A passing fad of distraction

COLIN NICHOL tries not to go up the wall over high art.

SINCE council sanction was given to wall art, that and graffiti has increased noticeably around Fremantle.

Now that most street-level sites are painted, the deft skill of daring daubers is being re-directed to upper facades and roofs. The last thing Fremantle needs is more of the same yet here it is, in the form of an invasion of aliens and grotesques by the city-supported Public2015 activity.

It is too easy to be critical of the city’s new clothes now on display and to rebuff received wisdom that we must admire it. The point has been made frequently enough that the city needs colour, but is an illustrated city the way to achieve that?

11. 18THINK

• Photo by Matthew Dwyer


That painting on walls is an exploding culture elsewhere is surely not good reason to do it all over Fremantle. Does “different” Fremantle need this, is it necessary?

Also easy would be an observation this new ultimate extension of a pro-spray-can policy is pandering to a particular culture and out of balance with and in danger of overlaying a city already uniquely marked out by its heritage. While not denying the skill and talent involved, it indulges a passing fad, potentially distracting from what Fremantle represents. But it can be amusing and improve impoverished public spaces.

Little of it though, relates to the city it ornaments; representations of old Fremantle would be more enduringly appropriate.

The maritime theme is represented in a frightening octopod creature across the old navy stores at the traffic bridge which is surely more worrying than welcoming at Fremantle’s gateway.

It draws attention to the overdue need for restoration of that building. Also displaying nautical themes, the transformer station on the Beach Street carpark is cheerfully illustrated with a high-voltage man enjoying ice cream.

Recent comment that art-painting walls is an insult to the architects is invalid in the case of the characterless frontage of the former Myer building, that artwork performs a civic service. Wallpaper would have been an improvement there. But, what to make of the adjacent giant praying mantis hovering over troubled Kings Square? A building opposite that missed out but which could also benefit from painting, is the town hall.

There is a puzzling montage on the side wall of Woolworths while across from the railway station at the corner of Queen Street and Elder Place, a ferocious tiger in the wild glares out from a wall that escaped attention until now. Along South Terrace, enterprising Terra Rosa at 346 deserves a mention for a captivating chase scene deserving permanency.


Alice “wonders” what she is doing at Westgate Mall and the pink monster lurking nearby in a formerly dull corner brightens up the arcade, but is it smiling or about to bite? Not one to encounter in the dark but any change there is an improvement.

That these adornments are thought to be necessary implies criticism of the current condition and care of the city centre. Most of these works, while of a style commonly seen, suitably accommodate their locations and any clash between heritage and choices of subject are irrelevant, given the genre. Anyway, unlike the old city they intrude, they are temporary.

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