Taking it to the streets / by Mario Mirabile

Melbourne's street art scene has taken off. Not so long ago (when it was graffiti, not art) it was done in the dead of night lest the perpetrator be hauled off by the police. Dawn in the city would reveal a new crop of murals in Melbourne's many laneways and alleys. The practice is now not only tolerated, but actively encouraged. It has grown into a tourist drawcard and organised tours will save you the trouble of finding the best galleries.

This is so much more than crude tagging. Watching a good artist at work reveals imagination, a high level of skill, a fine eye for detail and the co-ordination required to work on canvasses measured in metres. The maestros are not restricted to those who can handle a paintcan. Working in chalk, the pavement artists faithfully recreate old masters that anyone can marvel at, or even walk all over if they wish. They all have one thing in common though - their transient nature. A mural is only a only a few cans of paint away from being yesterday's masterpiece. A shower of rain or a thousand footsteps will turn a footpath old master into nothing but a memory. Some have more staying power than others, such as those attributed to the famous Banksy, but each masterpiece is regularly replaced by another. 

If you live in Melbourne, it's easy to become somewhat immune to the charms of this riot of color. An entire laneway can be transformed and and for me the only giveaway is the freshness of the paint. Personally, I find the people around the artworks far more interesting. The artists, the chef stealing a quiet moment and of course the galley patrons