Culture Scout, Craig Bunker, is an Adelaide-born and bred artist, who is now a local Inner Westie and expert on the cultural scene and the neighbourhood street art found there. An established artist and illustrator, he sources his inspiration from comic books. We sat down with Craig to learn more about his past, his art, and his passion for the artistic community in and around Newtown.
You’re a street artist yourself, is that correct?
I started off as a street artist, and I think like lots of other street artists, you kind of blossom off into different things. I do a lot of sign writing now, and my I’m concentrating more on comic books - I’ve been into them ever since I was a kid - I was always doing comics and stuff. I came to Sydney about 10 years ago - from Adelaide - I grew up down south in a place called Hallett Cove, near Brighton. I used to wander around on my own a lot and think of ideas for comics.
Just recently I took three months off and went back to Adelaide, I spent my time drawing so that I could create a colouring-in book. Comics has definitely taken me over for now. Street art will always been there, but it’s not my focus at the moment.
Is there a name we could look out for on the street? What name do you go under?
Bunkwaa. I still do stickers and cheeky little things. For me street art was just like going to the pub, I would just go out with friends, and we’d drink beer and paint walls and glue things to walls and be naughty.
Did you ever do a mural that you were allowed to do?
Yeah - a lot of my murals are gone because they are under layers of other murals. With street art - it’s something that you have to keep up all the time, if you don’t everything starts to get cleaned up, or covered by other murals.
Where did you usually do murals?
I’ve done some in Surry Hills, in Chippendale (for Pine Street), and Tortuga Studios - they have this really good practice wall there.
What do you love about scouting for Culture Scouts?
I just love the community I live in, it’s just so buzzing and creative and it’s a really inspiring place to be. The tours give me a chance to not only tell people about the town and all the great things, and all the great art, but you also get to pop into more creative shops and meet designers and things like that, so you get to know more people in the community as well. It’s a great excuse to meet people. In that area too I’m also running kid’s art classes.
I love pointing out things like the backs of signs to people on the tour, and once I point them out they are like “I’ve never noticed that before” - and now they are noticing that the backs of street signs are caked in artist’s stickers and stuff, and all the little cheeky things around. I used to make little cardboard characters and I would hide one in like the crack of a wall or something for someone to look down and go “Hey what's that?”. It was ephemeral, I just wanted to turn people into that kind of person, that is constantly looking around for little things.
What’s your favourite thing to show people in Newtown at the moment?
I mean, it's the obvious one, but I really like the 'I Have A Dream' mural (on King Street) because I have a real strong connection to that mural. When I first came to Sydney there were a bunch of artists camping out under the mural - it was the really early days of artists like Ears (Daniel O’Toole) , about eight or ten years ago. We were just doing art on cardboard and stuff, I was drawing little characters on cardboard and selling them for fifteen dollars. I did that for ages, I made well over a thousand drawing like that. It was a great time, it was like an open air studio. Occasionally other people are still there. It was a free space, so people could just come and set up their stuff, and they would. It was a really arty spot for a while. It’s not so much now, it’s mainly just a place for markets on the weekend - where people sell jewellery and secondhand books and things, so not as cool anymore! A lot of those artists who were there when I was there have gone on to do some of the big murals that you see around the area.
Who painted the 'I Have A Dream' mural?
I’m really kind of intrigued by that story, it was painted by a guy called Andrew Aiken. He was a homeless person, and he was a street artist that did a few other murals around Newtown that no longer exist sadly but that particular one was done illegally, and he and his girlfriend (Julie Pryor) worked on the mural for 24 hours, and some of the shopkeepers around pitched in money for cherry-pickers so they could get right up to the top and do the whole thing. But the intriguing part of the story is that after that mural was finished he went to a priest and confessed that he had killed somebody overseas and the priest told him you’ve got to go back and face that. And he did, and he went to jail and I don’t know if he is still there - this happened in the U.K.
The artist was British? I thought he would be Indigenous Australian?
Well no - that’s interesting isn’t it, because the Aboriginal flag came after, so he didn’t actually paint that. There was a crowd of people there originally painted on the wall - the aboriginal flag is covering that. I don’t know who painted the flag, someone just turned up one day and painted it. It kind of solidified the mural, because no one is going to paint over that flag now.
Is there much illegal art around Newtown now?
There is, there’s heaps - if you go through the back streets, there are so many throw-ups still going up, the culture still exists. Sometimes you see throw-ups on top of murals as well. The worst is when you see someone even just spraying a line through a mural, that’s not even creative!
Is there anything that you might have think people might not have seen in Newtown that you like?
There’s an artist called Will Coles that I love just because of how naughty he is, he’s just so mischievous. People always miss his stuff, so you have point it out, and when you do, people start noticing him everywhere. He’s the guy responsible for cement televisions with inscriptions on them. There’s lots in St Peters, lots in Newtown. There’s a bit of a problem with him - people steal his work. He uses really strong glue to stick his things down but people will try to prise them off. He’s got a mobile phone piece, and the phone is glued down, but a lot of them you find you’ll see someone has chipped away at it. He finds it quite annoying, because he puts his work out there for the public and it’s meant for everyone. You might have seen the balaclavas on the the ground, all in cement. He was in Sculpture by the Sea one year, and then the next year they wouldn’t let him in so he made all these giant soy sauce sushi fish and he scattered them along the beach - they were massive. They left them there, because people liked his style - his cheekiness.
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