Perfect Match is the guise under which Marrickville Council gets to play cupid for blank walls and street artists. It’s a no-losers game: public spaces become livelier, residents get to “own” a unique, large-scale artwork, artists have a canvas for more audacious ideas and the council spends less time taking down graffiti.
There are 21 new works being created for the program this year, and this Friday and Saturday (July 31 and August 1) there will be neighbourhood celebrations and unveilings of new works. Look out for Birdhat’s work at the opening of Lewisham cafe Victoria and Hobbs, and Esem Projects’ work at the Petersham Water Tower. But if you want it all, there are free bicycle tours, bus tours and a dedicated photography tour (bookings are essential).
The initiative is unusual. It doesn’t seem to have an equal in any other councils in New South Wales, despite it being an all-round beneficial and simple idea. It’s had a huge amount of interest, though it’s only in its second year. “We have a very active and engaged community, which is why [Perfect Match] works so beautifully. We’ve even had enquiries from as far away as Darwin,” says Mayor Mark Gardiner. “The reality is that all councils deal with graffiti problems, we’ve just tried to find a creative, collaborative way to deal with it.”
Marrickville Council has a constellation of factors working in its favour. Of course, having willing and community-minded residents and artists available is essential. But in contrast to areas dense with modern apartment complexes, Marrickville Council oversees an area with lots of single houses with abundant paintable blank walls. Significantly, the council is small enough to foster and manage such a community-centric initiative.
Andrew BW, aka Jumboist, was matched with the Asylum Seeker Centre in Newtown– his work will be unveiled this Saturday. He describes his piece as “giant wallpaper”, working with iconographies, pattern and colour. “My work isn’t political. It’s more about a bright and positive outlook,” he says.
When asked about how council-sanctioned spaces might undermine the spontaneous, anarchical nature of street art, he points to the opportunities Perfect Match affords for developed works that have scale and intricacy. “The more engagement between artists and councils, the better the quality of the work and ability of the work to take greater leaps. [Councils] hand over bigger and better spaces, things that artists can be really involved with, rather than illegal spaces where you get 15–20 minutes to work with a wall,” says BW. “I've noticed a lot more epic painting, when working with councils.”
This weekend might be when the celebrations kick off, but there’s no reason not to take a look at the works-in-progress now, or take a self-guided tour later on. Download a map from the website and have a wander.
Friday July 31
Art of Wall, corner of Shepherd Street and Chapel Street, Marrickville. 11am–midday
Esem Projects Petersham Water Tower, car park at corner of Regent Street and New Canterbury Road, Petersham. 5.30pm–7.30pm
Saturday August 1
Birdhat, Victoria and Hobbs Cafe (13 Victoria Street, Lewisham). 10am–1pm
Jumboist, Asylum Seeker Centre (43 Bedford Street, Newtown). 11am–midday
Mulga, 10 Pearl Street, Newtown. 2pm–3pm
Hugues Sineux, Camelot Lounge (19 Marrickville Road, Marrickville). 3pm–4pm
Fintan Magee, The Urban Hotel (52 Enmore Road, Newtown). 4pm–5pm