Me and UooUoo for the Royal Children’s Hospital – Part 1

In early 2020 I was selected as one of 100 artists who would participate in the Royal Children’s Hospital 150th Anniversary art trail. We were commissioned to each paint a statue of a UooUoo, a mythical creature kind of like a friendly wombat of prehistoric proportions, in our own unique way.

In June 2020 I went to a warehouse in inner Melbourne to meet my partner UooUoo and complete the work. It was a great chance to work in a new space, meet some of the other participating artists, and have fun while helping a vital and highly respected Melbourne institution.

Warehouse painting is much different to working in my personal art space. I’ve done it before during my art residencies in China so I knew it was important to go with the flow and embrace the fact I don’t have control of my environment. The light varies depending on the time of day, dust falls on my work, paint drying time is unpredictable, and there are people around doing similar work or taking an interest in what’s happening. I prefer to welcome the situation and let the work be influenced by its surroundings in some way.

My task was to decorate UooUoo with wattle. It was winter when I did the work, but in the summer when it’s placed somewhere in public as part of the art trail, I want it be a burst of colour and positive energy. To me, wattle means the change of season and the beginning of the warmer months. It is the end to shorter daylight hours, grey skies and being stuck indoors. It’s about change and new possibilities. If I could share just some of the feelings and emotions with the public, all the work would be well worth it.

I’d never worked on something this large before and I didn’t realise it would be a full-body experience. I was always moving up and down and walking around in circles as I tried to get the right balance of energy across the three-dimensional space. Sometimes I had to crouch, lie down or put my body, or UooUoo’s, in awkward poses to cover the whole surface.

While there was planning and purpose to the design with balances of colour across the sculpture and flows in the leaves to give a sense of vibrance and movement, wattle doesn’t grow in an organised or repetitious way so I couldn’t over design it. The end result is based on how wattle actually grows combined with artistic licence and the possibilities of canvas I was working on.

UooUoo just needs some final touches before it is put back into the care of the Royal Children’s Hospital. The next time I see it, it will be on a street somewhere in Melbourne or Geelong.

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