Baby Guerrilla is a street artist, painter and drawer whose work transforms the walls and buildings of the west and beyond into living, breathing waking dreams that remind us to imagine and evoke feelings of hope and wonder.
The scale of some of her work is breathtaking, like the expansive piece that spans the front of the Victoria University on Ballarat Road, Footscray. A figure of a woman flies across the building’s façade, as if at any moment she might slip beyond the bricks and shoot out into the sky.
From the major to the minuscule, all of Baby Guerrilla’s pieces affect the spaces they inhabit, creating surrealist galleries from urban environments, making you look skywards, upwards to sigh and oh and ah.
Despite the large-scale commissions she receives, practicing as a street artist demands anonymity. She closely guards her identity, so she can continue to go on what she calls ‘sneaky missions’.
This is a very private artist making very public work.
I think of her as an art ninja, heading out under the cover of darkness, quietly moving through dark streetscapes, scaling walls to select the perfect concrete canvas to share her latest work.
She always knew she wanted to be an artist and from a young age was working on creative problems and thinking conceptually.
“One of the first things I thought was how would you make a person, literally make them.
I was always coming up with problems and solutions and just working things out, it’s still a huge part of my practice.”
Baby Guerrilla was set for a career as a painter after studying fine art majoring in oils, but street art soon became her focus.
It allowed her to subvert the traditional art world, to reach a broader audience and to share her work without permission and liberate it from traditional spaces.
“One of the real appeals of street art to me is that it takes it out of a gallery’s hands and kind of gives it directly to the people. And it’s up to them to either reject or accept and you’ll hear every opinion under the sun – either love or hate – and its very honest and takes it away from having to ask permission from this obscure other authority figure or something and that’s kind of a cool thing about it.
I can’t say enough about contributing to public space and reclaiming public space, fighting off bureaucracy and the corporate dollar and having a voice.
Having a voice I think really drove me at the beginning to put stuff on the streets because I guess you don’t have to ask that permission to be able to express yourself.
I hate asking for permission or needing anyone’s approval.”
We talk about the thrill and risk of working covertly but also about how her commissioned pieces have allowed her to explore her work in new ways on a much larger scale.
“A part of it for me is the adrenalin, that is probably my major love, but then there is stuff that you can only do with machinery.
I just wanted to step into the work more, I wanted to explore peoples faces on a larger scale, really just step into the idea and you know there’s only so much you can do with a ten meter ladder and it becomes quite logistical and I don’t want to die either.
There’s no way I could have done VU (Victoria University) without that support and machinery and stuff so yeah that’s the good thing about it for sure, and you can take your time, you don’t have to be in such a rush or all those other crazy considerations, you can work like a proper workman and be proud of your craft.”
She says her art has become more externally focused over time, reflecting the world around her. Baby Guerrilla’s current work addresses politics, immigration and action not apathy.
We talk about living life as an artist, the challenges and rewards. She says it’s all she’s ever known.
“I haven’t chosen a material kind of lifestyle. I work pretty hard a lot of the time, but it’s my passion. I wouldn’t give it up for anything.”
The nature of her art practice involves a degree of physical risk and she concedes that using ladders and doing the things she does horrifies some people, though she’s always felt safe.
“Everything’s a risk probably, I mean, doing art is a risk, but I think we’re lucky we live in Australia.
Having an art career, I mean what’s the worst that can happen? You have to go back to Maccas or something and get a job? (laughs). You can’t fail that bad here.
I’ll always feel if I never did this it would make me so sad to not follow my passion and my dreams - that would be the risk for me.”
Baby Guerrilla may remain faceless, but her work and her voice are all around us and through them we get to know and experience a woman who lives and breathes what she does, a true artist in every sense.
words Jessica Dean + pictures Kim Aleksandrowicz