When you stumble upon a great piece of street art, do you ever wonder about the gender of the artist?
Probably not … and female street artists are happy to keep it that way.
Fifty talented painters have made their mark on 27 locations around Brisbane as part of the city’s annual street art festival.
Far from the illicit tagging and scrawling that attracts public ire, the colourful and expressive murals bursting across facades and bland laneways have attracted crowds curious to meet the people behind them.
Muralist Shani Finch worked with fellow Queensland illustrator Tori-Jay Mordey and Adelaide abstract artist Julia Townsend to create a three-sided mural at South Bank on the second weekend of the festival.
She said a few weeks earlier she took part in another all-female street art collaboration and was asked to consider whether gender mattered when it came to art.
“We all sat down and asked ourselves: ‘Do we want to be known as female street artists?’
“The answer is no, we just want to be street artists.
“We want the same sort of recognition that great male artists have been having for the last 100 years.”
Ms Finch joined an impressive line up of other artists on the festival program, including renowned Hong Kong street artist Bao Ho.
Part of the festival’s appeal for artists is their ability to ditch the anonymity romanticised by the street art scene and connect creators with people on the street.
Ms Finch said interacting with people while she worked on her murals helped the
“There’s such a difference between painting alone in a studio and painting in a public space,” she said.
“You vibe off the audience and people give you feedback … it gives more life to what’s happening.”
The mural was inspired by themes of change and depicted a series of portraits of people who’ve participated in protests and rallies in Brisbane and abroad.
No art, no culture
Ms Townsend said abstract art was starting to make its mark on the country’s street art scene.
She said finding a place for her style of art was still an uphill battle.
“Sometimes it takes a bit of energy to convince people of the value of the art that you’re doing, especially art that might not be conventional,” she said.
“It can really revitalise a lot of areas that might seem like a suburban wasteland…a bit of art can really uplift it.
“If you don’t have art, what do you have?”
Ms Townsend said bringing together a mix of male and female artists at the festival helped people experience a different aesthetic.
“Having the male and female energy balancing each other out just creates a really great environment where egos aren’t inflated at all and everyone gets along very well,” she said.
“We all have different ideas, different histories and different sensibilities that can contribute to a really healthy landscape.”
Murals with a message
Ms Mordey, a contemporary Indigenous artist and illustrator, said dabbling in street art was more than just presenting a pretty picture.
“It’s important to always have some type of message especially when it’s presented to such a wide audience,” she said.
Ms Mordey helped design and paint the letter ‘S’ of Brisbane’s G20 sign at South Bank and has collaborated with SBS on a website design and illustrates for an Indigenous West Australian publisher.
She said guidelines were often placed on what artists could present to the public on a large scale but she was encouraged to see street art embraced by the public.
“All the big opportunities I have had and all the projects I have been a part of have all come from Brisbane, so I wouldn’t have made my mark if it wasn’t for developing my work here,” she said.
“I feel like, as a female artist, I’ve been able to be taken more seriously than I would have originally.
“[I’m] trying to change people’s minds and ideas about what Indigenous art is.”
The Brisbane Street Art Festival is on until April 15.