Street art unites in time of isolation

Street art unites in time of isolation

By Marco Holden Jeffery

For many Southbank residents, finding a sense of community and connection during the lockdown has been difficult.

But street artist Peter Seaton hopes his new mural on City Rd can bring locals together, whether out for a walk or looking on from their apartment.

Peter, better known as CTO, said he painted the work to remind people of the importance of relationships and intimacy during the pandemic.

“One of the most human things that we have is our connection with one another and the coronavirus has sort of tested that,” he said.

“It exposed the vulnerability of how we do think that we’re invincible and something like a little virus can shake everything up.”

The mural, titled Trapped in the 3rd Dimension, depicts a man and a woman wearing gas masks locked in a passionate embrace.

It forms part of Peter’s greater body of work which focuses on human emotion, diversity and interconnectedness.

“We can reduce everything to chemical reactions within the body, but I still think the complexity of the human limbic system and our emotions are not really encapsulated with science yet,” he said.

“I think art shows us something more than just the physical. What we feel when we look at a great painting or work, it gives us this sensation that I don’t think science can quite encapsulate.”

Born in Wellington, New Zealand, Peter studied fine art at Whitecliffe College of Art and Design before choosing to focus his practice on street art.

“A lot of people go to these really high-level galleries and they see these works of art that are a broken chair or something like that, and they get aggravated at the whole art establishment,” he said.

“Street art is so in the public realm. It’s available for everyone, you don’t have to go to a gallery, you don’t have to pay anything, everyone can experience it.”

Even people in the apartment buildings adjacent to the mural were able to experience Peter’s work.

While he was painting, one local approached Peter with a USB full of photos chronicling the progress of the work, taken from the photographer’s balcony with a telephoto lens.

“He could still access [the mural] in isolation and that’s an amazing thing,” he said.

Peter has worked all over the world - the US, Europe, South America and Asia - but he still thinks Melbourne is the best place for street artists.

While the medium “gets left a little bit in the background” in famous scenes like New York and Los Angeles, street art is front and centre in Melbourne.

“Street art, graffiti and urban art culture are really meshed into the fabric of its tourism and its iconography,” he said.

During Victoria’s strict COVID-19 lockdown, Peter was either working in his studio or spending quality time with his brother, who had just returned from living in London.

“I think [the lockdown] was a good reset for us all to come inwards a little bit and focus on your family unit and your home base,” he said.

“When we are in these apocalyptic settings, all we can do is love each other.” •

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