Flash Forward, a pandemic project by the city of Melbourne, turned ugly corners of the CBD into dazzling works of art.

Some of the commissioned works have become iconic, to the point that it is difficult to imagine the city without them. How can we ever return to the bleak neutral void of Parliament Station now that we have Drez’s sparkling work in Ulster Place? The concentric rectangles of spectral blues and magenta have connotations of Op Art or James Turrell’s light installations. They ingeniously invite you to dive into the network of tunnels below.

The work of Evans Lane for Puzle's Flash Forward.

The work of Evans Lane for Puzle’s Flash Forward.Credit:Puzzle / City of Melbourne

All of these artists have a strong sense of design – dead spaces of modernist walls are immediately monumentized by inventive chromatic abstractions.

But similar things can be achieved with photography, such as with GETNUP’s illusionistic blocks and fake masonry at McIlwraith Place. The empress of artificial rhythmic stones is George Goodnow, whose broken string courses in Tattersalls Lane will make you dizzy if you study them for too long.

These artists have avoided the trap of simply tattooing a large wall with a motif. Instead, they took up the entire available area to create a resonant visual architecture in contrast to the existing architecture.

The same logic is also applied to media other than painting. For example, Jarra Karalinar Steel has decorated the top of a building on Goldie Place with a neon that reads, “You are on country.” This strong First Peoples sentiment is all the more powerful for adopting the corporate language of branding, claiming ownership of expensive urban real estate.

Yandell Walton’s countdown clock has an equally unnerving effect on Platypus Alley. The display tells us the time remaining until 2030, when the temperature is expected to have risen by a catastrophic amount.

But not all artists work with paint or neon. There are some worthwhile experiments that treat the avenue as if it were a gallery, where outdoor light boxes allow photography to flourish in an environment that would otherwise be hostile to it. The presentation of Jessica Schwientek’s streetscape is excellent; and so with Ruofan Lei’s funny illustrated tableaux in Smythe Lane.

Many works have a striking relationship with their site. I like the edge of the wall jutting into Corrs Lane, which Sarah CrowEST has marked with arrows and block letters: “Close to the edge”. Her work in Hughs Alley is equally witty; and in fact humor is a big part of the project. Bootleg Comics’ work on Crown Place is funny in an absurd vein. Reading the images may take you longer than you’d think you’d be stuck in a cul-de-sac.


With black humor, Bacondrum leads you to a morbid artwork with skulls on the end wall of Kirks Lane. It says “Dead End”.

Many moods and social circumstances are represented. I enjoyed Prue Stevenson’s talk on autism in Little William Street. It’s something affirming that you rarely come across in a gallery.

Find a guide to the Flash Forward artwork at flash-fwd.com

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