Memes can’t be art, can they? If not, then what is art but to capture the nuances of human thought, feeling and behaviour? This is something that few other mediums do as well a the humble meme. Over the last few years, memes have provided some of the most memorable and pointed entries into contemporary culture - exactly what art should. Maybe it’s the fact that they’re not hand drawn or painted that means we lower their value. Lucky, then, that Australian artist Lushsux does paint them...
Creating murals in the style of memes is his modus operandi, utilising a type of art that went through the same battle a couple of decades prior. Even in the early 00s, debates raged about whether graffiti could be considered art, before the tag of ‘street art’ had really taken hold.
At the time, graffiti ranged from crude tags to quick-yet-innovative throw-ups. There wasn’t true uniformity amongst them and, in a sense, you could probably rate the artistic merit of each style and each artist accordingly. There was validity in the debate. Some graffiti was more 'art' than others. The writers would agree, too. Memes aren’t too dissimilar. Some are innovative, some are risque, some are funny and others are rubbish.
Avoiding the pitfalls, of which there are many, of being a meme-creator per se, Lushsux pulls the best of the net and plasters them on walls around the world, although most often in his native Melbourne. That’s not to say he steals or copies, he simply pulls from the zeitgeist, still creating original pieces, only without the comments section that social media has.
That being said, they still make their way onto social media through his Instagram, which has found the artist in a spot of bother on more than one occasion. For whatever reason, the Aussie has a thing for US rapper 50 Cent. Unfortunately, it’s not clear whether 50 Cent also has a thing for him.
Back in 2018, Fiddy was portrayed as Takeshi 6ix 9ine, a polarizing figure in hip-hop as it is and a comparison that the ‘In Da Club’ singer was less than happy with - publicly. After a hiatus from fiddy-baiting, Lushsux returned recently, developing hybrid personas around puns, where the rapper mashed-up with Taylor Swift, Mike Tyson and Mike Pence who became Swifty Cent, 50 Thent and 50 Pence respectively.
Most recently, a David Spade rendition resurfaced with a Kurt Cobain quote attached, moderately irking the former Saturday Night Live comedian who shared the image on his own Instagram. That’s almost as bad as the time the artist was banned from the platform for portraying Hilary Clinton in a skimpy swimsuit - an image we could all live without, anyway.
What’s most interesting about this artist is that he embraces, not shies away from, the inherent transgressive nature of memes. More wholesome (briefly) when they started surfacing on online message boards, memes now capture not only the most relatable sides of everyday life, but the darker aspects of our subconscious that most people try to subdue. Just like Chandler using humour as a coping mechanism in Friends, we tend to hide behind a facade that memes do well to expose.
A hero to some, villain to others and a meme-speech advocate for all, Lushsux settles the debate of what a meme really is once and for all. Their purpose mightn’t always be inherently artistic, but they do exactly what art should do in the purest sense, capture that which words can’t and express the very things that have no other outlet to be expressed.
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