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

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

Evans Lane's work for Puzzle's Flash Forward.

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

All of these artists have a strong sense of design: the dead expanses of the modernist wall have been instantly monumentalized through artful chromatic abstractions.

But similar things can be achieved with the creation of images, as with the illusionistic blocks and the fake brick of GETNUP in McIlwraith Place. The empress of artificial rhythmic bricks is George Goodnow, whose fractured ropes courses on Tattersalls Lane will leave you giddy if you study them too much.

These artists have avoided the pitfall of simply tattooing a large wall with a motif. Instead, they have taken advantage of the entirety of the available area to create a resonant visual architecture in counterpoint to the existing architecture.

The same logic applies to media other than painting. For example, Karalinar Steel Jug has adorned the top of a building on Goldie Place with a neon sign that reads, “You’re in the country.” This strong First Peoples sentiment is made even more powerful by adopting the brand’s corporate language, asserting ownership of expensive urban real estate.

Yandell Walton’s countdown clock has a similar unnerving effect in Platypus Alley. The screen tells us the time remaining until 2030, by which time temperatures are projected to have risen by a catastrophic amount.

But not all artists work with paint or neon. There are some worthwhile experiments treating the alley like a gallery, where outdoor light boxes allow photography to flourish in an environment that would otherwise be hostile to it. Jessica Schwientek’s presentation of backstreet images is excellent; and so too with Ruofan Lei’s amusing illustrated pictures in Smythe Lane.

Many works have a surprising relationship with their site. I love the protruding wall margin on Corrs Lane, which Sarah CrowEST has marked with arrows and capital letters: “Near the edge”. Her work on Hughs Alley is equally ingenious; and in fact humor is a big part of the project. Bootleg Comics’ work on Crown Place is funny in a wacky vein. Reading the images could take up more time than you imagine going around a dead end.

Charging

With dark humour, Bacondrum takes you to a morbid piece of skull art on the wall of the Kirks Lane terminal. He says “dead end”.

Many moods and social conditions are represented. I enjoyed the Prue Stevenson autism exhibit on Little William Street. It’s the kind of affirmative thing you’d rarely find in a gallery.

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

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