When tourists, or locals think of Adelaide, street art is probably not the first thing that comes to mind. Don’t get me wrong, I am no wide-eyed idealist when it comes to Adelaide street art. I know we can’t compete with the vast laneways of New York or Melbourne but Adelaide has loads of talented street artists with some truly beautiful and equally stunning work, you just need to know where to look.
Today’s blog is about recognising some of the best homegrown talents on the Adelaide street art scene. From internationally recognised artists to relatively young, emerging talents, these locals are leaving their unique mark on Adelaide’s buildings, contributing to a more vibrant and colourful city landscape. I have decided to compile a list of my favourite street artists in Adelaide to make it easier for those of you who wish to learn more about the people behind some of Adelaide’s most recognisable work.
However, before I continue with the list, I just want to emphasise that all art is highly subjective and street art is no exception. I wish I could include more on this list as I know there are many high-quality artists I have left out so I will be sure to make another list in the future. These are simply the artists that I could find the most about through research and whose works I personally enjoy and recognise around town. I based the rankings of these works on their impact, quality of work/craftmanship, uniquness/creativity, symbolic meaning and obvious appeal/noticeability. So without further ado, here is my highly subjective list of Adelaide’s top five street artists
1. Peter Drew
Drew is by far the most divisive and overtly political artist on this list, using his talents to catapult controversial issues to the forefront of social dialogue in Australia. He often chooses to highlight issues he feels are not given extensive critical analysis, sparking significant controversy and fueling heated debates. He has mainly focused on the struggle for migrant communities to be accepted into Australian culture, using his activist nature and artistic vigour to explore these contemporary issues.
While his work may not take as much time or effort as some of the free-hand murals, stencils and paintings from other artists on this list, his work is still creative in its own way. While he obviously focusses on his artistry, his most noticeable quality seems to be the clear message behind his work, as well as his dedication to promoting all aspects of Adelaide’s thriving street art culture. In my opinion, due to his immense efforts behind the scenes, as well as the power of his art to truly make people question elements of society, Drew firmly sits atop Adelaide’s street art throne.
2. Vans the Omega
Vans the Omega is perhaps the most talented individual on this list, which may be why he is an internationally recognised street artist. While he has his own style, he does not stick with one distinct approach. Vans’ style has changed over time, beginning with more traditional elements of graffiti, with a distinct focus on letterforms. However, precise design principles as well as more natural shapes and elements have recently crept into his work. This has resulted in an array of vibrant, multi-coloured works that allow Vans to delve into a wide-range of artistic compositions and is major reason as to why he has developed into both a diverse and detailed artist. Vans work is quite noticeable through his use of vivid colours in conjunction with geometric shapes and patterns. More recently, Vans has focused on bringing a sense of realism to his images, working on large-scale murals that often feature portraits of his friends. He believes bringing a realistic lens to these works is the easy part, it is the creative cross-over with his style that he finds most enjoyable enjoyable and challenging.
His talents have meant his commissioned works are featured around the globe. He has been very busy over the past 18 months, recently appearing at Port Adelaide’s own Wonderwall festival as well as featuring in some of Australia’s leading arts festivals such as Spilt milk and Rediscover Bunbury. He has recently returned from a Bali Street Art Festival named Tropica, as well as completing some of his biggest work at a world-class mixed arts festival in California, Kaboo Del Mar. As if that wasn’t enough, Vans was recently a finalist for best street art in the 2016 Adelaide city awards. Vans the Omega is definitely one to watch out for, not only on the Adelaide scene, but the global street art movement, as his influence is most certainly on the rise and his multi-talented kit is certainly on full display.
3. Lisa King
Lisa King is a self-taught artist that shares some similar motifs to Vans the Omega’s most recent work, featuring geometric shapes, realistic faces and visually striking colours. While Vans the Omega has a myriad of colours that make his pieces visually complex, King aims for a more striking and simple form of artwork by using less colours with greater contrast. Whilst this comparison of artists is warranted, I do not wish to unfairly judge one over the other as this takes away from the beauty and uniqueness of both of their work. Below is last year’s revamping of Jive bar’s front of house that features a multi-coloured and multi-patterned mural that King was commissioned to create.
This illustrates her method of simplifying structural elements of the piece while contrasting this with random geometric shapes to form an image that is pleasing to the eye. She mostly uses soft colours that draw attention to the detailed faces which emphasise a sense of reality.
One of her most iconic works is a mural tribute to David Bowie that she completed for the Maid and Magpie earlier this year. This features her trademark combination of soft colours with a simple colour scheme but made interesting with the signature lightning bolt down Bowie’s eye. In addition to Vans the Omega, King was also a finalist for best street art in the 2016 Adelaide city awards, for very good reason as shown by her body of work.
4. Fred Rock
Perhaps my favourite artist on this list, Fred Rock combines elements of old-school graffiti culture with Japanese culture and animation. His work is clearly a throwback to the original street art style from the 80’s but is tinged with over-the-top colours and comic book style characters and objects.
Rock is one of Adelaide’s most sought after and prolific street artists, featured on Hindley Street, Topham Mall, Waymouth Street, club Zhivago and my personal favourite, in the Jive car park. Below is one of his most well known works found in the Jive car park, the Davey Jones’ rocker, a great complimentary piece to Lisa King’s display on the front of the Jive.
Rock is a steady contributor to Adelaide’s street art, and whilst he presents a more traditional form of street art, he has most definitely mastered his craft and oozes urban style.
5. Matt Stuckey
Stuckey’s diversity alone has warranted his place on this list. I love his work because while his recent pieces may not have the most obvious message, his images are certainly imaginative. His work often features bright, smooth colour palettes that express a certain dynamic energy.
Stuckey has recently been commissioned for many commercial projects, such as the artwork for Myer’s basement food court in the mall, as well as the newly re-designed city of Prospect sign. You will find Stuckey’s street art all over the city without even realising it, such as this painted mural behind Penny’s University (café) on the corner of Union street and Sym Choon Lane.
Ultimately, his work has a childish style about it. Art is about expressing and opening yourself up to your vulnerability. I believe Stuckey reaches the true kid at heart within us and brings a sense of energetic optimism to his work. This is why he is a deserving member of this list.
I hope you have enjoyed reading and discovering more about Adelaide’s local street artists as much as I have enjoyed writing about it. Hopefully you find the artworks I have highlighted and many more pieces by these artists, but don’t worry if you don’t, I’m going to be uploading a best locations to find Adelaide street art soon.
Having grown up in Adelaide and walked around the CBD countless times, I have scoured the streets for notable street art and noticed repeated styles. Although I may have seen many of the works on this list before, learning about their intended meaning and discovering the artist behind the work has brought a new perspective. Be sure to comment below on your favourite pieces, artists, or someone I should include in my next list of Adelaide street artists.