Tim Elliott May 12, 2012
''Edgy and urban'' … Shannon Crees with the art work she painted for interior designer Melissa Collison. Photo: Marco Del Grande
Graffiti is moving from back lanes to bedrooms.
When interior designer Melissa Collison began renovating her Darling Point apartment, she was soon confronted by the old ''foyer conundrum'': what to do with an entrance space that was too small for furniture but too large to leave to its own devices?
''I wanted something fun and interesting, something that would be a talking piece,'' Collison says.
So she turned to one of history's oldest and best-known art forms: graffiti.
Ever since ancient times, humans have been making art where they weren't allowed - doodling on temple walls and public baths, scribbling on statues, graves and other people's houses. Raw, illicit and, above all, fun, it was only a matter of time before graffiti made its way from the outside to the inside, from the back alley to the bedroom wall.
''I've been using graffiti in my work for three years,'' says Collison, whose foyer now sports an irresistibly tongue-in-cheek graffiti mural by Sydney artist Shannon Crees. ''The piece in my foyer is typical of why I love it - it's edgy and urban, a little more spirited and looser.''
Collison has collaborated with Crees on a number of graffiti-inspired projects, most notably a 5.3-metre-long piece inside a client's home in Vaucluse. ''Sometimes people are really attracted to the grunginess of a street piece,'' Crees says. ''But re-creating that on a new white wall is a challenge.''
Crees, 32, has been exhibiting since 1997 and her work has been shown in Sydney, Melbourne, Tokyo and New York. In 2008, she travelled to London to take part in Banksy's Cans Festival.
She says she is often inspired by the layers and organic textures seen on public walls. In putting together the Vaucluse work, Crees walked the streets, peeling bill posters off telegraph poles, then pasting them on the Vaucluse wall as a background.
''I then painted in and around this surface, to discover a layered image, without obliterating the random elements,'' she says.
Graffiti is also increasingly popular in commercial spaces, including clubs, pubs, cafes and bars.
''Graffiti is cool because it was street art and it was non-conforming,'' Greg Natale says. The Surry Hills designer has most recently been using graffiti-inspired art on accessories, ''like vases, fabrics, cushions, that sort of thing''.
Graffiti, he says, is ''a bit kitschy'', which has prevented it being too easily co-opted or commercialised. Despite the fact celebrity bakers such as Adriano Zumbo use it, along with every second cafe in Bondi and Newtown, graffiti somehow maintains its transgressive essence. ''This makes it perfect for unstructured spaces, like bars and clubs,'' says Natale, who used graffiti in his revamp of Darlinghurst nightclub Nevermind.
The vogue for graffiti-inspired interiors harks back to the 1980s, the heyday of street artists such as Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat.
''The difference is that today people tend to use graffiti in a more refined, elegant way,'' Natale says. ''[Los Angeles interior designer] Kelly Wearstler is a good example. She has a graffiti wall in her home which is a little less gritty but still really effective.''
The rules, according to Greg Natale …
❏ Don't go crazy on colour: stick to a maximum of three.
❏ Ensure there is some kind of visual structure, some internal rhythm, so it's almost like wallpaper.
❏ Tie the graffiti back to the interior scheme so it works well as a whole.
❏ Find someone who knows what they're doing. It can look terrible when you get homeboys doing it.
❏ Make sure the space is appropriate - probably not a Victorian home.