– by David Charlesworth
Hampton Road Lodging House in Fremantle is a place where people are given support and a place to stay while they are getting back on their feet. Now the charity lodge is getting a well deserved facelift, with international and home-grown artists beautifying the walls outside and in. Among them is Amsterdam-born, Fremantle-based artist Xander Rood, also known as Amok Island, who for the past week has been working on a building-sized seahorse mural. I had a chance to speak to Xander about the impressive project.
Why did you take this job on? FORM contacted me to paint this wall, and straight away I liked the project. It is rare that you get an opportunity to paint your artwork on such a huge scale, and I have the possibility to add something positive into the community/neighbourhood.
What inspired your design? I have been looking for a subject that would fit the shape of the wall, the location, and also the story behind the city. A seahorse was very fitting because of the shape, and the nature of the creature fits location since this particular seahorse is found in the Swan River. The addition of the Sargassum weed that the seahorse holds on to makes a nice metaphor for a holdfast or home since the building is a Foundation Housing building.
Have you worked with FORM before? FORM has commissioned me to create a number of artworks now; a few in Perth, in Port Hedland, and the seahorse in Fremantle. I have also been part in the ‘Living Walls’ exhibition in June 2012 and ‘PUBLIC – Salon’ exhibition in May 2014 which were at the FORM Gallery in Perth.
Why did you choose to do street art as a style? I personally would not describe my style as street art but I understand why people put it in that category. I feel that I am an artist that paints his works on murals and canvas, so something like ‘mural artist’ would feel more right to me, but I am not very concerned about titles. I come from a graffiti background and over the last 15 years my work has transformed into what I do now.
How has this project gone compared to others? Were there any particular challenges to it? The project went very well, I was lucky that everything went like planned. Paints covered well, the wall was not porous or difficult to paint, I did not get any rain or wind, and the bricks were handy to use as straight lines. I was expecting to paint 5 days in total, but I managed to get the wall done in 3 days plus a few more hours on the 4th day.
What projects do you have planned for the future? I am organising a few more large scale murals around Perth at the moment, and I want to do some more screen prints in my ‘animals of Australia’ series.
Amok Island designed a similar mural of a sea turtle for a building in Geraldton as part of the ‘Animals of Australia’ mural series. Fremantle artist Anya Brock has also painted murals for 100 Hampton Road on the interior of the building. Similar projects have been completed on various public housing buildings around Perth through a partnership of the FORM Gallery and Foundation Housing. Maya Hayuk (USA), 2501 (Italy), Jaz (Argentina) and Lucas Grogan (Vic) have all taken designed and painted murals for the project.