Street artists Paul Round (left) and Frank Maiorana with their mural at Peanut Farm Reserve in St Kilda. Photo: Wayne Taylor.
Tennis players at St Kilda’s Peanut Farm Reserve now have more than their backhand to contemplate, thanks to a new mural. Covering both sides of a brick practice wall, the work – loosely themed around the biblical tale of Eve and the forbidden fruit of knowledge – is a collaboration between illustrator Frank Maiorana, 40, and street artist Paul Round, 31.
It was commissioned by the City of Port Phillip, which has allocated $30,000 to a series of similar street art projects. “We spend more than $350,000 annually on the removal and management of graffiti in the city,” says Mayor Bernadene Voss, who believes that replacing graffiti with street art helps create safe, clean and more interesting environments for locals and visitors.
But for the artists involved, it’s more about bringing art back to a deprived Southside. “St Kilda is historically known for being a respite for people that are unusual: musicians, artists, people with a bit more of an open mind,” says Round, who has been making graffiti, street and mural art for the past 17 years. “They look after their homeless here and they look after the drug-affected here; it’s one of the last places in the inner city that still gives a f— and the street art and the public art hasn’t reflected that in the last little while.”
He’s encouraged by the attitude of the City of Port Phillip and its public art officer, Georgia Rouette, whom he believes has the drive to get interesting projects happening. “I think [good public art] enriches people’s lives without them knowing it,” he says, citing Ron Robertson-Swann’s Vault (a sculpture popularly known as “The Yellow Peril”) as a great example of art that generates healthy public discussion, debate and engagement. “For a lot of people it’s just background noise, it’s just there; but once it’s gone they notice it’s gone.”
His collaborator, professional graphic illustrator Frank Maiorana, worked for The Age for 13 years, during which he won a 2010 Quill Award for best illustration and was a 2012 Walkley finalist in the best artwork category. Over the years he’s perfected many artistic techniques but until his collaboration with Round, spray cans were never one of them. “Just seeing someone with that amount of experience and skill make a wall come to life in a split second – it was really amazing,” says Maiorana.
He also believes St Kilda needs to reawaken its artistic mojo, overshadowed in recent years by suburbs such as Fitzroy, Collingwood and Brunswick. “It’s great that our council, on this side, is trying something new and we need more of it,” he says. “Not that we want to compete with the Northside, we just want to start more of an art movement down here.”
Fortunately, Mayor Voss seems to agree. “St Kilda has been a hub for artists for decades and we want to foster that history by creating and exhibiting new works and performances with locals whenever possible, and street art is a big part of that.”
This story was originally published in the Saturday Age on 13 February, 2016. Read an online version here.