One evening I was walking along Swanston St with my friend and came to this scene. The bassist (whose name I’ve yet to learn) who plays catchy tunes like Super Mario is a familiar sight on the weekend street. Continue reading Nigel and the Bunny
I almost passed him by. He was just another busking artist, one of many that fill every block of Swanston Street in the centre of Melbourne. It was late on Friday night. I had a dinner on my own in Chinatown, sat down in a coffee shop with a book for a while, and just about ran out of ideas to kill any more time. I plugged in with something of my ‘walking’ heavy rotation through the in-ear Bose, volume turned up a bit high, pushing my way ahead of half drunken, half touristy crowd slowly moving down to Flinders Street station. First my eye caught the sight of the ‘cowboy photographer’ Kazu standing there, which made me stop to say hi, then I realised what he was there for. The sound of violin came in to my system as I pulled off the ear-plugs. It was not one of those amateur musicians.
At a break between songs, I walked up to him and asked if he would mind me photographing him at work. He was cool with that. I guess it is a matter of respect – many people just start snapping away, and maybe it was the way things are with many people with mobile phones. But I often get a lot more involved, moving around in their sight… and I would like them to be comfortable with it, and hopefully see the images and give me comment later. So it’s far better to just ask – all they can say is ‘no’. Then I would have just packed away my camera and enjoyed the music.
Even in Melbourne where people are generally appreciative of public art, a crowd around a musician is a sign of something real. People may be generous and paying attention to the performance around them, but they are also exposed to a lot of them and know the difference between something that is not worth their time and a few that they want to stick around while they last.
When the song finished, the applause rises from the crowd. He opens up his eyes wide and smiles. He almost looks like a totally different person – a craft man at work is not a friendly approachable young man! Not a few drops coins, some leave notes and grab a CD on the stand.
Then he focuses his mind to the voice of his trusted instrument again…
Are you now curious what his music sounds like? Well, as with many musicians, I find his live performance far better than what I hear on the CD or on YouTube. So make your way down to the city in the evening, when the sky is clear, and look out for a violin player with his own world about him…
… having said that, if you do not live in Melbourne, you may want to check out his YouTube and Facebook page to get started. Once he is back in touring, he may re-appear in Japan as well as other countries. So stay tuned!
Follow his performance schedules, send enquiries to
KATEI’s Facebook page
Last weekend was the New Year on the Lunar Calendar. To bring about good fortune, Chinese Community put on their traditional acts of dragon walking through the towns and lions dancing in front of businesses, followed by thousands of fire crackers.
Before all the noise, though, I was photographing my friend Bee, the talented portrait painter busking on Swanston street, who performed HungWei’s water painting art at NGV. Unfortunately HungWei was unavailable on these Chinese New Year events, so Bee picked up his hand-made paint brush and stepped up on his behalf. She has worked with him on various collaboration projects, so it was nothing new for her as well.
During the week leading up to the Chinese New Year, she also performed in the Federation Court, the space inside the entrance of NGV, at a Chinese New Year Celebration function organised by Australia China Business Council and China Chamber of Commerce in Australia. Here are a few shots I captured with permission by the event organiser and NGV.
I’d like to thank National Gallery of Victoria for their kind permission to photograph Bee and her performance in the Gallery. As my regular audience of this blog would know, NGV is one of my favourite art space in this city, and it was a pleasure to finally get to work with their blessing.
I’d also like to thank Australia China Business Council and China Chamber of Commerce in Australia, for allowing me to photograph Bee during the private function. I hope my suggestion on how to set up the podium backdrop helped the photos your event photographers made during speeches. As you noticed, I have quite a bit of experience in working with events, both as event organiser and as an event photographer. I look forward to working with you in a future function.
And finally, I’d like to extend my sincere thanks to the artist Bee and HungWei, for always allowing me to closely document your work. I am, as ever, inspired by what you guys can do with only a bucket full of water. I am really hoping to travel inter-continent now, in order to follow your work, while I also capture works of people in those countries, artists, farmers, traditional craftsman, mothers and grandmothers, and any ordinary people. That is where I am going with my photography. Just wait till I lined up a few assignments to get my trip started!
I mentioned this guy with his full size paint brush drawing pictures with water on the pavement. Visiting from Taiwan, Hung Wei is busking on the street of Melbourne these days. Street is my work place, my practice ground, my source of inspiration and new creative ideas. So I try to go out there a few nights a week or more, and we were bound to meet again where we both ‘show up’ at work.
Lots of people stopping by to complement on his work, have a chat.
So why is this guy drawing with fragile matter like water on the pavement? And in the middle of city on a busy side walk?
Well that is what this is all about, he says. He is drawing animals that are about to be extinct. I saw him draw lions, zebras, and something that looked to me like wild horses and dragons (or large fishes – scales)? He is asking people to notice what we are doing to the world, destroying its environment and those living here. His chosen media was that fragile matter that will be gone in a few moments.
Some notice, stand still, take photos, drop a few coins. Others walk past, walk all over, and I think that represents the situation so well. I am impressed by his ideas.
Hung Wei tells me that he wants to work on ice sculpture if he could find an opportunity. It is about the same message of disappearing members of the globe. Would anyone be interested in working with him? Just walk down on Swanston and say hello to the friendly man with the big paint brush. He would be thrilled to hear your comments and discuss ideas for collaboration or opportunity to show his work in public.
Now… the sun has long gone and he was wrapping up for the day. We walked across to Chinatown to grab some take-away food and joined his fellow busker from Taiwan.
I’d seen Bee on the street a few times. She is a charming young lady who paints with beautiful melting water colours.
As we sat down to eat, a customer showed up. She put down her noodle soup and her expression became serious, in her zone. Hung Wei and I finished our meal, watching hers turn cold on the pavement.
Those people are genuinely talented artists. Bee’s colours are so beautiful – I just loved how she uses the navy blue, that blends towards green, to yellow. It was shiny, almost like oil, and saturated, like spray art. You just have to see it for yourself. She is often setting up her little booth along the street in CBD. Do stop by to say hello, or better still, ask her for a painting. You might like to keep that in a frame on your wall, or your mother’s wall, maybe?
As for me, I am still walking around and around the blocks of the city centre. I look for my inspiration, I work on the creative ideas, I’m on the shy side, but I love to talk to people. So if you’ve seen my photos (which you have now, seeing that you’re reading my photography blog), please let me know what you think, what you like, or if you are interested in having me photograph you and your loved ones, just give me a yell!
The more time you spend walking on the street, the more interesting people you meet. I never felt this as strongly as I did this weekend. And it’s only Saturday. Let’s see which one shall I start with… Let me tell you about Friday to start with.
One of the old philosophies – ‘nothing lasts forever’ (so appreciate it while it does).
This guy’s style is living that spirit…
Who is drawing all these on the pavement, at Melbourne tram stops?
You could easily mistake him for some guy cleaning the street. He just looks so natural, not bothered by the crowd or people walking over what he’d just drawn. Hung Wei is visiting from Taiwan, an artist sharing his art in public while he’s here.
Pay attention to how he uses his brush in details like this. Even to the eyes of a non-painter like myself I could tell he’s got a wealth of experience with brush works. Strong strokes, delicate lines, bold spots… without hesitation he gets the exact expression where he needs it.
Hung Wei says he’s ‘drawing every day’ so do look out for him when you’re in town. Say hello, I’m sure he’d like that.
Check out the sequel – here.