Starting out as a graffiti artist, Adnate painted letters for a decade before he moved into portraiture. ‘I tried to go to uni and finish art courses, but it didn’t really go very far’, he tells me over the phone as he warmed up bottles for his new baby (who was born right in the middle this project!), ‘I realised that the only way I would be a full time artist would be if I pushed myself without anyone else’s help’.
The self-taught artist’s unbelievably realistic portraiture can be seen in car parks, libraries, trucks, buildings and silos all over the world. But his latest project really takes things up a notch – or, up 20 storeys, to be precise. In one of the largest community arts projects in Australia’s history, Adnate has teamed up with Minister for Planning, Richard Wynne MP, and Melbourne street-art collective Juddy Roller to bring to life this unique community-centred art project in Collingwood.
Living in Melbourne, street art in its many forms is part of our city’s distinct aesthetic. Tours through our graffiti-lined laneways are conducted for hundreds of tourists every day, we have entire organisations dedicated to finding opportunities for artists, and our government even commissions larger-than-life pieces.
Despite its prevalence in Melbourne’s everyday life, I’ve never really given much thought to the impact of the large-scale murals that colour our city. When photographer Sam Wong and I went down to the Collingwood flats to photograph Adnate a couple of weeks ago for this story, I was struck by how engaged the community was with the project. People slowed down, hung around and yelled out of cars. Some tell me they’d come by every day to check what new progress had been made. ‘It’s bloody awesome, right?!’ a mother with a young son who lives in the building asked me rhetorically as together we watched Adnate, his assistant and our photographer Sam suspended high above the street.
Yep. It’s bloody awesome. Here’s how Adnate does it.