Stark vision of beauty

laneway mural
The side wall of the Uniting Church’s synod offices at 130 Lt Collins St is being turned into a visual meditation on what we see and what we don’t.

Artist Al Stark is into the second week of transforming the Coromandel Place laneway wall into a giant mural and thinks the project will be finished in another two days, although he has until the end of this week.

Mr Stark was commissioned by the Melbourne City Council, in consultation with synod, to paint the mural as part of the Greening the Laneways project.

He said he was pleased with how the work was shaping up but he needed some time and distance to judge it properly.

“It usually takes me a while before I can look back and think it came out pretty good,” Mr Stark said.

“When you are this in the thick of it, it’s hard to know if it’s any good.”

He said his “first and foremost” aim was to create something beautiful that would strike passers-by and then to impart some of the work’s meaning.

“All my work at the moment is about what we are losing through a sort of nostalgic lens, like when you look at back at something and realise it was so beautiful and it’s gone,” he said.

“The ferns represent the Earth. In the foreground you’ve got people looking at phones. In the background there are all these beautiful things but they’re completely narcissistic.

“There’s also this idea that a landscape can’t be a landscape without a human in it. We don’t look at the landscape and take a photo of it, we take a photo of us.

“So the theme is not entirely optimistic but I try to balance that out with the beauty.”

Although the iconic figures in the work appear religious, Mr Stark said that wasn’t entirely intentional but they were meant to convey a spiritual quality.

Mr Stark said what really appealed to him about public art was that it reached out to a general audience.

“The most important thing for me is having access to the sort of people who don’t normally have access to art and ideas,” he said.

“It’s the inclusiveness that is important to me. Actually being in the world and every day talking to people while you are working that’s a real pleasure.

“You get to interact with people whereas in the gallery scene it’s a very closed world.”


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