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Laneway mural offers advice to young women

Artist Hazel Dooney has painted a text-based mural in Melbourne's Royal Lane entitled 'Ten dicta for young women who are artists'.

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The edgy artist Hazel Dooney says that although lord mayor Robert Doyle, who commissioned her to paint a laneway wall, was ''completely trusting'', some behind the scenes at the City of Melbourne were not.

''It was nerve-racking for them,'' the Brisbane-based artist says. ''I'm clinically insane and have made sexually explicit work. I understand why they were a little bit nervous.''

Dooney, 34, has had bipolar disorder since she was 16. Despite that, by 2007 she was selling her trademark hyper-coloured enamel paintings for more than $20,000 through Christie's in London. And she was the only female artist under 30 with work held by the famous auction house. This year she was supposed to have three big shows of new work in Melbourne, Sydney and Los Angeles, but in April admitted herself to a psychiatric hospital.

The confronting artist Hazel Dooney in Melbourne's Royal Lane. 'I'm not trying to make slogans,' she says. 'I'm trying to have a real conversation. In bite-sized pieces.'

The confronting artist Hazel Dooney in Melbourne's Royal Lane. 'I'm not trying to make slogans,' she says. 'I'm trying to have a real conversation. In bite-sized pieces.' Photo: Angela Wylie

Her father died and she was creatively stuck. She had also published an extraordinarily brutal and cathartic essay called Broken detailing the ''manipulative paedophile'' high school teacher who seduced her in year 11 and introduced her to drugs. This, she says, ended in depression and an eating disorder.

Dooney blogs and tweets, and Cr Doyle read a blog entry about wanting to do public art for local governments, and got in touch with her. Her blog can often be what is termed ''Not Safe For Work'' on account of Dooney's uninhibited sexuality. ''The bit I read was certainly safe for work,'' he says.

Cr Doyle says he is a fan of Dooney's work and once unsuccessfully bid at auction on one of her highly sexual, anime-influenced Dangerous Career Babes paintings.

''I'm not an art critic, but hers is challenging and provocative work,'' he says. Negotiations for the Melbourne piece took a year, but it was finished last week in Royal Lane, off Bourke Street. It is a text-only mural called Ten Dicta For Young Women Who Are Artists - a list of 10 rules, created by Dooney but painted by two Melbourne signwriters over 10 days.

''I'm not trying to make slogans,'' she says. ''I'm trying to have a real conversation. In bite-sized pieces.''

Public spaces are dominated by advertising, she says: ''Especially ads targeted to women, which are dishonest and make women feel lonely.''

Dooney's proudly feminist ''dicta'' include the dogmatic (''You can't win as a woman in the art world. Men invented it for themselves. Subvert and destroy it'') and the funny (''Always refuse sex with an art dealer. You will only ever be sleeping your way to the middle.''). She has signed it: ''Break the rules. Make up your own. Hazel Dooney 2013.''

Her thinking is that when she was younger no one advised her on anything, least of all the challenges to women artists.

And while she admires the text-art of US figureheads Jenny Holzer and Barbara Kruger, this is something different.

''It's not pretending to be advertising,'' she says. ''This is not to reflect something about our culture, it is to try to add to the culture. I wanted it to have humour and truth but not be a lecture. I wanted it to be broadly accessible.''