Australian Graffiti


13 x 5 mins


Not all art is ‘fine’ – but it all says something about who we are




An irreverent walk through some of the all time greats of the lesser arts -  graffiti, cigarette cards, T-towels, coasters, posters, beach towels, T-shirts, advertising jingles, lesser-known poets are all part of a moving pastiche that has reflected and defined the Australian psyche in the past  – and continues to do so. Some people collect ‘fine’ art – others are drawn to those things that best capture a sentiment or a moment in time – whether these be tea towels or cigarette cards, bottle tops or coasters. While most attention is given to the ‘great and classical’ aspects of art – this program claims proudly that ‘lesser art’ is just as enduring, and, at times, more interesting. We take a journey round the edges of Australian art – as found in everyday things.

Series Outline

Each of the five minute segments focuses on one colourful Australian social strand – weaving the visual, audio and personal threads together in a  fragments icons of the ,  The series is a blend of obscure and iconic relics of the past with contemporary obsessions. The approach is tongue in cheek but has an underlying fondness for the subjects and articles we find – remembering that what we consider ‘modern’ today will be the kitsch of tomorrow.

Strong, contrarian editing and

The Segments


1.    Beer

2.    Smokes

3.    Sport

4.    The Beach

5.    The Car

6.    Emblems

7.     Royalty

8.     T-shirts

9.     Graffiti

10.  The housewife

11.  The great backyard

12.  The dinki-di Aussie

13. Great Aussie products (Vegemite, pavlova, Lamingtons)  

Ep 1 – The Amber Fluid

Background track (very low) ‘They Said You’d Never Make it’

A series of lithographs and prints from the late 1700’s-1800’s, ale houses, breweries, Sydney Cove, etc.


James Squire was the pioneer – came out on the first fleet and started brewing at Kissing Point, Parramatta, 1794.

The jingle fades to a chunky beat and a series of stills of beer bottle tops, 4 per second. These slow and we pull in to the old John Tooth White Horse beer top – this cross fades to the label


I don’t know how many I have – probably in the thousands…

Rob sits in his ‘special shed’ – really a shrine to the beer label, holding his prized Tooth White Horse label. On the wall behind him is the famous ‘Beer – helping ugly people get sex since 1862!’ poster. Every inch of the shed is taken up with labels or posters. We examine these as Ron speaks.


Every collector’s different – some just go for the commemorative labels, I actually look for artistry and design –

Linger on a Jamieson's Raspberry Ale label.


Although I will snap up something that’s a bit odd…

A jingle fades up under this last – the original Fosters (1958).

Over this we hear the distinct sound of a beer bottle being opened and cut to:

A kangaroo paw beer opener.



The kangaroo paw is just one in a long line of strange and particularly Australian openers – a modified spark plug, one that appears to be a stuffed cane toad and one that looks, quite frankly, like a pair of women’s legs. Jingle fades.


It’s called Breweriana – you know, all the stuff that goes with it – everything but the beer I guess.

John holds what looks like a tie.


This is my favourite…

He fiddles with it for a moment, puts it around his neck and adjusts the end, which forms a loop. He puts a glass into the loop and we realise the tie is really a pulley affair – pull on one end of the tie and the glass is raised up to drinking level.


Australian ingenuity.

The jingle fades.

CU of Karen Cheng – she’s an artist and looks like it.


My penchant is ‘found art’.

A tattered and torn beer coaster is superimposed over her face. It rotates this way and that and is joined by a second coaster, that finds a comfortable position.

Her face fades as they are arranging themselves.

A sound montage of clips from jingles:


You can get it…

I feel like a

It’s got the flavour, that makes life worth living…

I can feel a 4X coming on…

It’s a big ad, my god it’s big, it’s a big ad we’re in…

As the strains of these famous jingles fade, we move to a what appears to be a gallery. In fact, it’s the living room of Ray Boerth, an avid beer coaster collector. Some of them are framed and hang on the walls, the more valuable are under a glass case.


There’s an infinite variety – that’s part of the charm. There’s the really basic like this Tooheys…

and then over here is one signed by Pro Hart. My personal thing is coasters from brands that are extinct, or interesting brands like Dogbolter…look at that, beautiful, eh?

We segue seamlessly back to Karen Cheng, She works on the collage of coasters we saw previously 


I find art in everyday things. This piece began when I found a coaster that was torn in half - I could see a pattern… 

She moves yet another coaster into place.

From this esoteric art-in-progress we crash cut to a jittery, eye jolting CU of a lagerphone* being thumped on stage. The Bushwackers with their timeless ‘Lime Juice Tub’. 

MIMO COZZOLINO, author of ‘Symbols  of Australia’, sits in his small office, surrounded by posters of logos and trademarks . The tail end of the Bushwackers over his opening words.


The logo - or trademark - is often a barometre of our nationalism. They’re also a wonderful guide to the ethos of a particular era. In the 1920’s the Prince of Wales visited Australia…

We pull in to the Swan Brewery trademark of the time -  the 'Prince of WA ALES'

And from this to a chronological montage of pub beer posters – from the 1920s to the 1970s. Freeze on the Redback poster and seque to the coaster.

Karen has finished her collage. It’s actually quite artistic, in a haphazard fashion.


Art is – where you find it…

But her collage is fading rapidly to our own montage of beer mugs with tits, a skull bottle opener, the Coopers ‘outback’ series of labels and some rather tasteless beer mats featuring reclining blondes.

The last metamorphises into the famous Chloe painting (Young and Jacksons, Melbourne)


Ahhh, now that’s art…

But even Chloe is shape-shifting – cross fading into an impertinent copy in which her left hand holds a schooner.



* A lagerphone is, of course, a musical instrument made from a long broomstick with dozens of beer tops nailed to it. Quite a good sound if you like that sort of thing.