With an immense body of work documenting and beautifully depicting Canberra’s Clem Cummings bus shelters over the last eight years, Newcastle-based artist Trevor Dickinson has now literally written the book on them.
As is so often the case, it took the fresh set of eyes of an out-of-towner to recognise, appreciate and capture the true eccentricity and distinction of Canberra’s iconic Clem Cummings bus shelters.
So many locals had grown up with or grown accustomed them and in turn didn’t think much of the funky 1970s era concrete cylindrical shelters.
“It just felt very Canberran, but people of Canberra took it for granted,” Dickinson told Canberra Weekly.
“I like trying to find things that people don’t really notice.
“Anywhere you go, you’re lucky to find an urban structure that’s just all over and just taken for granted because of that.
“It’s not often you get something that touches the whole city and almost defines it.”
It wasn’t until Dickinson first spotted the bus shelters across town during a residency at Megalo Print Studio in 2012 and set about drawing an initial series of them, that they started to get the recognition they deserved some 38 years after they were first designed.
“I did the bus shelter early on and it was quite popular … Right from the first one I realised people appreciated it.
“That always makes me think I’m onto something because I like the work to connect to locals.
“I dipped my toes into it and realised more and more that this was a project worth following.”
Since then his works have been plastered across coffee cups, playing cards, stubby holders, tea towels, jigsaw puzzles and now a new book.
Titled Trevor Dickinson’s Beautiful Bus Shelters of Canberra, the 166-page hardback book covers Dickinson’s vast eight-year project.
After his run of initial illustrations, Dickinson wouldn’t have known just how far down the Clem Cummings bus shelter rabbit hole he’d end up going.
“I realised it would be a really good project to just record and do a drawing of loads of them for an exhibition, and in doing that I wanted to record all of them in Canberra,” he said.
Between 2012 and 2018, Dickinson photographed all 483 of the iconic concrete bus shelters in Canberra over two to three years and illustrated more than 80.
“Every time I’d come to Canberra for a market I would actually go off and collect bus shelters and tick them off like a nerdy train spotter,” he said.
“I was trying to get different times of year, different times of day, different weather and I realised it was actually a portrait of Canberra I was getting as well.
“More and more, it felt like I was actually doing something that hadn’t been done.”
Part one of Beautiful Bus Shelters of Canberra contains all of Dickinson’s final artworks, plus original drawings and other associated imagery.
It opens with a succinct history of the then-controversial shelters, including snippets from local news coverage, copies of original design documents, and a bio of Clem Cummings himself.
Part two is a photographic record of all 483 bus shelters in Canberra listed alphabetically in suburb and street order for easy reference.
It also goes to some length to show the groundswell of community engagement Dickinson has enjoyed since embarking on the project.
“Someone took my cards and went out to every bus shelter and took a picture of it with the card,” he said.
“I love it. It feels like I’m really doing my job, I’m saying look at these and people are responding.”
Trevor Dickinson’s Beautiful Bus Shelters of Canberra is now available online here or in store at selected outlets.