A well-known face from Canberra’s arts scene, James Small has won the competition to design a new mural for Endeavour House in Manuka.
Better known as Smalls, the 26-year-old artist received the most votes from the public for his design titled “Yellow Tailed Cockatoo”.
Smalls said he felt “amazing” and “very special” when he heard he had won Ethical Property’s competition for the inspiring and engaging mural on the theme of climate change. The company received 23 designs from local artists which was put to a public vote in February.
“A few years ago, I went and took photos of that wall and spoke to a few of the shops downstairs trying to approach anyone that might know a landlord or someone I could get in touch with to paint that wall,” he said.
“It’s come full circle and it’s pretty special now I’ve been selected to have my artwork on that wall.”
Growing up in Belconnen, Smalls would practise his art on a custom-built wall in the backyard and has been working with paint, aerosol, and large-scale murals for the past 13 years. His work around Canberra includes the Red Wattlebird on Bradley Street dining precinct at Westfield Woden and a Kookaburra as part of a collaborative piece in Braddon.
Smalls said the Endeavour House mural is slightly different to his usual work. Instead of directly painting the mural on the wall, it will be printed on vinyl and installed on the wall in sections.
“That’s a first for me. I am professionally a large-scale mural artist but to have one printed of this size is going to be pretty unique and pretty cool to see that process done.”
He said his “work often draws inspiration from native flora and fauna”. His winning design combines an illustration of a Yellow Tailed Black Cockatoo perched on a branch of Banksia Integrifolia, with an abstract yet symbolic background.
“It’s important that it’s visually appealing as well as has a message to it so I’ve utilised the structures and the colours in the piece to artistically symbolise things like fire, smoke, fog and pollution.
“Then it transitions into the nice, cooler, calmer colours of oceans and skies and greenery … The Yellow Tailed Black Cockatoo is one that I know a lot of Canberrans love to see but they still have that little bit of mystery and awe around them … they are a species that is under threat,” he said.
“A lot of my art, I try and inspire some kind of change or impact in people. So, this having a kind of theme to it, really struck with me and my art.”
Smalls is also a familiar face to up-and-coming artists, as he donates much of his time to local schools and youth groups, helping to immerse young people in art and expression.
He hopes the art will spark a positive reaction for the public.
“I’ve tried to keep it optimistic and hopeful. The word ‘hope’ is subtly wound through the background because I feel it’s important to remember that there is a lot to gain through positive climate action and being more ecofriendly,” he said.
“Art plays such a massive role in how we view so many things, even subconsciously … Art builds community and culture, especially in Canberra … It creates discussion, it inspires action and change. I think this will hopefully be a good example of that kind of action.”
The design is expected to be installed in April.
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