Artists: James Beattie (Dvate) and Jesse Bell
As you stand dwarfed by these gouldian finches, imagine being surrounded by a flock of tiny glowing balls of colour.
100 years ago these small birds were common, numbering in the hundreds of thousands. But there are now fewer than 2,500 left in the wild. Every gouldian finch in the wild could be packed into a space the size of an average laundry sink.
These finches are threatened by changing fire practices (which reduce food availability) and tens of thousands of birds were trapped for the aviary trade up until 1981.
“I found it interesting that these finches highly threatened in the wild, but a popular animal to breed in captivity, so they get overlooked in a lot of ways because people assume they’re everywhere, but in actual fact they’re struggling. One of the main places they are found is just South of Darwin. If you’re invited here to paint you should be giving a gift back to the city with your work, so you want it to have a sense of place and feel like it should be there”, said Beattie.
This mural shows the three colour-varitations of gouldian found in the wild: Black-faced (which make up around 75% of all birds), red-faced (25%) and the extremely rare yellow-faced variation, who only occur in around 1 in 3000 birds.
The Northern Territory is home to Australia’s largest population of wild horses, or brumbies. A tangible link to the rich heritage of the Territory’s stockmen and station life, artist Loretta Lizzo was inspired by their symbolism of power and freedom.
“I can remember always loving them and thinking they were so beautiful and looked so wild and free”, said Lizzio.
Horses have a special place in the hearts of many people in the Territory, and during the painting process many stopped to share their stories with Lizzio.
“Everyone has a story about the time they used to own horses. When you’re painting on the street different people connect with it in different ways, it’s really nice to hear everyone’s stories”, reflected Lizzio.
The Melbourne-based artist grew up on a sugarcane farm in Queensland and remembers jumping on the backs of her neighbour’s horses, but is especially drawn to the power of those in the wild.
“I’ve always wanted to paint a horse. I was aiming for quite a romantic piece”.
Mike (Makatron) and Sped
The location of this mural, adjacent to the Darwin RSL club, provided significant inspiration for artist Mike.
Mike sought to link and contrast the distant World War I battlefield of France, and it’s iconic red poppies (said in folklore to have grown from the blood of fallen soldiers soaking into the ground), to the green of tropical vegetation in the Top End, home to the families of the forever-lost soldiers.
The tropical scenery can also be seen to evoke more recent conflicts, such as the Vietnam War. Tropical vegetation can be seen as lush and inviting, or oppressive and overwhelming, depending on your experience.
“I like to represent the magic of Australian landscape and flora and fauna and put a twist on it.
It’s a creative interpretation of past works with jungle landscapes and forest scenes. I think most people who see it will get some sort of enjoyment out of it, big or small and I hope it inspires people to add colour to more walls”, Mike said.
The Darwin RSL celebrated their centenary on September 13, 2017.
Cam Scale and Les Huddleston
While in Kakadu, local artist Les Huddleston spotted what he thought was a huge dust storm brewing. As he got closer the real image emerged - more than 60 brolgas kicking up the dust as they danced.
Brolgas are known for their intricate mating dances, which often begin by tossing a piece of grass in the air and catching it in their bill. The elegant birds then jump into the air with open wings.
Huddleston and Melbourne-based artist Cam Scale created this wet season themed mural in response to the wall’s venue - Monsoons.
“When the monsoonal rains come the billabongs get full of water to the extent that they meet the saltwater. When they meet the saltwater come in and breed in the billabong. That billabong turns into a life source for Aboriginal people that go down and drink water and hunt for fish and the birds eat the fish and the turtles. The painting represents a life force”, Huddleston explained.
The depiction of fish swirling in the billabong at the feet of the dancing brolgas is a reminder of the beauty and necessity of the natural world.
“The mural shows the importance of our natural environment. Maintaining our natural environment is the most important thing we can do and I think people tend to forget that sometimes. If we don’t maintain our environment it doesn’t matter what we do”, Scale said.
The sun rises over the ocean in Tim De Haan’s home in Sydney and sets over the ocean in Shaun Lee’s home in Darwin. Both artists are deeply influenced by their saltwater homes and the bold futuristic designs blend together their unique styles and rich cultures.
Lee is a Darwin-born Larrakia man while De Haan grew up by the ocean in Narooma on the far south coast of New South Wales. Lee’s crosshatching is a Larrakia design while De Haan’s curves are reflective of the ocean swell of his childhood.
“The crocodile, the barra, long-necked turtle and magpie goose - Darwin is a saltwater area and these are also significant to me and my family being saltwater people. The colours are outback colours - you get amazing sunsets up here and the red earth and blue skies. Especially during this time of year when they’re doing the burn off when the sky turns purple”, explained Lee.
For De Haan, it’s important to leave behind a piece of art that anyone can connect with.
“I think it’s important to have outdoor galleries for people to enjoy at any time, whether you’re coming home after a few drinks or a dinner, or out for a walk first thing in the morning. The beauty of abstract work is that people will see stuff within that we haven’t planned”.
Tom Gerrard (AEON) and David Collins
Tom Gerrard’s passion is finding the shapes that shape a city. The Melbourne-based artist was keen to explore the relationship between tropical flora and architecture, and how they work together to form a unique, livable space.
Tom worked with local artists David Collins and Les Huddleston to explore the striking angle and silhouettes of some of the Top End’s most iconic natural and built structures- the town hall ruins, a banyan tree, a chair resting lazily beneath a palm tree, an elevated house, a water tower and a termite mound.
Gerrard’s distinctive minimalist colour palette of red, black and white was an evolution of daily drawings with red and black pens, and painting murals in developing nations with very basic materials. The simplicity of the painting also emphasizes the architectural elements of his subjects.
Looking beyond the border of the mural you may spot a cheeky mullet-man. He isn’t a response to the magnificent manes and mullets sported my some Territory residents, but instead is a character of Gerrard’s seen throughout the world.
A little red notebooks travels with Gerrard wherever he goes, and it’s now plump with sketches of Darwin’s defining landmarks and tropical plant and wildlife.