Kranky has a history with street art/graffiti that dates back to the late 1960s.
For it was then, as a young art student, sporting an Afro and all attitude and acne, he took to the walls of the CBD, railing against the major issues of the day: the Vietnam War, apartheid, the Berlin Wall, nuclear warheads and the Cold War.
This sense of injustice has never left him and as an older man he continues to use art as an outlet for his concerns. He finds the human condition interesting and this comes out in his work with the choice of subject matter. He wants people to think about social issues and his pieces demand a response!
Returning from overseas about two and a half years ago, he started putting work out on the street again. When most of his 3D pieces were quickly destroyed, he momentarily switched to paste-ups for his comeback.
“In the time that I’ve been part of the scene, I’ve seen street art grow as a movement that exhibits a lack of respect for architecture. The patina that used to be in Rutledge Lane was quickly erased by the 2013 ‘Baby Nursery Blue’ buffing. The depth that was there no longer exists and the sense of an afterlife and history was totally blanketed out,” he said.
A graphic designer and finished artist by education, Kranky is also a passionate photographer. He was hooked from the age of four when he took his first photograph with his father’s Box Brownie. This he describes as a life -changing moment, for it was the creating of an image, that could be shown and shared.
As for the origin of the name Kranky, his street persona has undergone many changes. He’s never sought to be recognised or published nor is he interested in gallery exposure. He does what he does because of a wicked sense of humour and for the sheer creativity of it!
From time to time, however despondent with the destruction of and lack of respect for his work, he has withdrawn from the street, only to re-emerge with a new name. Kranky came about when he took some teenagers to task over their attitude and willful destructions of others’ work and was told to “shut-up you cranky old bastard!”
“That’s me, I said!” And so Kranky was born. “It’s interesting as an ‘older’ creative person to see the development of street art. The expression of humanity, whether it’s written, scribbled or scratched and later sprayed on a wall,” he said.
“To me, it’s become all the same. Whereas, a lot of people on the street today feel that if it’s not aerosol then it’s not legitimate, I don’t subscribe to this and my work has been criticised for this reason.”
Whilst Kranky pursued other things, he kept an eye on street art because it interested him as a communication medium – social issues and the human condition.
He always felt that the local art scene was limited by gallery space, with the collectors, patrons and gallery owners controlling and defining what was “in” and what was “out”.
“It was a movement languishing on a gallery wall looking for a new canvas. I think this is why street art emerged. However, I feel that it has a long way to go before maturing,” he said.
“So many are conforming to what they perceive is the acceptable means of expression on the street. In their mind’s-eye they are working within some very solid guidelines and if you don’t do it within these guidelines, then you’re not a ‘street artist’.”
“If you take my mini-3D installations for example, I get hit up on the street by artists who say that it’s not ‘street’ and I shouldn’t be here! I say any form of expression of humanity done on the street or in a public place is street art! There are no limitations! This can bring about quite a negative response and I get called all sorts of things.”
“I would like to see these people who are spraying actually progress and to develop other forms of expression. To keep moving forward and evolving. To change by personal choice rather than to feel they are forced off the street by age or lack of skills. There is room for everyone in Melbourne and, compared to many other cities, nationally and internationally, it is a very tolerant environment that allows street art to exist.”
“Many of our successful artists who now reside elsewhere in the world, started here in Melbourne and it was this exposure on our streets that gave them immediate acceptance and recognition overseas.”
So why 3D? “I like it because it has substance and that it can be looked at from many angles. This enables the viewer to sometimes see different things.”
It’s this difference, along with a quirky sense of humour that has become Kranky’s trademark.
Recent weeks have seen Kranky mischievously shift his focus to “statue bombing” two of Melbourne’s favourite Swanston St sculptures: Larry LaTrobe and The Three Business Men. These statues are placed where the public can easily interact with them.
“Larry is child-friendly and has a personality that is crying out for expression. So, I decided to explore his quirky side by replacing a bone with a ‘Barbie’ ,” he said.
‘The Three Business Men are possibly the most ‘selfied’ sculpture in the CBD. I thought that I would like to ‘selfie’ them by placing mobile phones with their images around their necks. This meant that people were actually taking photos of themselves with the statues that had already been ‘selfied’. It’s a double/triple message!”
Kranky was quick to point out that these additions were non-intrusive, in no way harmful or permanent and respectful. Kranky, a prolific and generous artist is still maintaining the sense of injustice he felt as a younger man.
However, he stresses, he’s not a conformist and doesn’t want to be within the street culture.
“I’m just me, I do what I do. My enjoyment is gained from creating a piece, standing back, observing the response and then walking away and letting go,” he said.
Long may he maintain his rage!