Newtown graffiti and street art

newtown graffiti

The grungy-turned-hip neighborhood of Newtown in Sydney has some of the best graffiti and street art in town. Interestingly, a lot of the graffiti is not removed but protected under a provision of the city council laws, which aims to preserve “historically significant” pieces of street art.


I first heard about the graffiti around Newtown and Surry Hills after Green Day’s “21st Century Breakdown” album – some of the pieces were commissioned for the album.

surry hills graffiti

There are a couple of established crews working with full kit and filter masks. I got a chance to talk to one of the guys in his mid-30’s (who didn’t want to be photographed – technically what they are doing is illegal) and he lamented about how young teenagers nowadays are tagging *over* the existing graffiti with their own crew tags.

graffiti in progress

I don’t know how I feel about that. What he alleged is true – I saw a couple of kids whitewashing space over existing beautiful murals and putting their own crew tags (which is basically a stylized name) over it.

crew tags

On one hand, I feel it’s disrespectful but on the other hand, the kids needs a place to practice to hone their skills but spray painting over someone else’s hard work, even if it’s in the public domain, isn’t very kosher since there’s heaps of space for them to practice.

graffiti newtown

It was a damp and rainy day in Sydney and we went to a lot of the hotspots around the Surry Hills and Newtown area to check out the graffiti.

stencil street art

Check out the B&W stencil art in the middle of the wall!

play that funky

This piece of graffiti spans across five different surfaces. I love how a door is painted over the real door.

graffiti artist

It was fun and the guy I talked to let me check out his gear. It takes a lot of time and effort to do a really big mural and this one is my favorite:

orang utan graffiti

This 1 ½ storey mural is an intricate piece of art depicting a female orang utan carrying a baby and the alpha male baring his teeth. It’s done primarily in orange and you can see the sheer detail from the skin and fur of the animals, as well as the tropical sunset background. This was taken in May Lane/Caroline Lane in Newtown.

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14 thoughts on “Newtown graffiti and street art”

  1. Lovely street art. I liked the graffiti in the toilets in Melbourne – very intelligent, very witty and very funny. None of the obscene trash that we have in ours in the country. I truly enjoyed reading them all so much so that I seemed to spend a lot of time in the toilets. LOL!!!

    • Yeah, Melbourne has a very vibrant graffiti and street art scene too! 🙂

      I remember a lot of nice places in CBD when I was studying there, and there’s a really famous graffiti artist who did a piece while in Melbourne, which was then removed by the city council and that got a lot of flak coz it was a really nice piece of art which the city didn’t recognize. They do have a clause preserving works of art now.

  2. The artists sound like they have the free hand and space to allow their creativity to flare, but there has been a bad stereotype over graffiti arts. It’s like only the gangs use it to mark their territories. =/

    • Yeah, that’s a different kind of graffiti! 🙂

      Those are called “crew tags” where they just spray the initials of the gang, or the numbers representing the initials of the gang and other gang-related tags e.g. threats, homages to dead members.

      Mostly it’s harmless, there’s a movement to support that locally too!

    • Hmm…I think it’s anti-establishment. 🙂

      I’m a bit like that myself. It’s not anti-authority per se (although it seems that way, especially when younger) but more an alternative lifestyle. I think a better way to describe it is to include the Greenpeace types (although I’m not like that) and the vegans, or even the organic food producers, who are all, in some way or another, anti-establishment.

  3. This street paintings are nice and colourful to liven up bare walls or boring streets! I am now guessing whether those painters got permits before painting murals on the walls in Penang.
    I regret for not taking much photos of the street Art in Chengdu as they used real old stuffs like chairs, tables, lamps and bicycles etc to mount onto the walls.

    • Yeah, they did get a permit in Penang! 🙂

      In Malaysia, you have to get a permit, and those are actually *commissioned* pieces of art. That kinda thing doesn’t go down to well with the scene, graffiti in Sydney that was commissioned for Green Day’s album was tagged over with “CA$H COW”.

      Commissioned pieces are “sanitized” graffiti, not really representing the scene at all.

    • Thanks mate! 🙂

      Yeah, it’s a nice place to walk around and there are a lot of grungy cafes too, there’s one which is LGBT friendly – went there for lunch and there are 4 (FOUR) toilets – one for male, one for transsexual, one for female, one for other. I thought it was really cool!

    • Yeah, it takes a whole crew (which can be a lot of people) days of continuous work to finish a wall sized mural like the orang utan one. 🙂


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