Graffiti king Russell Fenn escapes jail
A NOTORIOUS graffiti vandal turned acclaimed artist has escaped a prison sentence for his past life defacing trains and private property.
The Brisbane Magistrates Court yesterday heard Russell Orrie Fenn, 23, was a renowned aerosol artist in the international graffiti “sub-culture” before police raided his home in June last year.
Police found numerous spray paint cans along with a computer hard drive containing photos and videos of Fenn and others spray painting trains, walls and other property.
He yesterday pleaded guilty to 37 counts of wilful damage between 2005 and 2007.
Police prosecutor Senior-Sergeant Mark Gorton said Fenn was well known to police by his “tag”, an artist’s signature on their artwork, and had many previous convictions for vandalism.
Fenn was known both nationally and internationally as “sofles”.
“He is one of the most significant, if not the most significant graffiti artist that’s been brought before the courts in many years,” Sen-Sgt Gorton said.
Fenn’s case highlighted the debate between proponents of “aerosol art” and those who saw it as common vandalism.
“(The police) see it as serious criminal damage and yet in the mind-set of the young offender it is part of youth culture,” Sen-Sgt Gorton said.
He said while Fenn’s fame stemmed from his illegal artwork, he was moving away from illegal activities.
Defence barrister Andrew Hoare said his client had become a successful legitimate artist, selling work for “considerable sums of money” and holding successful exhibitions at leading galleries.
The State Library had commissioned him to paint a mural as part of Brisbane’s Ideas Festival in March, the court heard.
Mr Hoare said his client was working with the police graffiti task force, helping them to “understand the mind-set” of other young vandals to encourage them to take up legal forms of expression.
Magistrate Noel Nunan sentenced Fenn to six years’ jail, to be wholly suspended, and two years’ probation. He must also perform 240 hours of community service and pay $14,000 in restitution.
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