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In a fit of idleness, I find myself flicking through the arts section of Australian ABC iView, amongst a series of short documentaries about artists who paint outside and big. I’ve always been intrigued by murals and their scale. My first encounter with a mural was a trompe d’oeil window on the living room wall of an artist friend who’d just liberated herself from an obnoxious and controlling husband. More recently, I’ve been relishing the street art icelandpenny uncovers and keeps uncovering in Canada.

So I am ready for the artists featured in the segments of ArtBites called “The wanderers.” There I meet a number of young Australian artists who ramble around the world painting on walls and other large public surfaces, and bonding with communities. My favourites all paint in Australian country towns, familiar landscapes to me, where they talk to the locals to get a feel for place and story.

Guido Van Helten has left his mark in many countries. In Manildra in central western NSW, population about 500, his chosen canvas is the side of freight trains carrying flour from the biggest flour mill in the southern hemisphere. He chooses local faces, photographs them and then reduces them to eyes, because “whole faces aren’t the right shape for a railway carriage”. He attracts an audience as he works, locals intrigued by seeing people they know emerge from the steel. 

Nowra is one of the destinations of the train: it’s also the station where I change from bus to train when I travel to Sydney, so who knows? If I miss out there, he has also painted in my daughter’s work-town of Stanthorpe. When I visit in the middle of the year, I’ll definitely be able to see one of his pieces in person.

(Photos from Google images)

Georgia Hill is an unlikely mural artist at first sight. Her art is precise, black and white, and features lettering. She goes to Tarraleah, a small isolated hydro electricity town in Tasmania, expecting to be drawn to the Art Deco buildings and other structures but instead finds herself attracted to the stories of people. Her painting has to be done in a hurry to beat the weather, and she paints for two days from 8am to 1am.

(The photo is a screen dump from the documentary.)

Amok Island travels to the Heron Island research facility on the Great Barrier Reef and nearby Yeppoon for his segment of “The wanderers”, exploring underwater for his images. He works very precisely, designing on the computer and aiming for realism abstracted, mathematics with heart. He’s a keen underwater photographer and says that tracking down a hard-to-find underwater creature satisfies him in the same way that placing his graffiti in a spot that was really hard to reach did when he was a graffiti artist. His Barrier Reef images he paints on walls, but the link takes you to banksias on silos and other images he has left all over the world on a variety of surfaces.

(Photos are screen dumps from the documentary)

The other artists featured in The Wanderers series are Elliott Routledge, DabsMyla, and Rone.