention, but at what cost? If you ask me, a bit of that integrity. He has nothing to prove to me or anybody else, but there’s something a bit off about somebody who, while having the best intentions for Melbourne’s street art and graffiti scene, always strive for appreciation from those who basically don’t. For me, graffiti and street art is one of the best art movements in the world today because its a real peoples culture. It goes against the establishment and doesn’t ask for its acceptance, it’s people acting out against their spaces, something governments and council usually fight against, not something we should be seeking approval from. I can understand and appreciate commission walls and art shows, but only if the artist and integrity in their work is withheld and in the artist control. Hearing that a project of a wall being buffed in one of the cities most important spaces, was government/council funded, just doesn’t sit well with me, you can always look at this idea as an installation [its intention], but to hear the Wobert Doyle [proper spelling] gave approval, makes it sound more like a buff job. Wobert has been in the news a lot lately for his opinions on street art and graffiti, to which I literally ignore, nothing from the news is really good news and hearing that this guy is trying to make changes to my passion, doesn’t sit well with me or bother me for that matter and it really shouldn’t, as it never has co-operated with the rest of the world anyway. Whenever Doyles name pops up for his latest project, governmental bodies and mass media seem to be the ones telling me about it and at times it feels like that’s his intention, with this one being no different. Because of this, it feels like he’s a bit out of touch with where the culture is in 2013, if you want to get the attention of The Age for 5 minutes, go for it, but don’t expect the people, which is the most important part of this culture, to follow. Not to mention if this is how you define the experience:

I also come from a suburban background, I’ve mentioned that plenty of times throughout this blog, I moved closer to the city 5 years ago and it was probably the best thing I’ve ever done. Getting more involved in my surroundings through graffiti and street art, has been nothing but a positive thing for me, granting me opportunities I never would have imagined and challanging me in more ways then I ever thought. It’s a positive thing and moving closer to the CBD doesn’t make you a better/more creative person or anything, but it has certainly made me forget about the mundane lifestyle in my surroundings of the South East suburbs. It also doesn’t make me want to selfishly take over a space shared by many more, who share the same passion and feelings as I do, I contribute where I can, while doing my best to not step on peoples toes.

Painting one of the cities most beloved laneways because your childhood was a bit rough, with government funding and ‘approval’ [whatever that means], is probably not one of the best ways to get your point across. And considering his connections with the Melbourne art scene, along his history as an artist, I don’t see why another location, project or exhibition could have been considered. Is it because he knew it would have created this much buzz? Who knows. Either way, I think the substance of the project was lost within the intention and execution, if you want to do an art piece, do it in an art space, like street art and graffiti, contemporary art is a different world, you can’t dip your toes into another culture and expect those in the pool to follow and you probably should have known better. I certainly don’t agree with some of the angry/aggressive comments that have been floating around since Sunday [in the end, nothing last forever], but really, what did he expect? All of his friends and supports can act like the conversation is divided, but I wouldn’t say that a 80/20 divide a fair argument, one is obviously more prominent and passionate then the other. Anyone who really knows whats going on in Melbourne at the moment, particularly with the more aggressive street art vs. graffiti commentary that has grown over the passed 6 months, would know that overall, this wasn’t what the culture needed. They’re two seperate entities that will always have conflict and having someone, who represents the street art side of things, completely go over [what some people feel is] a space for their graffiti passion, with help from those who oppose it, can’t help things. I only wonder if this will affect the scene over the next couple of months, but they usually blow over anyway.

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To round it all up, I like the aesthetics of the project, but I don’t think it has any real substance to it, something got lost along the way here and despite the intention of having it relate to street art, intention is always thicker then paint and in street art, it’s pretty easy to see someone for the artist they are, whether its tobe good at their craft or good at getting anyone’s attention for 5 seconds. I would never tell an artist to change anything in what their work, but I do think that if he just repainted the whole thing and said nothing, it would have come off way better, but he instead decided to get as much face time as possible, while trying to legitimize, what was basically, a buff job.

If anything, this project has proven that Rutledge Lane is still Rutledge Lane, as Shem put a burner up, it was capped within days, proving the space will continue to be a black hole for street art and graffiti, while still being one of the worst places to get your wedding photo’s done. But hey, at least the piss and shit smell isn’t as strong.

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Please feel from to express your opinion on the project or even this article in the comment section below.