Art & Design


Anthony Lister’s ‘Street Faces’

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After living and working for the past five years in New York and having exhibitions at some of the top galleries around the globe, street artist Anthony Lister has returned to live in Australia. Now based in Brisbane, Lister talks to the Milk Bar about being away and his new solo exhibition ‘Street Faces’.

Milk Bar: How did you begin in street art?
Anthony Lister: How did I get into it? I guess it’s the typical story of hanging out when I was 12 and 14 with older boys who skateboarded and drew on things they didn’t own. I was naturally attracted to that and I started doing it and ended up getting good at it. That led to doing art classes at school, which led to led to going to uni, getting an arts degree then a mentorship and moving to NYC. That led to meeting people all over the place who do what I do. Graffiti is one of those things that really leads you to meet other people who do what you do and you hang out together.

MB: What is it about painting in public, less traditional spaces appeals to you?
AL: It’s the fact that it’s a 24/7 gallery, it’s accessible to everyone all the time and different people in the community can all contribute to it. I love the fact that I can take advertising spaces that Coca Cola would probably want but can’t have and it costs me nothing.

MB: You spend your time between Australia, Berlin, London and NYC. With the internet allowing artists to be more instantly aware of global trends, do you feel this detracts from cities having their own style?
AL: No I don’t think it detracts from it at all. Australia, London, Berlin, NYC and LA are all distinctly different and will always be that way because of the people who live there, their culture and identity makes a city what it is. Berliners are free and easy going, New Yorkers are fast and busy and Londoners are cool. It takes many years of chiseling away at a city to see its true colours and you have to love a city before it can love you.

MB: In Berlin earlier this year you painted a piece called The Experiment for six days and nights straight. Tell us about this experience.
AL: It was crazy, I got on the ground and basically had to start painting. I had some canvasses and some walls and that was it. But that’s what I do, I just go in there and start working. It’s fun and it’s challenging and it’s very real, there’s a conscious vibration of what needs to be on each particular wall and knowing that and understanding that makes for a great result. I was pretty tired by the end of it, but it was worth it.

MB: What’s it like returning to Brisbane after living overseas for so long?
AL: All my paintings are painted over! So I need to make some new ones. I love being back. We’re based in Mitchelton with our three kids, although I travel around a lot and am rarely here for more than three months at a time in between projects.

It’s such an escape after barraging through all these big cities all over the world. Brisbane’s amazing, it has quaint little shops, I get to make milkshakes with the kids and chill out.

MB: ‘Street Faces’ documents what happens to your street portraits over time, and people’s reactions to them. What are your thoughts on street art, and the fact it will eventually succumb to the elements?
AL: The sheer ephemerality of street gives me strength and a great deal of scope to do what I do. The fact that the work is going to be gone in a few month’s time allows me to be much freer with it than with the fine art I do on my gallery canvases. I’m also now working in bronze though which is much longer lasting.

‘Street Faces’ is showing until 17 September
Metro Gallery, 1214 High St, Armadale
Photographs by Justin Joffe. See more of his work at

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