History Hangs at Barracks

Rob Douma and Kelly Bianchi with members of the Third Brigade's Chauvel Mess Committee. IMAGE: Rob Douma

A mural painted by two local artists recognising the rich history of Townsville’s Third Brigade was installed at Lavarack Barracks last week.

The 7m-long mural stretches along one side of the Chauvel Mess, and was created by artists Rob Douma and Kelly Bianchi.

Rob said the concept for the mural was to acknowledge the different fields within the Brigade.

“When discussions first started about this commission, the Third Brigade were looking at seven portraits to represent their key areas and points in their history – basically to be a historical narrative. That’s when I suggested it would look more effective if we used the entire space and created a mural,” Rob said.

“By the time we were given the green light, I realised due to my uni and work commitments that I really needed help, which was when Kelly came on board. Kelly taught at Tafe for 10 years and is a better painter than I’ll ever be, so thought this would be a great opportunity to work on a collaborative project we’d both get something out of.”

Kelly said the project was something different, and the opportunity to work with another artist was appealing.

“I’d never worked on anything of this scale before which excited me, plus the mural would act as a piece of local history – it’s good to get out and collaborate on pieces every now and then,” Kelly said.

“Painting is normally quite a solitary pursuit when you’re alone in your studio, so it was good to get to collaborate.”

A key part of the mural is the real people Rob and Kelly included in it, sourced from various archives.

“I had a fair idea of the Third Brigade’s history because I’m ex-military myself, but through this process I made contact with various museum curators on Lavarack because we wanted to try wherever possible to get footage and images of actual people that had served,” Rob said.

“Working on this did make me realise that while I served I was quite insular in my role, because coming in now and talking to all these different organisations, they all have so much history to share and they’re all equally as proud.

“We’ve been speaking to a lot of the museum curators and Unit Commanders who have stated they understand the potential for visual communications to impart history on younger soldiers who often may just go to work, go to gym, go on social media and leave. Images like the mural help them absorb and is hopefully getting some of that history across.

“The mural is in the Third Brigade’s Sergeant’s Mess which isn’t open to the public – so generally, you won’t be able to see this one in particular. But we’re talking to the big players out there to try and start getting more artwork in publicly accessible areas.”

Catch Rob Douma exhibiting as part of Sea Walls Australia’s #atropicalstate Exhibition at Cairns’ Old Canopy Arts Centre from 28 April – 6 May. Rob is also a finalist in the Percival Portrait Painting Prize, exhibiting at Perc Tucker Regional Gallery from 27 April – 15 July.

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