Street artists in Bendigo are calling for a legal graffiti wall which they say would draw tourists to the city and provide a creative outlet for young people.
Two local paste-up artists said creating a space where artists could work without fear of falling afoul of the law would allow them to create larger and more creative works.
Bendigo already has a legal space for paste-ups in the tourist draw card of Chancery Lane, but a 33-year-old teacher who pastes his drawings onto Bendigo walls under the name of ‘Mr Dimples’ is calling for a bigger, more experimental space.
“The wall I would like to see would cater for any street art medium, so any paste-up, free hand, stencil or junk sculpture artist could use the wall or space,” he said.
His partner-in-art, ‘Marcsi’ – a 19-year-old La Trobe fine arts student – said the wall could attract visitors from out of town.
“It would definitely liven up some areas of town and I’m sure you’d get the tourist who go to Melbourne for street art come up here as well,” he said.
Tourist draw card
Mr Dimples backed that claim up, saying tourists already travelled from as far abroad as Asia to see street art in Victoria.
“Melbourne’s got arguably the biggest street art scene in the world and it would be great to tap into that,” he said.
Born and raised in Bendigo, ‘Mr Dimples’ said embracing street art would fit with the city’s emerging identity.
“Bendigo can be an old-fashioned kind of place but it’s becoming more contemporary,” he said.
Mr Dimples – who teaches at a rural school in the Bendigo area – said a legal wall would allow more people to express themselves.
“Not everyone is going to be successful enough to have their work shown in a gallery and this is a way for them to put their work out there and to get exposure,” he said.
A spokesperson for the City of Greater Bendigo said the city did allow for public art when arranged through the organisation or when the building owner gave permission for their property to be used.
But the spokesperson said authorising a new legal art wall would have to be a decision made by councillors.
However it appears the city has already given tacit support for the work Mr Dimples – if not yet the space he is calling for. Its tourism website Explore Bendigo recently posted a photo of his work in Chancery Lane on social media. A “shocked” Mr Dimples then commented on the post.
“You are so talented [Mr Dimples],” was the response. “Can't wait to see more!”
Night terror turned to art
A series of sinister home invasions was the trigger which sparked Mr Dimple’s six-year long journey from art teacher to street artist.
The artist – who asked to remain anonymous – had recently moved to a rural town in the greater Bendigo area when he heard someone attempting to break into his car. Uncharacteristically, he said, the teacher went to confront the thief – only to find they’d vanished.
"An hour later they were back tapping on the windows," he said. "Two days later I came home and someone had been in the house and left a door which was locked flapping in the wind."
The incident triggered a bout of insomnia, which he remedied by resuming an old past-time.
“I started drawing to keep myself occupied.”
I was so shook up, I was sitting up at night thinking, ‘oh God, who is this person who is coming into my house?’...so I didn’t really sleep,”Street artist Mr Dimples
The unknown intruder became a shadowy figure of sharp teeth, elongated limbs and grasping fingers which was the artist’s first motif.
More followed, some absorbed from his real-life – people who bugged him, friends with annoying traits –others inspired by his creative influences like gothic U.S. filmmaker Tim Burton and Mexican surrealist painter Frida Kahlo.
He calls them his “characters” – and three months ago they started appearing on walls in Bendigo at night.
The artist pastes his paper characters using a simple technique he learnt on a school trip to the studio of Melbourne-based street artist Adrian Doyle several years ago.
It was there also he was dubbed the name under which he now pastes his work – Mr Dimples.
“The kids suggested it,” he said.
Since then Mr Dimples has worked with his students to create art in public spaces.
“It’s just a different form of art, a grungier form of art that can engage more students,” he said. “Art isn’t always just pretty pictures and landscapes.”
It was only recently, though, that he took the step of exhibiting solo – and underground – in Bendigo.
Now he wants to see more people encouraged to do the same and given the space to do so. But while he welcomed all forms of artistic expression, he won’t be championing tags anytime soon.
“Tagging is a form of graffiti with no thought process involved,” he said.
“Street art is something that has a concept behind it, that has a creative process or a political agenda.
“I’m not a big fan of tagging, but I wouldn’t say it’s bad…some oldies might think what I do is bad, that all street art is vandalism.”
The story of another street artist, ‘Marcsi’, will appear next week.