In the back alleys of Sydney’s Inner West, street art finds its home, and each artist has their own story. This is horticulturalist x artist Hugo Starr’s.
How did you first become interested in street art?
When I was studying Society and Culture for my HSC, I based my major work around understanding people's perceptions on graffiti and street art. I’m a horticulturalist by trade, but am really interested in understanding what’s socially acceptable when it comes to art. Finally, over the last year or so, I’ve delved into making my own street murals, and I was stoked when the guys from We the Wild commissioned me to create a piece!
What led to the decision to mix art with horticulture?
Really I'm just passionate about creating beautiful and captivating things with my hands and that's why I have gravitated to these two distinct yet similar fields. Art has always been a constant in the background for me and I take a lot of inspiration from the beauty of nature around me.
What do you think that plants and street art have in common?
I'd say they have a lot in common, although it isn't always that obvious at first glance.
Street art is its own natural, living organism that is constantly changing and evolving with the times and trends in society at large. New artworks replace the old, street artists change, and their works mature.
Plants are much the same. They are never idle. They are constantly adapting and evolving with the environment around them. The more care and attention they receive, the more they grow and reach their full potential, much like the more a street artist paints, the more their art progresses and they themselves reach their artistic potential.
Do plants feed into your creative ideas?
Plants and nature feed into my creative process in many discrete ways. Many of the shapes I create are a reflection of the shapes I observe in nature. The curvature of leaves and stems, the perfection of petals in flowers that seamlessly overlay, the way stems branch in an organic fashion.
How has your experience of working in both artistic and horticultural spaces influenced the way you see the environment?
Being both an artist and a horticulturalist allows me to truly appreciate the environment at a greater level. Whenever I walk the streets of the Inner West of Sydney, I am always absorbed by what's around me.
The walls tell a story of anonymous people's travels… their hidden messages written in obscure fonts that hide their meaning to most passers by but are clear to someone who knows graffiti and street art well. When I'm not looking at the man-made side of my environment, I can really step back and appreciate the beautiful impact that nature has on a space. I can observe how plants follow the seasons and flower at specific points across the year.
I also constantly have the urge to get my hedge trimmer out and tidy people's overgrown hedges as I walk around, but that's just what working in garden maintenance does to you.
What’s your one piece of advice for budding green thumbs?
Time and time again, it comes back to not over caring for plants! It's vital to know your plants and their specific growing requirements and to stick to those, no matter what. A lot of new gardeners kill their plants with kindness by overwatering, over fertilising, and essentially over loving!
If there's one thing I would stress regarding plant care is to take the time to research plants before you buy them. Decide how much time you want to devote to gardening and plant care and then find some plants that match the level of effort you are willing to invest in maintaining them. For example, succulents are very simple, low maintenance plants to care for. However, Maidenhair Ferns are much more difficult indoor plants to care for, and they are far less forgiving if overwatered.
Do you have any suggestions for our newbie plant mamas and dads?
Start by moving around your house and assessing how much light each room gets. Most indoor plants love bright, filtered light. Once you can see the light conditions, visit your local nursery and rely on their horticultural knowledge to find the perfect plant!
Often plants miss out on the vital nutrients and bacteria that makes them thrive in nature. That’s where the guys at We the Wild come in… it makes caring for your beloved plants a million times easier. And finally, I would get onto YouTube and start watching some videos about plant care and understand some tips and tricks for keeping your plants healthy and happy. There's so much knowledge out there, so take the plunge and start your journey of gardening and making your life and world more beautiful by taking the time to appreciate and care for plants.