This is the final round of Secret Walls, the culmination of six months of Sydney street artists bringing their battle face to a subterranean club in Sydney called the Oxford Arts Factory. And after knocking out six other worthy opponents, Ben Brown and Dale Bigeni are here to take each other down in a 1,5 hour display of their skills. No sketches, no pencils. Armed with nothing but a couple of black markers and paint, they step up onstage and are each presented a two by two metre white wall.
The contenders start on the outlines of their design. DJ MK-1 gets out his swag of old school hip hop and party tunes as the venue fills up with kids from Sydney's surf and skate scene, all tatts, baseball caps, and backpacks. They take turns leaving their own tags and drawings on a dedicated white wall in a back area sectioned off with glass. But most of them are rapt watching Ben and Dale quickly fill up their spaces and occasionally eye one another off.
One hour in and Ben - who judged Secret Walls last year - is starting to add cracked teeth to a giant, fleshless version of Dale burning in hell. On Dale's head is a baseball cap that reads "Taken" - riffing on Dale's fashion label of the same name. Underneath it reads: "Taken down by Mr Brown?"
26-year-old graphic designer Dale has drawn a cute, comic version of himself in a chef's hat, licking his lips, surrounded by desserts. A ribbon behind him announces: "Fresh Baked Ben Brownies." Also pictured are "Teem Tarts" and "Sindy Scrolls", in memorial of the artists he knocked out in rounds one and two, Teem and Sindy Sinn.
The host steps out and gears the crowd up to count down the final five seconds. When it's paintbrushes down the judges reveal their decisions, split both ways. So it came down to the people's choice, measured in cheers on a decibel reader, and eventually going to Dale by a nudge.
An epic battle and two talented finalists, but eventually it was Dale Bigeni who proved, perhaps for the first time, that baking and battle street art make an awesome combo.
Photos courtesy of Monica Tan