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Curator James Beattie talks street art & Fitzroy’s Rose Car Park

Anthea Batsakis

Wed Jan 28 2015


MELBOURNE-based curator, James Beattie of Graffix Creative, chats to us about Fitzroy’s Rose Car Park project and shares his thoughts on legal street art. Anthea Batsakis has the story.

Melbourne has worked hard to transform the stereotype of the graffiti artist from delinquent to struggling artist. People are now starting to appreciate the pictures and letters that paint the walls of our city as works of art rather than as acts of vandalism. These changes have evidently turned street art culture into one of Melbourne’s most renowned features, rivalling cities like London, Berlin, and New York.

Embracing this form of art has been made easier by legalising large murals and commissioning companies such as Graffix Creative, who specialise in custom murals and painting. The latest installation created by Graffix Creative is the Rose Car Park. This carpark is one of the latest and boldest graffiti installations to celebrate the underrated allure of letter art.

The creator of Graffix Creative and curator of the Rose Car Park, James Beattie, gave Meld some insight into this project as well as the logistics behind legal street art.

The project is made so unique by its effective use of colour. “We wanted to create a unified feel within the space without it being too restrictive to the artists who were donating their time,” James explained.

The car park is divided into five rooms – each of them allocated with a section of the colour wheel. As a result, exploring the Rose Car Park gives an immersive experience that sets you against a kaleidoscope of vibrant colours. You’ll be surrounded by yellows, oranges, and reds in the first room and enveloped by purples, blues, and greens in the other.

What is also interesting is that the colours from each room overlap with those in the previous room (i.e. room with yellows, oranges, and reds are followed by room with reds, pinks, and purples.) This continuity hence creates a unified experience that is juxtaposed with the separation of each room.

This innovative project began after the company was approached by the owner of the car park.

“The location of the space in Fitzroy meant that it was subject to a large amount of tagging and anti-social behaviour. By having us paint the space, the idea was to not only stop [the owner from] spending money on keeping the space clean but also to create a safe and interesting place to park your car,” James said.

The whole project took about two months to complete. The first four weeks were spent to plan as well as to source more than 80 artists and materials. Another four weeks were dedicated to paint the graffiti.

On his appreciation and passion for street art, James explains that it extends further beyond the art’s visual aesthetic.

“For me, [street art is] about interacting and becoming a part of my environment. Getting my artwork out to the largest amount of people possible.”

There are many ways for people to contribute to the street art scene without breaking any rules, whether it’s painting in Hosier Lane or to “ask[ing] and hassl[ing] your local council for legal locations for public artwork”. For aspiring street artists, James advises that “attending local gallery shows and art shops is a great way to network with other creatives”.

Furthermore, James further maintains that street art can even lead into a viable career. “For me it led to a degree in graphic design, numerous overseas trips and now running my own successful business.”

It is important to know that street art in Melbourne isn’t just restricted to local residents; James explains how international students contribute to the art scene through their different perspectives and cultures.

“The beauty of street art is that it is a representation of the people who live and use a city. This can be anyone, from people [who were] born here to international travellers [who are] only here for a short time.”

These new perspectives can be translated through the medium of art with the walls of a city as a canvas. “Street art is a freedom of expression; the more a country lets people express their ideas and opinions, the more street art will flourish.”

James concluded by giving some more advice to aspiring street artists.

“I would say to them not to listen to people who tell them they can’t do things. Anything is possible. Do what you love and do it well. Paint as much as you can in public and always put in the extra effort.” Who knows where the next Banksy or Jean-Michel Basquiat will emerge?

Aspiring artists – or anyone with a penchant for art – should definitely take the trip to Fitzroy to visit the Rose Carpark. It’s situated on Rose St, a small lane way between Brunswick St and Fitzroy St. As a signpost, the mural-laden Grace Café is situated directly opposite, where you can get yourself some coffee before immersing in all the vibrant colours.