Aspire and Prismo


Is it one person, or two, or more? They (I’ll call them “they”, for convenience) started modestly, a rather shy tag in the drain.


Then they got bolder.


Then they brought ladders!


I kind of like their stuff, it’s different to everything else that’s around. And that name, “Aspire”: so positive! (Don’t I sound like a patronising old fart?)


Go you young things!

Beef with mustard


Graffiti is a given in every urban environment. From Dunedin to Reykjavik you’ll see walls daubed with tags and roll-ups. Some of them are witty and clever, some are thoughtlessly annoying, some have come to be considered as artworks.


All street artists start somewhere, but most often it’s in the drains, on the under sides of bridges, inside warehouses, on derelict buildings. As with any form of creativity the early pieces are pretty rubbish. I’ve watched some guys’ paintings improve dramatically, from basic tags to accomplished large-scale pieces.


But the world of street art is relentlessly competitive, and no matter how great your piece or your reputation you will, one day, get trashed.


The gigantic roll-ups made by CUBE and POAS are invisible now beneath layers and layers of ugly tags.


There’s been a beef on down the drain over recent weeks. The Christmas paint job that SEPS put up was sprayed out, then covered with something nowhere near as well executed.


Someone who calls themselves DC has appeared on the scene. He or she has an ego that’s in inverse proportion to his/her ability. It’s all big stuff, shoddily done. [Note: see comments below from DC. Basically telling me to shut the fuck up. To all street artists: I don’t claim to know anything about you guys or what you do. I only write about what I see. As with anyone who isn’t on the scene I get it wrong. Just let me know; I’m fine with being corrected.]


DC’s arrival coincided with lots of “Yah boo! You’re rubbish and we’re brilliant!” notices on the bankings.


It’s all rather depressing, but I suppose that it’s the nature of the beast. I remember back in 2012 acknowledging the 50th anniversary of graffiti put under the Chatham Road bridge in October 1962 by PP and Bert the Flirt. And yet, when I went past there with Jambo, I was shocked to see that some scroat (as they used to say in The Bill) had defaced PP’s 50-year-old graffito! I mean, show some respect!

Why on earth was I so bothered by that? I’m such a stodgy traditionalist. I need to take a leaf out of the kids’ book.


Surely not!



Only 329 shopping days to Christmas!


I saw this when I got back from my overseas jaunt. If I had any self control I’d save it up and post it in December, but, well, I haven’t. Thanks SEPS!


SEPS says no to toys


Is it the warm weather that draws people into the drains? I’ve seen no decent paint work for months. There was this effort a few weeks back, and I really do mean “effort”. I mean, come on, guys.


This largish tag turned up under the Chatham Road bridge a fortnight ago …


… quickly followed by work under the railway bridge …


… north and south banks.


SEPS / SEPZ has been busy, but who is the creator of this kanji-inspired tag in silver and green? I much prefer it.


I’ve no idea what the cryptic message about toys actually means. Someone a bit more “street” than me might be able to shed some light.


In the meantime I look forward to seeing what else appears. Summer. The season of cricket, cicadas and gas-propelled paint is upon us.



Spring is definitely not yet in the air. I was thinking this as I walked Jambo down the creek and noticed this plastic roadworks pole bobbing down the beck, washed hither from whence I know not.


What I do know was that it was cold and wet and slippery and generally a bit miserable.

But there are still folk out and about. I was rather startled to meet two lads emerging from the tributary tunnel next to Chatham Road bridge, the one you see beneath Richardson Park. They were wearing gumboots and had flashlights and had, amazingly, tunnelled their way from Merewether High School.

Yesterday I bumped into another pair of explorers who told me all about the old fuel depot, which has apparently been abandoned. The owners of this site were, right up until the end, carefully maintaining the holders and the buildings and the grounds and so to hear that they were no longer there was a complete surprise to me. I felt like the Turks must have felt when they woke up and realised the Anzacs had slipped away in the night.

But, like Nature, youth culture abhors a vacuum. It there’s empty space it must be filled. They sent me a couple of pictures of the depot, and of the recently re-fenced gasworks. I have absolutely no idea what this dummy’s arm signifies. I mean … huh?


The old naphtha holder was, they told me, getting a fresh lick of paint. Approaching from the south, they smelt the fumes of aerosol cans as a crew of hardy graffitismos plied their decorative trade.


Poor things, they nearly had heart attacks, but they were good enough to let my contacts reel off a few shots for posterity.


Note the cut-off ladder to stop scallywags climbing the holders. Apparently they’ve done the same thing in the fuel depot.


Such a shame. Seriously, I’d pay good money to go up one of those and look out over Hamilton!

Whatever happened to …


I was stuck at Clyde Street lights the other day, listening to the bell clang and watching a herd of coal wagons lumber past, when something happened that made me smile. One wagon had a gigantic P painted along the full length of its side, and the next one a gigantic O. POAS! The A and the S were missing, shackled elsewhere, but still it made my day. Yes, I know the debates pro and contra graffiti and whatever, but if I am going to be stuck at Clyde Street lights watching a mile-long line of coal wagons then I’d at least like them to be creatively decorated.

It was a timely event as I’ve been thinking about graffiti lately. Have we seen the end of the era of the big roll-up?


The big jobs down the creek are looking pretty tired and careworn. I know that POAS, a man who takes pride in his work, revisits some of his more prominent roll-ups and gives them a fresh coat every now and then. But what about the rest? Where’s the new stuff? Has the big paint job had its day? And, if so, what are those kids doing now? I honestly can’t see the same sense of satisfaction from banging up a selfie on Instagram.

So I was heartened to see POAS’s rail wagons. And then, yesterday, I came across a couple of tell-tale signs by the rail tracks.


The trolley was from a discount clothing place up near Kotara: a long way from home. The wheelie bin could have been from anywhere. But I do know that trollies and wheelie bins are sometimes liberated by guys who need to transport 20 litre tins of paint, rollers and trays over large distances. Could it be … that a new roll-up was about to hit the gasworks?

Not quite. But as Jambo and I snooped around the old washrooms behind the admin building we heard the familiar serpent-like tss tss tss of aerosols. There was indeed a man at work.


SACK uses spray cans and so they weren’t his trolley and bin. He was a much more compact operator. He was also very lairy about being photographed, even from behind, but did agree to let his hand make a cameo appearance.


We talked about the “golden age” of the Big Jobs and ruminated on the reason why they’re becoming less common. There was, of course, the threat of very heavy fines, confiscation of phones and computers, and even imprisonment. Guys who’d been done once tended to be very careful about where, how and with whom they operated.

So maybe the roll-up has had its day. Which will be a shame, because those coal wagons look bloody ugly in black.

What a shower


There used to be a cast iron bathtub beneath this showerhead  but the other day it vanished. Hmm. It’s actually better now. You can stand underneath it and pull the handle and pretend to be having a shower and sing Johnny Cash songs into the growing dusk while your dog stares at you in puzzlement, if you’re that kind of person. As if! I mean, who’d do that?!


There are a few more of these showers in the ELGAS depot, but in better condition. I think they must be some kind of OH&S thing: “Should you find yourself drenched in naphtha whilst smoking a Cuban cigar, avoid combustion and instant incineration by standing beneath shower and yanking hard on handle”. It’d probably be more effective than this alternative.


As we head into autumn we’ve had a last blast of warm weather. This has meant that the coal tar lurking at about 3 metres below the surface of the gasworks (and, hence, at creek level) is moving about more freely than it does in winter. This inspection cap is positively frothing in a way that always reminds me of subterranean river of slime in Ghostbusters II. I found this little disc next to it. At first I thought it was a casino chip but it’s made out of aluminium. Answers on a postcard.


I was thinking, as I waved at the Westpac rescue helicopter thocka-thocka-thocking over the gasworks, that the concrete naphtha container would be nowhere near as photogenic if POAS and CUBE hadn’t put their roll-ups on there.


Being a vandal must be much harder work than we ordinary, non-painting folk imagine. I came across these two chairs tucked away beneath the railway bridge. Someone carried these chairs all the way to this little cubby. Not one chair, but two. And then arranged them Shaker-style with backs to the wall as though this concrete block beneath the Dungog rattler was actually a rather comfortable parlour, a place to pause and roll a durrie with a good friend, in between banging out tags and roll-ups.


This world teems with people and events beyond the limited scope of my imagination.

Strong language warning


I don’t mean the “b” word. Whatever that is. Bottom? Buttocks? Bosom?


I mean the rude word, rudest of them all. If you don’t like rude words then stop now. I’ve placed a picture of a kitten below just in case you’ve got a big screen and you accidentally open up something offensive.


Because I’m talking about the Mother of All Rude Words (pun intended), the rudest of the rude.


When I was growing up in Britain, just after the invention of Jethro Tull’s seed drill and Mr Crapper’s porcelain water chair, we had a thing called “the watershed”. The watershed was a time, 9 pm, prior to which no TV channel would broadcast a show that might be deemed to contain (assume the voice of the SBS announcer) strong language or sexual themes. (A quick Google tells me that it’s still there, though now fighting a rearguard action against the Internet and Christina Aquilera.)

I was quite surprised when I first came to Australia at how many words that I considered “rude”, or post-watershed material, were readily bandied about on Australian radio at all times of the day. But whilst all kinds of formerly rude words have entered regular radio usage, there is still one word that maintains its taboo status.


Why so? Well, better minds than mine have attempted to tackle this thorny question. Funnier minds too, if Canadian writer Bill Casselman‘s anything to go by. (I do like the idea of a plant called “twatwort”.) But there is something really jarring about seeing that word writ large.


Often angrily so too. I mean, what on earth does this actually mean?


What is the antidote to all these public cunts? It could be this:


Or this:


Interesting: no one writes “cock” or “knob”, they draw it. No one draws “cunt”, they write it. Theories, on a postcard, to the usual address.

Under the bridge


My son is on a bit of a Red Hot Chillie Peppers jag at the moment, endlessly plucking out Flea bass lines on his Yamaha. Personally I find the Peppers a bit samey, but I do like Under the Bridge.

It’s where I was the other day, the bridge over Maitland Road that is, taking advantage of a low tide on the way to the dog park. This bridge has a very different feel to the bridges further upstream on Styx Creek; a bit edgier. Someone’s recently abandoned a camp down there, though they look as though they’ll be back soon.


A nice cuppa tea and a shot in the morning. Blimey. It makes my life look pretty tame.


There’s layer on layer of graffiti, not the kind of big spray job or roller that you get elsewhere, but more the frustrated, desperate scrawl of someone who demands “Take notice of me! Respect me!”, all the while being too marginalised or insecure to make their demands in anything other than furtive snarls.


Yeah, ya fuckin parrott!


Go Eagle. Not ‘Eagles’? Not a team, then?


A friend emailed me the other day; his daughter wanted to go into the old gasworks admin building to take photos and he was wondering if it was safe. I’m no expert. The situation changes on a daily basis.

There are lives out there, lives I don’t even pretend to understand.