The sky is blue, life is beautiful

METRO GALLERY: Blek le Rat is often called the grandfather of graffiti art, leading the way ahead of a plethora of younger, often more renowned, artists.
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Blek le Rat is often called the grandfather of graffiti art, leading the way ahead of a plethora of younger, often more renowned, artists. However the geriatric connotations end there when Blek discusses how to dodge the authorities who catch him mid-way through a work, “When the police arrest you pasting a poster you can say, ‘Oh, I’m sorry, sir. I’m going to remove the poster immediately. And I’m not going to do it any more. I prefer to work with posters. Because you go faster. In the street, you must be very fast. If you stay longer than two minutes, the police come.”

Blek le Rat’s stencil and graffiti works which adorn the walls and laneways of places as far and wide as Paris, Rio, New York and now Melbourne are significant and considerable enough to warrant ample reviews, yet it is his exhibition, confined to a commercial gallery in inner Melbourne, which is currently causing ripples throughout Australia.

Blek le Rat’s The Sky is Blue, Life is Beautiful currently showing at Metro Gallery is a triumph. Whilst initially skeptical about how stencil and graffiti work would translate onto canvas and sterile white walls, after seeing the exhibition it is evident that Blek’s works translate across settings and scenery, just as they translate across countries and cities.

The exhibition consists of twenty five, mainly large scale, works on canvas and board along with limited edition, smaller scale screen prints and photographs. The majority of his most renowned works are exhibited, often in numerous guises and sizes including Computer Head and Man Who Walks Through Walls.

Blek’s stencil and graffiti works are contemporary social commentary with his requisite being that “art must serve a cause. Not a militant cause or political, but social.” The artist’s most recent focus has been homelessness which is highlighted by his images of beggars, three of which are hanging in Metro Gallery, a stark contrast to the prosperous street bustling outside the gallery doors. Yet not all of his works are heavy with the social issues that surround our societies. Blek’s images of dancing are represented with Dancer, an idea that rose from his desire to share the concept of painting in the street being as acceptable as dancing in the street.

Towards the back of the exhibition, arranged haphazardly, yet boldly, on the wall, are a collection of Blek’s rats, his founding symbol and one which has remained with him. The rat for him is a symbol of the urban environment whilst also being an anagram of the word ‘art’. When questioned by a policemen about his motive, Blek’s response was always a firm “No, this is art.” And as Blek consistently and constantly demonstrates, good art has the ability to transmute across both physical and cultural boundaries.


Metro Gallery
1214 High Street Armadale, Victoria 3143
Phone +61 3 9500 8511
Tuesday to Friday: 10 am – 5.30 pm
Saturdays and Sundays: 11 am – 5 pm
Entry is free

Esther Gyorki
About the Author
Esther Gyorki is a reviewer for ArtsHub.