Gratifying Graffiti

Never mind that stencil art is an almost non-existent art form in Singapore. Australian painter-photographer Peter Skalberg, who travels frequently to New York and back home to Melbourne, finds a certain charm in it. “On my travels, especially in Melbourne and New York, I come across striking pieces of work,” he says. “I photograph them and have been lucky enough to have the work displayed for exhibition. It’s taken many years to get to this spot today, but it’s been worth it.” All 40 photographs in the exhibition, each of them one-offs, are reproduced onto textured A1 and A0 high format paper, and cost between $1,500-2,300 each. We talk to Skalberg about his first solo exhibition here.
Why your fascination with stencil art?
My fascination is not just for stencil art, although there is a lot of it appearing on the walls of Melbourne. I’m just fascinated with any organic type of art that captures my imagination. This could be a poster that has been recreated to communicate a message, or a graffiti-based piece of work that has been re-edited into an identifiable shape or face.
It’s fascinating because there is real talent involved with many of these images. They are spontaneous, dynamic and real. There is nothing false about the work and it comes from the heart. It’s produced via emotion and insight. In an age of consumer marketing and advertising where most images we see are perfected and created in a closed environment, the work we see on the walls of streets in NY and Melbourne are pure expressions untainted by consumerism.
Why photography?
The organic nature of stencil is such that it may appear only for a few weeks or days, and it is then replaced with another image—they are very representative of life itself. Everything changes and is reformed into new life via the life cycle. My interest is to capture these moments of expression, and ultimately show others as well. Whilst I paint and have my own creative talents, it is my perspective on what I am seeing that is important and how I can communicate it.
Do you think stencil art will ever become a phenomenon in Singapore?
Stencil art will never become a phenomenon in Singapore in our lifetime. Urban art, or whatever you want to call it, is organic, real and a natural expression of an individual. The Singapore I know would never let people stencil work or paint on the sides of buildings at their own creative pleasure; and they shouldn’t, as it would ruin the look of the city. The work that I have represented in the exhibition are small samples of thousands of images appearing in Melbourne and New York, and they can be a real eyesore. So, for good reasons, we will not be seeing this type of work in Singapore.
Who are some of your favorite stencil and street artists?
These street artists are anonymous. That’s the beauty of the work. It comes and goes and anybody can add to it. It’s the energy, color and simplicity of the work that appeals to me.
What’s the main theme or point that you’re trying to address with this exhibition?
The main objective of the exhibition is to reveal other directions in art such as urban art that can be just as interesting, involving and appealing as a Rembrandt painting. Hopefully people will see the realness of the work, its organic birth and depth.