Next weekend, step into a condemned northern-suburbs warehouse for a mix of the new, the old and the ancient.
Melbourne-based street artist Mysterious Al, from London, has spent the past four weeks painting, decorating and building in preparation for a one-off, two-day installation, called Blinking into the Sunlight, he’s calling a “ghetto version” of Rone’s opulent mansion transformation, Empire.
When I speak to him on the phone he’s working out the logistics of a staircase leading to a massive painting visitors will walk through to enter the space. From there, grab a beer, wine or kombucha at the bar (open only on Friday evening), then wander through multiple Instagram-friendly rooms – including a replica of the artist’s studio and something intriguingly called the Room of Eyes – where you can expect to see 30 or so new paintings, an interactive UV light installation, video projections and more.
“It’s a warehouse full of 60 years of other people’s dust and filth,” says Al. “We’ve organised the chaos, but the space has been giving more than it’s taking away. So much junk has been repurposed. We’ve taken the place apart and turned it into something new.”
You may be familiar with Al’s art. He’s shown in cities across the world, from London to Melbourne to LA, but he’s perhaps better known for his guerrilla pieces. He first came to prominence in early ’00s London, when it was the world capital of street art and figures such as Banksy were shifting in status from street artist to celebrity.
This will be the artist’s first Australian solo exhibition in three years, and Al says it’s all about embracing the space around the paintings. “I want to change how people see the work,” he says.
The inspiration came from a serendipitous visit to a London museum. He was looking for a bathroom, but he found inspiration in a room of centuries-old African masks.
“I was at a very weird, lost point in my life, and I stumbled on these Bwa masks,” says Al. “They’re thousands of years old but they have so much character and expression and feel so current. As an illustrator you try to convey illustration in the simplest way possible, so I wanted to do a 21st-century graffiti take.”
Expect grinning, leering faces made from fabric and paint in a series of unexpected settings. There’ll be works for sale on opening night, from small pieces on canvas and paper to larger ones painted on barn doors. The paintings are one thing, but you’ll want to see the space itself, which will only exist for a couple of days before it’s demolished. We haven’t seen it yet – he won’t even tell us where it is for fear of break-ins – but Al will announce the location of the exhibition on his Instagram a few hours before the doors open. You won’t want to miss it.
Blinking into the Sunlight runs from Friday May 24 until Sunday 26. Entry is free. More information here. This story was updated on May 15 to include an amendment to the beverages available.