Street artists are ready to hit the wall

Celestine is a French-Canadian model, owner of a wide, unwavering pair of eyes and a creamy complexion. 

She is unlikely to ever set foot in Wollongong, but is about to become a well-known local identity, rendered in litres of paint on a two-storey wall in the city’s centre.

Such is the fate of the muses of Melbourne street artist Rone, one of several nationally and internationally renowned artists in Wollongong this weekend for the festival Wonderwalls. 

MAP: Wall locations

Rone and others will deliver public talks, show gallery works, and paint nine walls across the city, starting with giant Celestine on the side of Keira Street’s Dion Building.

‘‘She has really strong eyes,’’ said Rone, whose murals most often feature beautiful female faces. 

‘‘I just like the contrast of the beauty and the rawness of the streets. Beautiful decay, you could say.’’ 

Rone, short for Tyrone, is one of Melbourne’s best-known street artists, and one of the  few who have whetted the appetites of galleries and private collectors to lucrative effect.

He has sold work to the National Gallery of Australia and to private collectors in the United States and Australia. One of his large gallery works can fetch as much as $12,000. 

The 32 year old began making a living from his art 18 months ago, about 10 years after the ‘‘stencil boom’’ took hold on  Melbourne walls. Rone considers himself a direct beneficiary of the ‘‘Banksy effect’’ – the trail blazed by British street artist Banksy.

‘‘Someone’s seen paying a ridiculous amount of money for something that, before, no-one saw value in, then it becomes a desired thing,’’ Rone said.

Wonderwalls has been organised by  Wollongong graphic design and events business Verb Syndicate and artist’s group The Hours. 

Verb Syndicate’s Simon Grant said he hoped to give Illawarra street artists the chance to connect with masters, and  elevate the craft in the eyes of those who see street art as vandalism.

‘‘The idea is to bring something of a big scale to Wollongong,’’ Mr Grant said.

Rone and other artists – Meggs, Yok, Sheryo, Beastman, Phibs, Numskull and Roach – will deliver free artists talks at Gallery5 Crown Lane today from 11am to 3pm.

A free exhibition of artists’ work will continue at the gallery until 6pm tomorrow. 

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