The Signs of the Time exhibition sees some of the world’s most famous street art come to the Gold Coast. We’re talking the likes of Bambi, Banksy and Blek Le Rat. It has also been the catalyst for the commissioning of artists to transform two drab sheds at the back of The Arts Centre Gold Coast into public works of art.
Mike Makatron is one of two artists commissioned for the work. Based in Melbourne, but known to wander in other dimensions, Mike has travelled the world creating work, painting everything from the Berlin Wall to the River Ganges. At 20 he received a scholarship to study art in New York, which naturally led to a stint working as a bike messenger. That stint lasted ten years and took him across ten cities.
“Adelaide, Sydney, Melbourne, New York, Glasgow, Toronto, Berlin,” he reels them off for me as we sit under a tree directly facing his work-in-progress at The Arts Centre.
“It’s an extreme way to live,” Mike said. “Extremely hard work, extremely dangerous and extremely low money. And the extreme side of the art world is graffiti and street art, so it was always appealing.”
Mike said he got into art as a kid and has been painting all his life. “My family’s house was covered in murals,” he said. “We were six crazy kids and just went wild in half of the house.”
The art stuck too. One sister is a conceptual installation artist, one is a music teacher. His brother has a music degree, two others siblings play piano.
Since 27, being an artist is Mike’s full-time job. Although he never saw that as a possibility. Being a bike courier meant no secure income.
“The art world is even more unreliable. No-one has a regular income.”
That said, Mike has scored a heap of overseas jobs over the past few years, and commissions like this one which keep things ticking over. Plus “Melbourne is pretty conducive to a lot of different types of work,” he said.
Mike’s installation has had a helping had from Byron artist and previous Gold Coast resident Nitsua. The two men have collaborated in Melbourne as well as up this way.
Street art on the Gold Coast?
“There’s hardly any street art at all on the Gold Coast,” Nitsua said.”Not many people here are really doing it. Even if someone was interested, there’s not really anywhere to buy the paint – there’s just one shop in Southport.”
“You go somewhere like Melbourne and there’s so many resources because so many people are already doing it,” he said.
Both artists agree it’s a chicken and egg thing when it comes to street art. It’s not accepted because not many people are doing it and not many people are doing it because it’s not accepted.
“You get people thinking graffiti art – they think it’s trash,” Nitsua said. “They’re unedcated about it.”
So what makes good street art then? Mike says it’s hard to define exactly what street art is.
It’s such a broad genre that includes grandmas knitting those things around trees [yarn bombing] right through to guys smashing trains.
“The type of genre I like is something that would be a challenge to me. The opposite side of that is when I see things that I would find easy – it doesn’t have the same emotional response.”
And the best art Mike has ever seen?
“Melbourne is quite conducive. There is general acceptance of laneways by council and the average person.”
“Brasil is pretty crazy too. There’s less sense of ownership of public property so it’s seen that anyone painting anywhere is a good thing for the community.”
Mike has travelled extensively for his art. His social media feed has him criss-crossing Australia working on all manner of projects. He’s had group shows in Brasil, Japan, Miami and New York and he has work in private and public collections here and abroad including acquisitions by the National Gallery of Australia. And now, you can see his work anytime you like, on a shed, in the carpark of The Arts Centre Gold Coast.
Signs of the Times runs until 19 April and extends well beyond the gallery walls with a heap of events including art, dance, skate, music and a big-arse wrap-up street party with Electrik Lemonade and Some Jerks. Get the full rundown at theartscentregc.com.au.
Feature image by Lamp Photography.