Opinion: Adrian Doyle’s ‘Empty Nursery Blue’ in Rutledge Lane

I think I just blue myself

Posted By Sean Irving |

Oh, so it’s 2013 and we’re still talking about street art? Cool. The latest revelation to rattle the gilt cage of the street art world is Adrian Doyle’s recent action in painting over a huge section of Rutledge Lane, the lesser brother of Melbourne’s hippest graffiti/wedding photo location – Hosier Lane. Doyle has titled the piece ‘Empty-Nursery Blue’ – and written a pretty long contextual essay which you can read here.

The images are pretty dramatic – with the space going from looking something out of Steve Beardon’s worst nightmare (side note, but remember in 2007-ish when someone was writing Steve Beardon for a minute? That was real street art) to completely buffed in the space of a day.

Empty-Nursery Blue by Adrian Doyle

GIF by Khoon Sorasari, artFido

Of course, the image above only represents the 45 minutes that the lane stayed clean before the local lads busted out the exports and started to take it back. And of course, the media savvy older generation no doubt saw the free buff as an opp to get some nice background shine. (See the Shem RDC burner in the gallery clip.) In fact, at the time of writing Rutledge lane looks pretty much like it normally has for the past six years or so – a hot mess.

But that’s not really the point is it? The point is the backlash that’s been stirred up by these images that are circulating the web. The thing is, this action / installation / piece / whatever you’re comfortable calling it could actually start a semi-interesting conversation about public space. But it won’t. Instead we’ll see the same tired arguments that have been endlessly recycled for the past decade or so. The arguments that’ll pretty much stick to the one of the following themes:

1. Doyle is not a graff writer, and therefore has no right/ownership over what is supposedly a landmark spot for graffiti culture.

2. It’s disrespectful to claim a huge section of that space, especially considering how much (alleged) history there was there. (Although in my opinion, it is a shame to see those MIC and Tekno rollers disappear)

3. You can’t vandalise vandalism. Doyle’s actions are social commentary and he should be applauded.

So, you know – with everyone throwing their hats in the ring, I thought I might as well get up on my digital soapbox as well. I mean fuck it – it’s Monday, and the only other thing in my social media is a bunch of Miley Cyrus VMA jokes.

So, as a disclaimer – I’ve known Doyle for a number of years, through a bunch of different avenues, so there’s that. I think the argument that he didn’t know exactly what kind of reaction he would stir up with this work is completely off the mark. Doyle has long been a fixture in the street/gallery scene, and is instrumental in the development of a number of artist’s careers. Doyle may not be a graff writer, but a lot of his livelihood is tied to graff culture – for better or worse. And while his interview comments of ‘Frankston represent’ and ‘sick balls’ might have you believe otherwise, he is also a savvy operator. Comments that seem engineered to piss off 3AW’s audience will generate more coverage, and more attention. See, for example, the completely different side that he presents in this interview with The Age – it’s calculated controversy.

But – all that aside, the fact remains that the whole ‘outrage’ around the action is entirely a product of the media. Hosier and Rutledge lane were, at one point, a destination for the kind of culture that the City of Melbourne loves to use as mise en scène when they’re filming ads, but hate any other time. When there were still artists’ studios actually located in Hosier, and before the majority of Until Never Gallery’s back catalogue went up for auction – but that was then and this is now. To call Rutledge or Hosier an epicentre of graffiti is like calling the Melbourne Zoo an authentic jungle experience. Let me give you a hint: if you’re looking for a spot where gritty graffiti culture flourishes, it’s generally not at a place where nearly 11,000 people have checked in on Facebook.

I will say this though: to appreciate all the discussion around urban identity and the concept of home, head down to Rutledge Lane and take a look at Doyle’s piece (if it hasn’t already disappeared), then cross the street and go and look at Ian Strange’s Suburban piece at the NGV. Both of these bodies of work are free, but only one of them deserves this kind of media attention in 2013.

3 comments on “Opinion: Adrian Doyle’s ‘Empty Nursery Blue’ in Rutledge Lane

  1. Eugene on said:

    Yours is the only decent article on this that I’ve found so far. Thanks for providing a balanced view.

  2. He died with an unfinished thesis in his hands on said:

    Personally I would have chosen a slime green…the thing that influenced on me not liking it was the marketing push around it. As you said, he’s a savvy operator. Also not referencing or crediting the artists that have done the same work previously. He’s a Phd student so I know he’s aware of the artists and the ideas he’s borrowed, it shows a lack of integrity. I didn’t have the extreme reaction others have, I was quite indifferent to it really. All the hype made it seem too forced, like a d-grade celeb doing an awkward unflattering sextape for attention.

    What would have made it cool was if it was done quietly, not necessarily anonymously, but some how just kept his mouth shut. Start at midnight, go until 7 am and then just watch the day unfold.

  3. Kokoartmonkey. on said:

    Awesome, awesome, awesome!!!!. I loved it and thought it was a
    brilliant idea. Since when was street art about permanence? Street Art is
    weathered and beaten by the elements and time, as new artist’s stretch
    out to be heard over the top of it.
    A lot of early raw street art had social commentary, a
    slap in the face to powers that are metered out by humanly malnourished
    governments from around the world.
    Arts supposed to make you feel
    passion and anger or a sudden stillness that startles you and reminds
    you, you’re alive.
    That’s exactly what painting that lane empty nursery
    blue did, inadvertently.
    Instead of this constant dead over saturation of imagery it was an ice cold
    bucket of water in the face without warning. Melbourne laneways are
    great but face facts most of the art looks like it came out of a bored
    adolescents exercise book (and most work on those laneways are not done by
    teenagers either).
    Spray paint is a beautiful medium but it can be as limiting as the
    attitudes of disgruntlement are (just like the Catholic Church covering
    up a Michelangelo with a vine leaf)
    If you want your works to take a shot at permanence stick it on the
    inside of a gallery wall not outside where it will be weathered. Why do
    graffiti artists think they are the only one’s who can attempt to shock
    and shake up with vision (and when’s the last time any of them did
    like that?)
    God I can walk into typo or buy a friggin t-shirt, switch on the TV
    and get an ad that has the same collage effect trying to sell me
    Insurance or Macca’s to some boring hipster C.D as some of the work on
    the walls out there).
    To see a beautiful sudden floating silence in the form of a space among all this
    white noise static was fantastic, an eye in the visual storm and it
    deserved the media attention.
    Creativity is about diversity and
    seeing/feeling from different perspectives.
    Not every form of expression
    needs to be drenched in generation collage art. The only thing that put
    me in a snit is that I didn’t get the chance to walk the lane before it
    was drowned out. Believe it or not but street art took ‘balls’, just
    like painting the laneway.
    Wish I had of thought of it.

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