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Sky’s the limit: Ash Keating turns future gallery site into an artwork

Using fire extinguishers filled with paint, artist Ash Keating has sent this future gallery site up in artistic flames. And has put the towns of Moama and Echuca on the art map.

Sky’s the limit: Ash Keating turns future gallery site into an artwork

There is excitement in the air in the regional twin towns of Moama, New South Wales and Echuca in Victoria. A showstopping artistic endeavour by famed Australian artist, Ash Keating, has the locals talking and will become a drawcard for visitors – but only for a limited time.

Keating has performed a super human effort painting a house planned for demolition in Meninya Street, Moama. Owned by the local Bridge Art Project Committee, the house site is set to become a future gallery, community facility and an arts trail to support both Moama and Echuca. Funding is sought, and through the generous involvement of Keating and his endurance painting of the Meninya Street property, a spotlight has well and truly been shone on the proposed project.

Keating is well known globally for his vibrant, urbane and thought-provoking works that examine landscape and industrialism with vivid abstractions. His commissions have won praise and recognition both at home and abroad and his artistic style pushes the boundaries that bring wonder to the viewer and provides connection to communities.

Ash Keating, photography courtesy of Steve Huntley, Riverine Herald Echuca.

The art installation began in the dawn hours of Tuesday 29 March 2022. Keating, equipped with fire extinguishers filled with paint, water and pressurised air, painted the partial built house on Meninya Street over the next several hours, completing the project the same day. The colour palette was chosen in response to working on country directly adjacent to the Murray River. There are earthy red oxides, blacks and greys with vibrant neon orange, red and pinks that cover the building and make a dramatic statement that stops traffic.

Allison O’Brien and Jacqueline Berthaume, who lead arts communications on the committee explain, “the artist was encouraged by our committee to use the unfinished house as a limitless carte blanche for experimental art work. In other words, the sky was the limit.” And Keating has obliged with a sensational explosion of colour in a most unexpected place.

The house is soon to be demolished to make way for the proposed gallery and the idea that the project would be temporary appealed to Keating, who is well-known for his large-scale artworks. With great generosity, the project was funded by the artist as a gesture of artistic, financial and moral support for the community’s desire to bring art into the regions.

Related: A lively and creative dialogue for reconciliation through architecture

The masterplan for the proposed world-class arts precinct will utilise the areas of Meninya Street Moama and extend through a raised walkway to the Murray River, a distance of approximately one kilometre through riverine forest. There will be walking and bicycle paths, an arts trail, sculpture park and rehabilitation of previously farmed land for the growing of Indigenous food and fibre. However, funding is urgently required if this is to become a reality.

The project is situated on Yorta Yorta country, whose nation comprises 16 family groups across a wide portion of North Central Victoria and Southern NSW. The clans include the Bangerang, Kailtheban, Wollithiga, Moira, Ulupna, Kwat Kwat, Yalaba Yalaba and Ngurai-illiam-wurrung people. The river was not a border to First Nations people, but now forms the state border between Victoria and New South Wales.

While the communities of Moama and Echuca have embraced the scope of the proposed project, Keating’s intellectual investment through his artwork brings much needed publicity to the Bridge Art Project Steering Committee and their plans for this part of regional Australia.

The artwork will be demolished soon, so time is short to view the project in the flesh, however, for those unable to travel to Moama, the artwork has been documented through photography and video that is available on social media and the Bridge Art Project website.

That a famed artist has given time, talent and energy to a project that will benefit so many is exemplary and paves the way for others to follow suit with donations and funding. It’s simply not enough for cities to share and enjoy art, the regions are hungry for amenity that includes art and facilities that will bring their communities together. The Bridge Art Project Steering Committee is working hard to ensure the Moama Echuca region has the opportunities that those in the city take for granted, and Keating is leading the way with his prodigious talent and inimitable style.

Ash Keating

Ash Keating, courtesy Ash Keating and Bridge Art Project

We think you might like this article about Sydney’s newly established Walsh Bay Arts precinct.

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