This Week, Australia

N20 makes a strange hybrid on the streets of Melbourne (ph Jeremy Novy)

Around 2004, word was out that Australia (with an all fresh and updated archive here on Stencil Archive) had cities covered in painted walls. Melbourne is one of the cities where the modern street art wave took off, and the 2005 book "Stencil Graffiti Capital: Melbourne" proved that the modern era had begun. Earlier, just after the Stencil Archive project started as a low-skilled DIY site, a group of folks with serious web design skills started Stencil Revolution (RIP, but here is a Wayback archive of the 2003 site) in Australia. That site, more than mine, really propelled the online image and info sharing that is now taken for granted. Things were happening fast way down in Melbourne!

Here in San Francisco, stencils had been on the streets since the 1980s, but nothing here compared to the wave in Melbourne where every artist was collaborating and cutting out images to cover full alleys of walls. Inspired, we started organizing walls and stencils exhibits. Russell "Klutch" Short started his career in earnest, curating awesome Vinyl Killers shows up in Portland, OR. Peat EYEZ really started getting into it, along with many other artists. Banksy headed to Melbourne to paint some stencils around 2003, and I did too in 2008 for the Stencil Fest

By 2008, Australian artists had become known and represented. Many had moved on from the cut-out images still going up and others considered moving to other cities to grow their art careers. While meeting amazing people who all seemed so nice and affable, I managed to spray a few stencils while biking around taking 100s of photos. At the few Stencil Fest events I went to (my trip was cut short by an emergency back in USA), I enjoyed working together on random scraps of media to make interesting collab stencils. I managed to sell some copies of "Stencil Nation" and even ride a Critical Mass on a hilarious chopper bike that the Blender Space loaned me.

Even in 2008, the walls were covered with 1000s of stencils. I did not have the time to identify and describe all the stencils because I had taken almost 500 photographs while riding a borrowed fixie bike. For the 2024 AU Archive update, these images are a bit larger, but still just numbered.

I ended this new wave update last night with the legendary Regan Tamanui, probably the nicest person I have ever met. During my visit to Melbs, he gave me his bed and room to live in and anything in his studio. He fed me, gave me beer, loaned me a bike, drew me maps of where to find covered walls. When I had to suddenly fly back to the USA, he and Doyle from the Blender space managed to borrow a car to take me to the airport. 

Prior to my early departure from Melbourne, I never saw my beer glass empty. If I turned around to talk to someone, and went back to the glass, it was always full. I was almost always fed when there was pizza or food to be had. This is a great metaphor for the fullness of the too-brief trip to Melbourne back in the heady early days of the stencil/street art wave, and I have never forgotten it!