Saturday, March 03, 2007

Rebel finds God in spraycan

This column has appeared in The Redland Times, Cleveland, Redland Shire, Queensland, Australia. Image courtesy of "Sudsy"

MANY must have sighed with relief in the mid-90s when a court case involving many charges of willful damage and trespass unveiled the face behind the graffiti tag, "Sudsy".
The face belonged to teenager Oliver Walker, who migrated with his family from England in 1980, lived in Perth before moving to Brisbane in 1983 and, after seeing the cult movie, Beat Street, devoted himself to the graffiti underworld.
"Sudsy" admitted tagging just about anything that stayed still in the Brisbane and neighbouring areas for almost a decade before the law caught up with him.
The sentence of more than two years jail must have been sweet for the mainstream community that dismissed his expressions as vandalism and an affront.
The penalty certainly would have delighted those counting costs of restitution of his "canvases" to their gloriously blank states but "Sudsy" later "got off" with probation, fines and community service.

HISTORY shows the wisdom of the appeal system in giving that reprieve. Oliver, now 32, married and with kids aged 6 and 3, says the "breathing space" allowed him to understand himself better and to want to help others -- not necessarily with paint supplies but simply to offer a caring hand and sympathetic ear and to share his art and life in other ways.
Oliver Walker says he called himself "Sudsy" because someone once made a practice of holding his hands in near-boiling dishwater as discipline. He was just a little child.
But Oliver does not seek sympathy over his own past sufferings. He says his escape to WA after the court case was "light at the end of the tunnel".
He worked with Fremantle groups including the city council, youth service and art centre, and in the years since, he has also worked in WA and Queensland in aged care and with the disabled, and qualified as a chef.

NOW a youth worker at Brisbane Youth Detention Centre, Oliver says he "rediscovered my Christianity" along the way. He has lived at Birkdale and Alexandra Hills for the past five years. He still paints for himself and others.
Oliver, who has advertised in our Fast Find Services under the heading "Murals/Artist", told me his story and verified this account on February 28, 2007.

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