Unlike statues and sculptures which are positioned by the authorites to remember and honour pleople and places from the past that have influenced the community, murals reflect the social fabric of communities past and present - visual represetations of their dreams and aspirations, social change, the cultural protests of an era, of emerging cultures and disappearing ones. In Australia, the late 1960s to the early 1980s was an era of great social change and of activism. In Sydney, they were the years of the Green Bans when the destruction of the urban environment for development was successfully opposed by the people. Energised by the culture of protest of the 1970s, whole communities united as one to resist the changes, and murals painted on walls and the sides of buildings were the medium by which the voice of the individual was expressed.
Many of the murals from an era protesting environmental destruction, nuclear testing, showing solidarity for workerss and women's rights and celebrated resistance have not only survived but get a regular touch-up from artists of today who share the same passions. Not only are they happy to keep the dreams and aspirations they espoused alive, they welcome every opportunity to express a few of their own in new works of street art around the suburbs. in recent years their craft has seen a revivlal, as local councils, struggling to get rid of unwanted and insightly graffiti, now commission local artists to create murals in an effort to reduce the visual impact of graffiti in their communities.
The Woolloomooloo History Murals
The now famous 1971 Battlers for Kelly's Bush, in which the middle class women of Hunters Hill had asked the Builders Labourers to place a ban on building the development, was the first of the Green Bans imposed by the NSW Builders Labourers' Federation. A short four year period was to shake the building industry to the core. The Builders Labourers imposed their environmental bans on over 40 construction projects, including a Woolloomooloo redevelopment project, all valued at more than $4 billion in 1970s terms. At the time there was no heritage or environmental protection legislation. In the early 1980s Woolloomooloo's mural and community arts movements supported two mural projects. A vivid centrepiece is the Green Bans Murals or 'Woolloomooloo History Murals' (1982-1984) comprising 16 panels. The 8 murals on the pillars supporting the elevated railway through Woolloomooloo form a gallery about political and social issues of the 1970s- especially the Green Bans and redevelopment threats to the area. Eight of these have been preserved. Depicted is the forest, the working harbour, protests for land rights and against the redevelopment of Woolloomoloo in the 1970s. In the centre of one mural protesters march under the Green Bans banner, arms linked, feet mid-step. Surrounding the mural is the suburb they marched to save.
Woman At Work Mural
Domain Carpark, St Mary's Road, Woolloomooloo, NSW. This mural was painted for the Women and The Arts Festival, 1982.
Mural painting team for the Domain mural 1982, left to right: Marie McMahon; Jan Mackay; Helen Skye;Barbary O'Brien; Carol Ruff and Merilyn Fairskye. Sadly, it is one of the most degraded of all the surviving big murals of the 1908s, with peeling paint, graffiti and signs for the parking station having all but obliterated this fine work of art.
Brown Bear Lane Mural
The mural on the wall of a building alongside the railway viaduct over George Street by University of Sydney graduate Dr Pierre Mol, an art history archaeologist, is a recreation of a copper-plate engraving taken at the location in 1901. The Rocks' very first pub, The Romping Horse, was located on the corner of the lane from 1789. It was later known as The Brown Bear (1836 1900), giving the lane its name. The lane disappeared around 1913 when a row of shops was built between Essex Street and this location. Although the pub and laneway were demolished more than a century ago, on a grey day the artwork is realistic enough to tempt the casual observer to take a wrong turn and it is rapidly becoming one of the area s most photographed sites. Of the mural the artist says, "It's quite aconfronting image and because it's right at the beginning of The Rocks, it gives a good introduction to what The Rocks is about."
The Crescent, Annandale
The Crescent mural, created in 1980 by Rodney Monk, is painted on the railway embankment wall that runs alongside The Crescent in Annandale, where traffic feeds back and forth off the City West Link. Before the mural was painted, this wall had been a long stretch of bricks with a spraypainted slogan across it protesting the sacking of Prime Minister Gough Whitlam in November 1975: Kerr-ist Cocky's got an election (Kerr being the Governer General, Sir John Kerr, who dismissed Whitlam s government in 1975, often caricatured as a cockatoo). The slogan reappears in the mural if you look closely.
The Crescent mural was repainted in 2004 and the design somewhat changed: the stealth bomber became a Boeing 747 Jumbo Jet, for example. The aircraft is one of its defining features, as is the painted tree trunk that joins up with a real palm tree growing on the embankment above. There are plenty of details for motorists stuck in traffic to ponder (including a traffic jam of trucks with numberplates like GIVEADAMN and BUGAUP).
The inner west suburb of Ashfield has a few interesting murals. Painted on the side of a building is a mural depicting a riverside nature screne with numerous Kingfishers (with their names included to assist in identification), a Lizard and even small fish in a stream. Another mural by the same artist at the rear of Thirning Villa, Pratten Park Ashfield, depicts more Kingfishers a bough full of Kookaburras.
A mural at Fox s Lane, Ashfield, depicting a steam train, is the work of Robin Martin, an experienced mural artist commissioned by Ashfield Council. The mural replaced an old piece of work that was becoming a hot spot for graffiti. It is one of forty such murals across the municipality installed to provide colourful and creative points of interest and to assist in the prevention of graffiti,especially tagging.
A mural depicting a colourful cafe scene cab be found on the corner of Winchcombe and Dalhousie Streets in Haberfield. As part of Ashfield Council's ongoing Graffiti Solutions Strategy, artist Marta Ponti was commissioned to paint an image that created a relaxed cafe scene. The wall was an identified graffiti 'hot spot' in and the Ella Community Centre approached Council for assistance to manage the ongoing defacement of the wall. The work has been protected with an anti-graffiti coating. The artist says the design was inspired by the cafe and restaurant culture of the immediate area.
Balgowlah Cafe Mural
Forty Beans is a charming cafe located opposite the North Harbour Reserve, in Balgowlah, and a popular pit stop if you re doing the Spit to Manly walk. It has a mural across the front of the "regulars" enjoying their coffees and food and a larger one inside, again depicting the locals and their dogs.
A shopping centre in Balgowlah and built in the 1960s, was instantly rcognisable for its two large totem poles out the front. When it was redeveloped as Stockland Balgowlah in 2007, a large-format interpretive mural was commissioned as part of the artworks program for the complex. This mural consists of around 40 graphic panels that covered the entire south-western wall of the Pavilion building. The mural tells the history of Balgowlah, and event includes images of the totem poles that adorned the shopping plaza in its original format.
Brick By Brick Mural
"Brick By Brick" was created by Guilherme and Debora, a couple known as Geebs, involved in graffiti, illustration and 2D animation. It depicts the the former port facilities at nearby White Bay and surrounding warehouses, humously depicting half of the harbour bridge as a crane. It won first prize in the 2013 Wall to Wall Competition, which seeks to minimise graffiti in the local area whilst offering artists an opportunity to showcase their skills, style and creativity. Thie mural is on the front of a warehouse Mullens Street, Rozelle.
Coco Cubano Mural
This Cuban street mural was commissioned as a feature wall for a new South American restaurant on campus at the University Of New South Wales. The Restaurant is open to the public as well as the large number ofInternational students living on campus. Coco Cubano Cafe, Gate 2, University Terraces, High St, UNSW Campus, Kensington.
Paris Sidewalk Cafe Mural
A Heritage listed building in Enmore was a continual target for graffiti artists until its owners, who lived in Paris, decided to bring a little bit of Paris to Enmore and commissioned a Parisian sidewalk Cafe mural for the building's street-facing walls. The 30 metre long mural did the trick - no more graffiti, and a touch of Paris in the inner west suburb.
King George V Mural
Painted by Peter Day in 1984 on the eastern wall of the Sydney Harbour Bridge's southern approaches on Cumberland Street, The Rocks, this mural by Peter Day has nothing to do with King George V; it is only called that because it is now enclosed with the King George V Recreational Centre. At around 2,000 metres squared, it is must be one of the longest murals in the southern hemisphere. Interestingly, the mural could best be described as "a scene within a scene" as one might expect the view to be through the imaginary viaduct arches of the Harbour Bridge's southern approach.
What makes it interesting is the visual trick it plays on the viewer - the Mural is a trompe l oeil, or optical illusion to make the western wall of the recreation centre disappear . It depicts a series of arches echoing the form of the Argyle Cut. The images tell the story of the history of the Rocks from the dreaming to present day. in front of the vista of a harbour and coast beyond the bridge through the arches, a hot air balloon is rising. The mural was created long before the Recreational Centre was built around it, and so was much more dramatic and eye catching before it become just a mural on the wall of a building, though a section of the mural is outside behind a children's play area next door.
Newtown Street Art
Since the 1980s, the area surrounding the inner-Sydney suburb of Newtown, including the suburbs of Newtown, Enmore, Erskineville, Camperdown and St Peters, has been known for its wide range of prominent graffiti and street art on walls. Here you can see a variety of styles and methods of execution, including large-scale painted murals, hand-painted (or sprayed) political slogans, hand-painted figurative designs, spray painted semi-abstract designs, and other stylistic developments such as stencil art and street poster art.
Many of the biggest and best-known large-scale murals were painted in Newtown in the early 1990s were created by a group of mural artists called Unmitigated Audacity Productions (UAP). The best known of these is the Martin Luther King "I Have A Dream" mural on King St, painted by Andrew Aiken and Juilee Pryor (with Tony Spanos).
One of the last surviving large-format murals in the area, it displays a large portrait of Dr King, next to a large painted depiction of the Apollo 8 photograph of the Earth from space, and Dr King s quote I have a dream in large Gothic lettering, near which is the quotation from Genesis 37:19: "Behold the dreamer cometh; Come now therefore and let us slay him, and we shall see what will become of his dreams". The Aboriginal flag is a later addition and gives its message some local relevance.
Domain Express Footway
Very few residents of Sydney know that their city has the longest moving walkway in the Southern Hemisphere, which, when it was built, was the longest in the world. Most moving walkways these days are found in airport terminals and shopping centre, and by comparison are much shorter than Sydney's, which takes pedestrians from one part of the city to another. As its name suggests, Sydney's Moving Walking, also known as a Travelator, is in The Domain, or more correctly, under The Domain. The Moving Walkway is in fact two walkways, one in each direction, side by side. It passes through a tunnel which has been decorated with the Tunnel Vision mural painted by mural artist Tim Guider, indigenous artists, and children from Woolloomooloo, illustrating the story of Sydney from its Aboriginal occupation, the arrival of the First Fleet and on to the 20th century. If you stand still as the Travelator carries you along, the journey takes around 5 minutes.
Devonshire Street Tunnel
The other big, long pedestrian tunnel in Sydney is the Devonshire Street Tunnel, only in this tunnel there is no powered walkway on which to stand. Like the Domain Express Footway, it takes quite a few minutes to get from one end to the other, so to relieve the boredom (and to deter graffiti artists), CityRail has had a sequence of murals painted on the walls which tell the story of development of the railways in New South Wales. Unlike many of the scenes depicted in the Domain Express Footway tunnel, the illustrations here don't look as though they were created by 5-year old children, and are well worth stopping and taking a look at if you have both the time and inclination.
Bondi Beach School Mural
In 1983 Lindena Robb, a parent at Bondi Beach Public School, was invited to paint the newly rendered wall at the back of the school facing Gould Street. As a practising artist Lindena was delighted to have a huge blank wall to paint on. After asking the school students to paint or draw ideas for the mural, Lindena combined most ideas into a stylised image of the school and surrounds. 30 years later, the principal Maria Hardy, contacted Lindena to ask if she would return to restore the mural, to celebrate the school's 90th anniversary. Her work was completed in April 2013.
Bondi Sea Wall
The iconic Bondi Sea Wall and is an ever-evolving council-authorised graffiti site where artists are invited to display their craft in front of Australia s most famous stretch of sand ... no pressure. Although the art on the sea wall is constantly changing, there are two murals that are there for good, and both for good reason. "The Girl With A Frangipani In Her Hair" and the Anzac mural were endorsed by the council for long-term preservation in 2009.
"The Girl With A Frangipani In Her Hair" is a memorial mural dedicated to one of the 200-plus victims of the bomb attack at the Sari Club, Kuta Beach Bali, on October 12, 2002. The girl with the frangipani in her hair was Bondi local, 15 year old Chloe Byron, on holiday in Bali with her family. She grew up on the beach at Bondi and was widely known as an active sportswomen and keen surfer. Since Droogie and other local aerosol artists painted the mural in 2003, it has become a beloved part of the Bondi landscape. It depicts a portrait of Chloe, a view of Bondi Beach, a longboard and frangipani flowers, and reflects on the active beach culture that was such an important part of Chloe s life, as it is to lot of Bondi residents.