IT’S been a year since Islamic terrorists gunned down 12 people at French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.
Fremantle street artist “Marty McFly” recalls awakening to the news, and watching as the horror story unravelled on his TV screen over several hours.
That night McFly, “probably a bit drunk at the time”, upset by what he says was an attack on freedom of speech and spurred on by a sense of solidarity, grabbed some paint and exercised his own liberties.
His mind, when he arrived at his canvas, a blue and white chequered “flag” on Fremantle’s on Beach Street, was churning with emotion: he wanted to show his support for satire and art that pushes boundaries.
He came up with a design on the fly: his brush strokes were juvenile: “It was simple, like Charlie Hebdo’s style, and I played with the boxes as if they were building blocks with letters on them,” the Fremantle artist says.
“’Char-lie’ lent itself to the conspiracy theories of what is actually going on and who is lying to who. Is the government lying to us? What’s the agenda here?”
In the bottom-right corner is a parody: there are two drawings of erect pencils, in a similar fashion to New York’s destroyed twin towers. They “connect it with terrorism”. It all took just half an hour to paint. “I had paint leftover from the Palestine one,” says McFly, referring to a nearby piece on the same strip (he’s behind all artworks along that northern Woolstores wall).
“That was the empty flag at the time. So that night I came out with a ladder.
“I was just a bit upset by it all because it was a bit like the Sydney siege. It was seven hours of it being constantly on my television, and I think that fries anyone because we’re being fed fear over hope. There’s a real fear culture and we’ve got to watch that as a society.
“We watch this kind of stuff all the time, and as an artist, that affects me, and I’ve got to get it out of me. This isn’t a choice, you know, this is a labour of love.”
The Scotland native, who has lived in Paris, is surprised vandals haven’t tainted his work in the months since.
“A year on, and I’m amazed no-one has touched it,” he says. “That means there’s massive respect for it on the street. Even if the kids don’t really get it, they realise it’s a piece of art.”
A couple of weeks after painting “je suis Charlie”, another Charlie entered the scene. Having been unable to shake the attack off his mind, McFly returned to glue on a giant poster of Charlie Chaplin — to add some light humour.
McFly is planning some graffiti art in Bali and his homeland later this year. He commends Fremantle council for loosening its graffiti rules and embracing noncommissioned street art with “artistic or cultural merit”. Back in Scotland, he’d been arrested for practising his craft.
by EMMIE DOWLING