14 May 2015

SHAD unearthed

A large-scale mural I painted in 1987 for Cafe Maximus in St Kilda has been uncovered and returned to prominence by the restaurant's new owners. Approximately 12.5 metres long x 1.5 metres high, the mural was one of two commissioned for the restaurant by Alan Powell Architects. The other was by Roger Maloney. Running the length of the building they were a strong part of the restaurant's design. A tiled façade included sculptures by Peter D. Cole. I also designed two large sculptural lamps for the bar area. 

A young artist at the time, the mural was a late iteration of works started in 1982. I wanted to amalgamate my interest in the anatomical works of Vesalius with the dramatic silhouette studies in photographs and charcoal drawings I made while living in St Kilda. The fibrous trunks and bending branches of the trees were like the stripped cut-away bodies found in Renaissance woodcuts; the implicit humanism of the anatomical works became stylised and abstracted by 1986. Several of large-scale drawings made at this time were acquired by the National Gallery of Victoria and Monash University.

The mural for Cafe Maximus obviously took a different approach but the strong broad sweep of branch-like limbs are in this work too. What you get are not representations of St Kilda palm trees but four or five big intersecting curves which structure the composition of the mural. The leaping rhythms and stretched perspective of the Maximus mural suggest muscularity and life force overtaking any literal locality or landscape elements. The mural was designed to be dramatic and organic; a beautiful struggle of forceful elements. It is good to see it 'active' again!
The Maximus lights (no longer at the restaurant) were the first lights that I designed and made. I have since gone on to work at a much larger scale but the combination of art and design in the Café Maximus project continues to be a major characteristic of my practice.  

          Lona Pinxtos Bar, St Kilda.  Image courtesy of HotHouse Media & Lona Pinxtos Bar.