State Library Victoria celebrates local street art culture in a new free online gallery – Behind the Paint. The gallery features 14 striking photographs by Melbourne-based artist, Shannyn Higgins, which have been recently added to the Library’s collection.
Each image is a burst of colour, shapes and personalities capturing the state’s most prolific street artists within the worlds they created. The photographs were taken over two weeks in February, at urban street art festival, Can’t Do Tomorrow.
Some of the artists featured include George Rose, David Lee Pereira, Jason Parker, Justine McAllister, Callum Preston and David ‘Meggs’ Hooke. The online gallery includes insights about each of the street artists, behind the scenes commentary from Shannyn and a statement from Library collection managers.
Library Collection Curation and Engagement Manager, Toni Burton first saw the photographs on Shannyn’s Instagram page, and immediately knew they formed an important body of work that belonged in the state collection.
“Our role as curators is not just to collect items that tell the story of our history, but to build a robust and diverse collection that captures our present and celebrates all the wonderful things that makes this state so vibrant,” said Toni.
“Our local artists, particularly public artists, play a pivotal role in shaping Victoria’s urban fabric. Their art defines our spaces, from Melbourne’s inner-city shopping centres to large-scale suburban murals and regional silos.”
“Years from now, when future curators and historians look back on this time, it’s important that our collection is true to how we lived and how we saw the world. These artists tell our story in a way that is distinct from other art forms,” said Toni.
Shannyn said the photographs aim to capture the energy and sentiment of the artists and their work. “This series is all about encapsulating the unique essence of each artist and helping bring their creativity, talent and style to life,” she said. “I’m proud that it will have a permanent home at the Library, an institution that supports and promotes our local art culture and allows others to experience and enjoy it too.”
“The nature of public art is that it’s accessible, it’s not hanging in galleries or hidden behind closed doors. It’s fitting then that this series will be online and available to all, free for people to consume and be consumed by the art,” said Shannyn.
Shannyn Higgins is a photographer based in Melbourne. Through her versatile and adaptive style, her work crosses between lifestyle, commercial and portraiture. Self-taught, Shannyn took the long way to become a photographer. Spending her 20s crewing boats around the world, it wasn’t until her early 30s when she was living in Vancouver that she had the courage to pursue a career behind the lens.
Constantly searching to find the balance between client work and passion projects, where she explores human stories with a hint of darkness and theatricality. Although her subjects range, she is regularly drawn to stories involving art, female empowerment, and subcultures.
One ongoing passion project, Duality, is an art experiment and blind date between writers and artists. Shannyn produces this and has documented 150 creatives across Melbourne and Vancouver in their creative spaces held three Duality exhibitions and published books on the project. For the most recent exhibition in 2019, Duality partnered with Melbourne Writers Festival.
For more information about Shannyn Higgins’ online exhibition, Behind the Paint, visit: www.slv.vic.gov.au for details.
Image: Shannyn Higgins, Chehehe, 2020 – courtesy of the artist and State Library Victoria