Perth’s Art Secrets

Design / Life

Tagging has given graffiti a bad name. However, look beyond the hurried, stylized signatures on walls and fences around Perth and you will find a vibrant and energetic art scene – street art, the world’s fastest growing and largest art movement.

So, what’s the difference between graffiti and street art? Graffiti is word based, street art is image based but there is a lot of blurring between the two styles.

Daek William is one of Perth’s better-known street artists. He has painted a charming portrait of his cats on the side wall of his home in Northbridge. It’s long way from tagging.

Any blank wall is a canvas with the potential to become an artwork.

The work can be complex in both theme and execution. It can be cheeky, comical, delicate and controversial, fantasy or social comment, created with spray can or brush.

Street art is no longer executed in the secrecy of night, without permission, on walls that no one cares about.

Now, it’s more common to get permission from the owners, especially for more time-consuming pieces. Corporations are commissioning street artists to adorn walls and sidings, as are homeowners for garden walls and even inner walls as well as interior designers for bars and restaurants.

Daek and Perth’s most well-known street artist, Stormie Mills, can work on commissions for $3,000+.

Mel McVee, a local artist who founded the Laneway Collective, was commissioned by a Grosvenor Street, Highgate resident, to paint a laneway wall. How did the surrounding residents react? They wanted the entire lane painted.

“Everyone was very supportive of the artwork, and all wanted the same on their walls. They could see the benefits – deterring graffiti, and creating a positive place for people to meet and visit,” says Mel.

When the City of Vincent became aware of the lane, it wanted to use street art to activate unused lanes and public spaces. Mel received a grant and several commissions.

Whilst FORM has given street art greater visibility by bringing local and international artists together for large scale works on buildings such as Wheatbelt silos and multistorey carparks, laneway art remains hidden for many people who simply are unaware that it’s there.

The Streets of Perth map, designed by Duncan and Nikki Atack, guides you through Western Australia’s finest examples of street art. The biggest challenge is to keep the map up to date with the constantly changing and increasing volume of works.

Grab a takeaway coffee and a wander down the back lanes of Northbridge, Highgate and Fremantle or the many other locations on the Streets of Perth map and you’ll find a treasure trove of cheeky characters, sensitive brushstrokes, crazy patterns and hidden messages. It’s a fun way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Street art is ephemeral, it can disappear in a day as a new artist moves in to claim a wall as a canvas. However, that also creates vibrancy and curiosity. There is no been-there-done-that because the lane you stroll down one Sunday might be completely transformed a month later.

Find the Streets of Perth map at

Artists shown: Daek William, Mel McVee aka Melski, Haylee Fieldes aka Fieldey, Paul Deej , Robert Jenkins, Shrink, Amok Island, ArtByDestroy, Will Robinson, Hayley Welsh.