Ian Morris has been painting Government Street in Victoria for the past 15 years, using chalk to highlight famous paintings from the past in a modern way. Most days, weather permitting, you’ll find the 50 year-old hunched over the bricks etching flawless details onto the sidewalk.
“I think the impermanence enhances its’ beauty, like the blossoms or the trees or a chef preparing a banquet, or even childhood itself — all things pass,” says Morris.
Prior to work on the street, Morris was making original pieces in a studio but found that to be too isolating and with not enough lucrative business he decided to try something else.
Morris says he’s as much of a raconteur as a graphic artist and uses his work to engage with people passing by. Spending four days detailing Helen of Troy, a famous peice by Dante Rossetti, Morris says that was the most fun he’s had in a while.
“I was sitting here the other day, telling a young family about Helen of Troy and there was a group of ladies sitting at this table and one of them was a classics professor, and she gave me the thumbs up on telling the story,” says Morris. “The pictures are mostly just a way of inciting interaction and stories.”
One of Morris’ favourite ways to incite connection is through 3D illusionist work, or anamorphic perspective drawings, that play tricks on peoples eyes depending on where they’re standing. The illusion works through a camera and once Morris shows one person how it works, he can stand back and watch the convection.
“They start reaching out to strangers passing by — ‘Hey, you’ve got to look at this’ — and all of a sudden, this device that so many people are isolated in, I’ve subverted it and now they’re using it to reach out to complete strangers,” says Morris.
For Morris, who doesn’t have internet or a phone, face-to-face connection is important, something he thinks the world needs more of.
“That’s a big part of what I do, is get people out of their little worlds and maybe hear a story,” he says.
For Morris the off season is his favourite time, when he has a chance to speak with locals or the odd tourist but says during peak seasons things can get a little crazy on the street.
“When things get really busy in the summer, there’s a lot of tourists taking photos and just walking by me like I’m part of the scenery — that can be really annoying,” he says. “It’s like a mosquito bite, it happens once and it’s annoying but if you’re being eaten alive all the time it can really play on your good nature.”
Morris has made appearances at many international street chalk art festivals but wants to continue spreading stories and smiles on the streets of Victoria.
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