Besides having one of the greatest names of all time, street artist Fintan Magee has been putting his hometown of Brisbane, Australia on the map. At least when it comes to street art. Lauded as Australia’s answer to Banksy, the young artist’s similarities with the renowned English artist pretty much stop at the lazy comparison. Magee, after all, is an entirely different kind of artist. So much so that Banksy and Magee couldn’t be more different.
Growing up in Brisbane, Magee paid close attention to the art scene in Sidney as he was growing up, and the look and feel brought to that area influenced his own future work. “Sydney was a world mecca at that time and it was producing some good work. A lot of the walls I was looking at as a kid were done in the inner west,” Magee told The Australian last year, “I think the inner west is the home of Sydney’s street art because of its more working-class roots, whereas the eastern suburbs were a bit wealthier and more conservative.”
Magee’s work is full of colour and life, unlike Banksy’s famously colourless stencils, but they do share a love of humour, although for different purposes. For Banksy, the humour is spiky, aimed directly at political institutions and powers that create a world of oppression and privilege. For Magee, the humour is about smiles and laughter, an intrigue that comes from looking at art as art and not as criticism.
Much of Magee’s humour and approach stems from a political issue, however, one that has been a problem for graffiti and street art since its inception: gentrification. For Magee, the phenomenon has made the conditions for great art, like the working class origins of Sidney’s graffiti scene, much more difficult. “Urban renewal is happening everywhere and gentrification is something artists are worried about big time,” he says, “But murals add a lot to the community. Having strong visible culture is incredibly important because not everyone can go to a gallery everyday. It is important to make art part of everyday life.”
And with that idea in mind, Magee sets out to make street art the isn’t necessarily bearing the shrewd agenda of Banksy’s work, but instead something that people can get behind to break down the stigma around graffiti and street art in general. And by doing so, he hopes to give himself and his fellow artists opportunity in the future.
Fans of Magee’s work can see it all over Brisbane, naturally, but it’s also been creeping out around the country, including his much-loved Sidney and Toowoomba. But no matter where he goes, the art remains beautiful and captivating, a true pieces of art that seek to enrich and bring smiles, from knowing smirks to outright guffaws, to the people of Australia. He may be as popular in his home country as Banksy, but that’s where the comparison of these two incredible artists stops, and that’s a good thing for expanding the idea of what street art and graffiti can do.