This relatively new beveled glass technique that Australian street artist Fintan Magee is using has reached an outstanding, almost psychedelic quality – bending light and visual perception in a way we’ve not seen. Here in Sydney his newest painting of the blurred figure of youth is present and immediate, yet hard to capture, somehow distant.
This new mural called “The Riders” on the Alexandria Hotel is meant to highlight the transient and quick nature of bicycle riders, young ones at that. The metaphor is a parallel for him to the rapid pace of real estate development in this city and others that easily displaces the families who live in some neighborhoods so they can collect large rents from the richer among us. In search of a quick buck, this kind of work is often aided by backroom dealing and ignorance of basic principles of urban planning.
He speaks of the fear and uncertainty that this rapacious development strikes in people’s lives, “leaving many low-income families worried they will be pushed out of the area.”
Another aspect of Sydney’s gentrification he says is that a new, richer, downtown center is developing that is only affordable by more established, older folks – discouraging the next generations from coming to the city to grow community and business prospects for the future.
“The cities working young are ignored by housing policy and pushed further into the suburbs, creating a disconnect between its most productive residents and economic opportunity.”
What the hell just happened? Has it been a year? Or has it been 10 years? Or just one long nightmare/daymare? Or has it been 10 years? Did we already ask that?
In March 2020 we awoke to a world that was transforming before all of our eyes, yet we felt so cut-off from it and each other. The first days seem so long ago as we mark the first anniversary of the pandemic. Still, the initial shock of those days resonates in our chests so strongly that we confidently talk about a collective global trauma that has indelibly marked a generation.
From Stockholm to Mexico City to Barcelona to Bethlehem to New York to LA, BSA brought you street art that was responding with fear, derision, critique, hope, and humor to the never-static, always evolving barrage of Covid news. Stuck inside and afraid to expose ourselves to each other, we New Yorkers became accustomed to experiencing the outdoors only through our windows, connecting with neighbors we’ve never met who were also banging pots and pans or clapping and waving and yelling.
We listened to ambulances screaming past our windows every half hour or so during those first weeks, imagining the torn families, the terrified fellow New Yorkers now being rushed to the hospital and separated from their loved ones without a goodbye, gasping for air. We wondered if we would be next.
When we did go to the streets, they were empty – or nearly. In New York this was unheard of. In this bustling, noisy metropolis, we experienced a daily disconcerting quiet. That is, until the killing of George Floyd by cops finally pushed the anger/anxiety into the streets all summer.
The deadly hotspot of New York quelled, but the fires of Covid spread west, grabbing communities who thought they would avoid impact. At the same time, local, state, and national leaders fumbled and argued or famously callously ignored the desperation of citizens, occasionally admirably filling the shoes they were elected to occupy, often misstepping through no fault of their own.
We have no particular wisdom to offer you today beyond the obvious; this pandemic laid bare inequity, social and racial and class fault-lines, the shredded social net, the effect of institutional negligence, the ravages of 40 years of corporate privatization, and the power of community rising to the occasion to be in service to one another in ways that made us all more than proud.
Here are some of our favorite Covid-themed street art pieces from over the last year, a mere sampling of the artistic responses. Interspersed we paste screenshots of the daily events (via Wikipedia) in 2020 that shaped our lives, and our society.
We mourn the losses of family and friends and the broken hearts and minds in all of our communities. And we still believe in the power of art to heal and the power of love to balance our asymmetries.
As NYC went on complete lock-down and New Yorkers were ordered to remain in their homes in complete isolation the city’s residents organically joined together in a collective 7:00 pm ritual in support to the first responders. To the nurses, doctors, paramedics, trash collectors, public transportation, police, fire fighters, supermarkets workers etc…with their services and sacrifices we, the residents of this megalopolis were able to keep out hopes for brighter days to come.
Video of four former presidents urging people to “roll up your sleeve and do your part” and get the vaccine.
Our weekly focus on the moving image and art in the streets. And other oddities.
Now screening : 1. Fintan Magee / Nothing Make Sense Anymore / A Selina Miles Film 2. Aufstieg (Rise) by Eginhartz 3. Nadia Vadori-Gauthier “Une Minute de Danse” For The Art And Culture.
BSA Special Feature: Fintan Magee / Nothing Make Sense Anymore
What a fantastic title! The narration of selective outtakes from the news, from the artist, from the atmospheric music – quickly take you here.
“I didn’t have to develop any grand themes or concepts around the work. I just knew I was going to paint a plant every day,” say street artist/muralist/painter Fintan Magee as he describes the structure he put in place of the unstructured life that Covid foisted upon him. “It kind of became almost a daily meditation.”
“Too much chaos this year to string any common narrative,” he says. “Or maybe chaos is the narrative.”
Fintan Magee / Nothing Make Sense Anymore / A Selina Miles Film.
Aufstieg (Rise) by Eginhartz
From Austria, Eginhartz gives us Aufstieg, a video performance meant as an ironic comment on the psychological interplay between the rapacious development of drones and the stubborn attitude of brutalist architecture.
Here’s the artists attempt “to contrast the massive aesthetic of a brutalist residential block with a poetic gesture. The coexistence of nature and ruins is broken here by the action of a protagonist.”
“The coexistence of nature and ruins is broken here by the action of a protagonist.”
Nadia Vadori-Gauthier “Une Minute de Danse” For The Art And Culture.
An ongoing performance of poetry from your favorite French street choreographer, Nadia Vadori-Guthier. This time she brings friends!
Fintan Magee has been experimenting with the various visual effects that occur when one is looking at a figure through a lens/glass/texture of some kind. In August we showed you a mural he had completed in Queensland, Australia that featured two figures behind a mottled glass pattern that you may recall from going to a lawyer or perhaps to hire a private detective.
Today we have ‘Shadow’, a new work in Newcastle that he created for the Big Picture festival. The vertical striping creates a subtle optical illusion of its own. He says he painted alongside a statue of Australia’s first female mayor as it looks across Civic Park toward the old civic trains station at the center of town.
What are his current inspirations? “The role of de-industrialisation, isolation, renewal and the new work force in post-industrial Australian cities.”
Struggling to focus your eyes on evolving mysteries of the day, you may think that the world is visible at times through mottled glass. You can make out the forms, the gestures, the motions perhaps, but the identity and character are also formed and shaped by a filter, a storied thick glass filter. It’s a biomorphic embossed way to see things, like the office door leading into the darkened lair of a private detective, his cigarette smoke billowing over the brim of his dense gray fedora.
Australia’s Fintan Magee, it’s another challenge that he admirably meets artistically,
painting the effect over two essential workers forms in this new mural. “The
Arctic glass pattern in the painting was common in middle-class Queensland
homes in the 1960s and was used in French doors and windows,” he tells us. “Some
of my earliest memories of Queensland architecture was my father’s silhouette
through the glass doors when he got home.”
Evocative of a middle-class life afforded to many rich countries in the decades following the end of World War II, those same associations are now aching reminders of how we’ve been duped – with banks and corporate captains gradually re-writing the laws to silently kill the middle class in stages, while the light keeps changing the forms behind the glass.
“The work explores the role of de-industrialization in
urban communities and on the suburban fringes of Australia. The figures in the
mural appear distant, disconnected, isolated, and breaking up,” he says. “As
middle-class homes become increasingly out of reach for working-class
Australians and lower-pay and job insecurity continues to shape how we work,
this painting explores how nostalgia shapes political views and how workers
view their communities and the outside world.”
To be absolutely timely, Magee says he is paying a tribute to those who have continued to work essential jobs, sometimes sacrificing, usually worrying, during this time of Covid-19 crisis, and both the forms here are also evoking the distances we feel from one another.
“The work specifically looks at two rail workers from the city of Ipswich. As Queensland was in lockdown, many people in management or admin roles were able to isolate, while many essential, transport, delivery, and medical staff continued working. Keeping our economy functioning and food supply moving. This painting pays tribute to these essential workers while proposing a reassessment of how they are valued in the post-COVID-19 world.”
Sydney-based social realist painter and muralist Fintan Magee has been burrowed in his studio for the last few months, wondering when he was going to be able to do some figurative painting. The plants have kept him company, and he finds it reassuring to watch them in the winter sun as he keeps himself quarantined from unnecessary contact with others during the COVID-19 pandemic.
while in the lockdown, I photographed and painted two small plants that I had
recently repotted and was keeping on my balcony,” he says as he scans over the
32 small still life works he created. It’s been a good exercise, working
outside his comfort zone perhaps – not photoshoots of subjects, no imagining of
them operating inside a new metaphor.
Now he shares
with BSA readers what the process looks like, and picks 9 of his favorite still-lifes
as a cross-section print for you to marvel. “The work documents the simple act
of keeping the plants alive during the lockdown. Each work took 5-7 hours to
make and allowed me to discard building concepts and focus primarily on the
painting process making each work a daily meditation, allowing reflection on
physical space and the passing of time while marking a day of the crisis.”
Brisbane based conceptual realist Fintan Magee sends us a new conceptual, figurative piece he just finished in the Mt Pleasant neighborhood of Vancouver, Canada as part of their local mural festival. Included in the lineup were a varied selection of illustrators, graphic designers, old skool graffiti writers, and practitioners of current trends like dark pop surrealism.
Fintan tells us that this mural,
perhaps because of the unusual configuration, was a challenge – and you can see
the original sketch he includes here of a couple who are local events managers
who work in the performing arts.
“They are part of a new series I
am doing that explores story telling through body language,” he says. “The work
also uses public art to celebrate local workers and community contributors over
celebrity or the grandiose.”
Photographer Martha Cooper again rules the roost at BSA with her new photos of the 20×21 EUG Festival in Eugene, Oregon. Organized and funded by the City of Eugene’s Cultural Services Public Art Program, the citizenry is invited to be a part of events and symposia – an intimate affair with this years select list of invited artists.
“This year 20×21 organized ‘viewing parties’ at the walls to give the community an official chance to meet and socialize the artists at their walls,” says Ms. Cooper about the 10 day series of events. You could meet Fintan Magee at his wall, or talk to Sidney Waerts aka SIT at Well Balanced (center for integrative care), consort with local muralist Kari Johnson at Lane County’s Dining Room, or see a new show of incredibly framed artworks at Coffee Plant Roaster with painter Adele Renault and photographer Ms. Cooper.
small family owned businesses, the chamber of commerce and cultural
organizations together with the artists and artworks is a finely balanced
effort, and according to people we spoke with Eugene is careful to get the
balance right. For example the combination of Adele’s mural and Ms. Coopers
photo installation was in a coffee shop owned by Irv Weiner, who is a pigeon
flyer/fancier originally from New York.
coop is on top of the building with the pigeon mural and the coffee shop is
inside,” says Martha of the interconnectedness of programming. Now Mr. Weiner
has added to his list a cannabis growing supplies business; a rather normal development
in this city that has become known for its marijuana-related economy during the
Here are exclusive images of the artists at work, as well as some additional interesting details and local color about this mural-centric cultural event in Eugene.
Eugene was first recognized as good mural festival location perhaps because of the work done here by activist, performer, storyteller, and public artist Kari Johnson. Her dedication to her work as social mission and communication inspires her peers and is emblematic of what Eugene is.
“Both of my grandmothers were painters named Ida. They managed to paint landscapes and still lifes in spare moments while raising big families during the Great Depression and WWII. Continuing where they left off I began painting when I was 14 and completed my first mural 10 years later. Other than learning how to make prints with potatoes at a summer fair, I am self-taught.
I feel the most inspired when I’m making public art. Being a public artist is like being an architect of mood, stirring feelings and inspiring connection, helping to anchor and identify a place. In my art I particularly care about promoting social justice, harmony between humans and our plant and animal relations. I want my art to invite individuals to belong to the place, join community, and help shape our human story.”
Welcome to January 2 and you may be feeling a little more lethargic as you go through your duties today, looking askance at the empty bottles, stray glitter, the new rip in the rug. Yes, there is some damage to the carpet from all that dancing you and your Aunt Francine and cousin Ozzie were doing as the clock struck twelve!
Guess that is why it is called “cutting the rug”.
Fintan Magee & Guido Van Helten. ‘The Carpet Repairmen”. Tehran, Iran. (photo courtesy of the artists)
No worries, we’re bringing in the ‘The Carpet Repairmen’, a new large scale mural collaboration between Australian Street Artists Guido Van Helten and Fintan Magee that they finished as a commission recently in Tehran, Iran. Meant to mark the 50th anniversary of the Australian Embassy in Iran, the current US president naturally ruined the timing of the celebration of peace and goodwill by putting more sanctions on the country and tension on the event, say the artists.
As one may expect, mural making in Middle Eastern countries has often been reserved for politics anyway; with propagandist messages, murals of martyrs, images recalling war, political leaders. Van Helten and Magee concentrate instead on the valued talents of the carpet makers – a history and work of pride that no one can argue with.
Fintan Magee & Guido Van Helten. ‘The Carpet Repairmen”. Tehran, Iran. (photo courtesy of the artists)
They tell us:
“This mural is based on images of two carpet repairmen working in Tehran’s Grand Bazaar. Persian carpets are famous world wide for their quality and craftsmanship. Then men work 8-10 hours each day rethreading and stitching old and damaged carpets, the repetitive work requires incredible hand skills and speed. This painting pays homage to the dignity of hard work while putting a human face to an important aspect of craft and culture in Persia.
The painting ‘The Carpet Repairmen’ also act’s as a broader metaphor for working life in Iran. Decades of economic sanctions and blockades on imports and have meant that people have to be resourceful in the country. Reusing, repairing and recycling products has become a necessity. Showing the resilience of the Iranian people and how life goes on in this hospitable, welcoming and ancient culture.”
Fintan Magee & Guido Van Helten. ‘The Carpet Repairmen”. Tehran, Iran. (photo courtesy of the artists)
This week we have a selection of the UPEART festivals’ two previous editions of murals – which we were lucky to see this week after driving across the country in an old VW Bora. We hit 8 cities and drove along the border with Russia through some of the most picturesque forests and farmlands that you’ll likely see just to collect images of the murals that this Finnish mural festival has produced with close consultation with Fins in these neighborhoods. A logistical challenge to accomplish, we marvel at how this widespread program is achieved – undoubtedly due to the passion of director Jorgos Fanaris and his insatiable curiosity for discovering talents and giving them a platform for expression.
So here is a sample from what we found from UPEART’s two previous iterations before the recently completed UPEART 2018.
So here is our weekly interview with the streets, this week featuring Apolo Torres, Artz, Dulk, Espoo, Fintan Magee, Guido Van Helten, Pat Perry, Smug, Teemu Maenpaa, Tellas, and Telmo & Miel.
From cave carvings in Angoulême in western France 27,000 years ago to your daily, perhaps hourly selfie on a cell phone today, our desire to depict the figure is as much a reflection of the artist and their times as it’s sitter.
A new show at MUCA Munich (Museum of Urban Contemporary Art) opening today invites 30 primarily Street Artists to choose a significant reference portrait of any historical time, country of origin, or artistic movement and interpret their inspirations into a portrait.
Whether drawing influences from Vermeer, Courbet, or Lucien Freud, each artist ultimately represents their own life experiences in their choice of subject and the technique of portrayal. Perhaps that is why curator Elisabetta Pajer has asked each of the artists to give us a statement with their work to help put it into context. Pajer tells us that she looks at the collection of works and the statements create a ‘harmonic mosaic’ of these figurative and written testimonies.
“These artists have sought out inspiration from many mediums that portraiture finds itself interpreted within,” says Pajer. “Taking their themes and inspiration from classical paintings, sculpture, film, theater, photographer, interactions, culture, religion, and science. Exhibiting a great understanding of the complexity of self-reflection with art as the catalyst.”
We’re pleased to be able to present some of the artists and their own words here.
Andreas Englund. Tripping. IMAGO. MUCA Munich. (photo courtesy of the artist)
Media: Oil on canvas
Size: 116 x 90 cm
“I chose to tribute my artwork to the ‘‘Portrait of a smoking man’’ by Anders Zorn 1860-1920 – Swedens most internationally acclaimed artist. Born in my home region and very inspirational when it comes to his sketchy technique. By doing my own version of this masterpiece with my superhero, I have learned more about ‘‘the great Zorn’’ and his technique.”
Martha Cooper. Futura 1983. IMAGO. MUCA Munich. (photo courtesy of the artist)
Media: Archival pigment print
Size: 50,8 x 76,20 cm
“This is a 1983 photo of Futura, a legendary New York City graffiti writer, with a classic can of Krylon spray paint. Thirty-five years later, Futura is still spray painting and I am still taking photos of graffiti writers.”
Icy + Sot
Icy & Sot. Under The Water Light. IMAGO. MUCA Munich. (photo courtesy of the artists)
UNDER THE WATER LIGHT
Media: Stencil spray paint on canvas
Size: 91,5 x 123 cm
“This portrait is part a series we created reflecting on the relationship between human and nature. Nature plays a big role in human lifespan, but nowadays people have distanced from nature. With this work, we want to show humans closer to nature and pay a tribute to it.”
Swoon. Thalassa. IMAGO. MUCA Munich. (photo courtesy of the artist)
Media: Screenprint on paper with coffee stain and hand painting with collage mounted on board
Size: 123 × 138 cm
“The name Thalassa is Greek word for ‘‘ocean’’, a primordial incarnation of the sea that is not often personified. Thalassa is said to have given birth to all tribes of fish in the sea. She is the pull of the sea that comes from inside the salt water in our blood. ‘Thalassa was originally created for New Orleans. It was the months after the Deepwater Horizon exploded in the Gulf in 2010, and this body of water that I’d loved since I was a child was in peril. As I drew Thalassa surging up from the water I felt her rising like a wake up call, one reminds us of our inseparability from the sea. When I stand in front of the ocean, the word that always appears first in my mind is “mother”. For me there is no mistaking the sense that the sea is our first mother.’ ”
GONZALO BORONDO & DIEGO LOPEZ BUENO
SELFIE ELVIS II
Media: Acrylic and plaster on wood – Plasma TV 50’’- Video on loop – 16:9 Digital – Color
Size: 7 panels each – 120 x 70 x 1 cm + 1 TV
“Inspired by several passport photos found within the Marseilles “Marché aux Puches” (FR), Borondo and Lopez Bueno have designed an installation project with the title “Selfie Elvis II”. Imagination is the basis of the multimedia work with self-portraits of a man recalling the contemporary “selfie”. There are dozens of frames describing human aspects and obsessions. They have been digitally elaborated and assembled in a video by López Bueno. Borondo portrayed Elvis with acrylic on wood and applying gypsum, then scratched with sharp instruments. Faces appeared by subtraction, the absence tells about an ancestral and intangible dimension, wondering about its existence. Is Elvis looking at himself or us in that picture? And what about our images, do they look like us or they are just our dreams? Elvis is not there, Elvis is still there.”
Addison Karl. Kamassa. IMAGO. MUCA Munich. (photo courtesy of the artist)
Media: Bronze, edition 1 of 10
Size: 30,48 x 20,32 x 15,24 cm
“Portraiture in context to sculpture and form – referencing the masterpieces from both European Classical and Neoclassical time periods. From a culture l mirror of taking inspiration from Gods and Goddess of the ancient world, my sculpture’s subject is focused on a contemporary Chickasaw Elder. Using portraiture as a means of Cultural Preservation but equally re-appropriating classic sensibilities of art history to a Native Cultural narrative. “
Various & Gould
Various & Gould. Trigger (Rokhaya Diallo). IMAGO. MUCA Munich. (photo courtesy of the artists)
TRIGGER (ROKHAYA DIALLO)
Media: Acrylic on canvas
Size: 200 x 140 cm
“Our portrait of Rokhaya Diallo refers to an iconic work by Nikide Saint Phalle: The artistically revised film still “Daddy” shows the artist pointing a gun directly at the viewer. Even almost 50 years later, her eye and the muzzle of her rifle leave no doubt that she is serious about it. Anyone who sees the work feels immediately like coming into the firing line.
In our painting, the French journalist and film maker Rokhaya Diallo takes the place and – freely recreated – also the pose of Niki de Saint Phalle. Thus, an early feministic, vigorous artist of the twentieth century is followed by a modern, committed internet feminist with no less strong verve than her predecessor. Both women are even the same age at the time of the illustration. Only instead of the rifle, Rokhaya Diallo relies on her very own “weapon”, the hashtag. At first glance, it may seem more harmless than a rifle, but in times of #BlackLivesMatter and #MeToo it can be an even more powerful tool.”
Fintan Magee The Removalist. IMAGO. MUCA Munich. (photo courtesy of the artist)
Media: Canvas and acrylic on wall installation
“The portrait has been ripped off the canvas and dragged across the ground and projected onto the wall. The artist has destroyed the canvas and made the portrait ephemeral, rendering it worthless and unsellable. The work comments on the commodification of artwork and the uneasy and paradoxical relationship between artist and the financier of his artworks. With street art becoming increasingly commoditized and contributing to gentrification this work doesn’t aim to make any grand statements on how art should or shouldn’t be produced, only highlight the illusionary, absurdist and contradictory image the art industry presents of itself.”
VHILS. Matta. IMAGO. MUCA Munich. (photo courtesy of the artist)
Media: Bas-relief carving on plasterboard mounted on metal structure
Size: 181 x 120,5 x 34 cm
“Resorting to a bas-relief carving technique, applied here to a free-standing structure of plasterboard, this piece is a homage to the work of Gordon Matta-Clark, which became a major influence on me after I first saw it at an exhibition in Portugal, in 2002. Matta-Clark was one of the first artists to look at the urban space as a space of creation and reflection on the human condition in the contemporary times we live in. Those are the considerations I try to translate in my own work too, reflecting about the human condition in the contemporary times we live in.”
Andrea Wan. Being Of Light. IMAGO. MUCA Munich. (photo courtesy of the artist)
BEING OF LIGHT
Media: Ink on paper
Size: 50 x 70 cm
“Fascinated by the lively and dynamic landscape in the paintings of native Canadian Artist Emily Carr, I chose one of her most renown works, Indian Church (1929) as the subject of reinterpretation. Seemingly more accurate than a realistic approach, Carr’s abstraction of nature elements not only communicated to me that nature is vast and subliminal but also ever-changing in form and expression. The white church which stands calmly in the midst of the mystical environment inspired me to personify the subject as a being who is in tune with all that’s around her.”
DALeast. FIII. IMAGO. MUCA Munich. (photo courtesy of the artist)
Media: Acrylic on canvas
Size: 100 x 80 cm
“A still moment of Fiii standing in the windy land, which is existing inside the transitory gathering of the particles of the magical net.”
IMAGO: A History of Portraits opens today at MUCA Museum of Urban And Contemporary Art. Munich. Curated by Elisabetta Pajer the show runs until November 2018.
IMAGO is a show dedicated to the history of portrait: over 30 artists from five different continents are invited to pay homage and interpret a portrait in their medium of their choice. IMAGO aims to lead visitors through different artistic eras, helping discover the international history and evolution of the portrait.
Anna Piera Di Silvestre
Ricky Lee Gordon
As we draw closer to the new year we’ve asked a very special guest every day to take a moment to reflect on 2017 and to tell us about one photograph that best captures the year for them. It’s an assortment of treats to surprise you with every day – to enjoy and contemplate as we all reflect on the year that has passed and conjure our hopes and wishes for 2018. This is our way of sharing the sweetness of the season and of saying ‘Thank You’ to each of you for inspiring us throughout the year.
Brisbane-based realist Fintan Magee has been nailing tall walls around the world this year with technical precision and an extraordinary appreciation for our ordinary lives. We had the privilege of seeing him in action in Scotland, Sweden and Tahiti this year and each time we realized that he’s undaunted by the scale of a job, in love with the process of painting. He is also completely dedicated to speaking to the profound issues of our time including global warming, sea levels rising, our refugee crises worldwide, and natural resource preservation and management. Carrying the water theme, Fintan shares with us one of his favorite pieces of the year in Instanbul.
I chose this one because it was a new aesthetic for me and Istanbul was easily my favourite city that I have visited this year. I also wanted to thank Mural Istanbul for being amazing hosts and all the locals who looked after me.