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Sunday, May 16, 2021

Quintessential Canberriana captured

It’s an iconic piece of the Canberra landscape that many of us take for granted, but it truly inspired artist Trevor Dickinson when he first came to town around six years ago.

That inspiration is, of course, the ACT’s quirky round concrete bus shelters.

Designed in 1974 by Canberra-based architect Clem Cummings, they’re synonymous with our city to anyone who’s spent a meaningful amount of time here.

Dickinson, who resides in Newcastle, told Canberra Weekly that his project of illustrating the bus shelters started when he was based in Canberra for an artist-in-residence program at the Megalo Print Studio and Gallery in Kingston.

“You can pretty well go to any suburb in Canberra and you’ll find one, it’s like a symbol … some cities have got them, and in Australia, I haven’t found them aside from this.

“It was a great way of doing a portrait of Canberra; I made my way all around town.”

Trevor Dickinson’s Beautiful bus shelters of Canberra exhibition at CMAG features his illustrations of 52 of the iconic concrete shelters made from Clem Cummings’ 1974 design. Photos RLDI.

After doing a few one-off sketches of the shelters for tea towels, coasters and prints that proved exceedingly popular, Dickinson then decided to dedicate a whole series to them.

Setting out with the intention of photographing all 484 shelters that stand in the ACT, he was assisted by Transport Canberra who gave him the details of where to find each bus stop.

While accomplishing that, Dickinson illustrated 52 in his whimsical yet grounded style for a deck of cards.

“The more I saw them, under traffic lights or at night, they took on a completely different light and kept changing how they’d look,” Dickinson said.

“There was also that sense of finding them dotted around … they have character, they have personality and they come up nicely in the drawing.”

He said a lot of what he’s doing in each picture is about what surrounds the shelter, and the familiarity that brings with it to local residents.

“It’s the context of where they are, the weather, the light and the time of day so you’ve got some that feel like a frosty morning and others that are a sunny evening.

Dickinson’s illustrations, in his whimsical yet grounded style, have been warmly received by locals who appreciate the celebration of the iconic piece of Canberriana.

“They’re also really good because they resonate with people, anyone who’s grown up in Canberra has sat in one.”

He said the ones people respond to most tend to have something unique about them, be that their location or the odd bit of graffiti.

“A lot of it comes down to the drawings; it’s the ones that look different and stand out.

“One of the bestselling ones has ‘big fat poo’ written on it … children find that one funny, and it’s not too offensive.”

An exhibition of Dickinson’s illustrations, and some other related material, called Beautiful bus shelters of Canberra, is currently on show at the Canberra Museum and Gallery (CMAG) in the City.

Dickinson is chuffed he could exhibit there.

“It’s the perfect place for it. I thought if it’s going to be in a gallery, this is the place for it – it’s art, it’s history and it’s heritage and it’s purely Canberra. I don’t know if anyone else outside Canberra would get it.”

Trevor Dickinson will also be selling merchandise related to his illustrations at the next Canberra Handmade Market at EPIC, 20-21 October; newcastleproductions.bigcartel.com

Beautiful bus shelters of Canberra is on display at CMAG until 27 January; cmag.com.au

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