Street artist secures W’bool mural project

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matt adnate
One of the highly detailed and realist works by Melbourne artist Matt “Adnate” Last, whose work will soon feature in Warrnambool’s CBD as a large-scale mural. Image: Adnate.

OPINION – Carol Altmann

[dropcap style=”font-size: 60px; color: #A02F2F;”] L [/dropcap]eading Melbourne graffiti artist Matt “Adnate” Last has been chosen to create a $13,000 interactive mural in the heart of Warrnambool.

The Ngatanwarr (“Welcome”) Mural will transform a prominent – but as yet unnamed – site with a 20sq/m mural with an indigenous theme that will be developed in consultation between the artist, who is not indigenous, and the local Aboriginal community.

The interactive mural is central to a wider project being developed by a steering committee that includes representatives from the Gunditjmara Aboriginal Cooperative, the Warrnambool City Council/Warrnambool Art Gallery, Leadership Great South Coast and the F Project, for which a total of $22,000 has been raised from various government and philanthropic sources.

Adnate is the second, high-profile spray paint artist to secure a large-scale mural commission in Warrnambool, following that of Scottie “Bonsai” Neoh, who was awarded the $15,000 commission for the Mortlake Rd pedestrian underpass.

Unlike the Bonsai commission, however, the Ngatanwarr Mural went to expressions of interest, albeit in a tight turnaround time.

The call went out in mid September, with artists given around three weeks to submit an EOI.

Chairman of the selection committee, Paul Lougheed, from Leadership Great South Coast, told us that four local artists were among those to submit an EOI, with Adnate selected “by a panel including representatives from the aboriginal community, arts community and other interested community members”.

Matt “Adnate” Last at work with his tools of trade: a smartphone and a spray can. Image:

[dropcap style=”font-size: 60px; color: #A02F2F;”] T [/dropcap]here is no doubt that securing the services of Adnate is a coup for Warrnambool: his striking work can be found in major cities around the world and, earlier this year, he was chosen to paint a rare, blank 23m-high wall in Melbourne’s famous Hosier Lane.

And there is no doubt that his work will be a drawcard, particularly as it will include interactive QR codes to tell the stories behind the images.

But the perennial question again comes to mind: how can local artists get ahead if they keep being overlooked for significant local commissions?

We raised this same question earlier this year with the Bonsai commission, which followed the awarding of a $20,000 commission to Melbourne artist Ewan Coates in 2010 for his bronze sculpture The Three Pillars of Gratification, and another $20,000 commission in 2011 that was won by Ballan artist Velislav Georgiev for his work Chance Encounter, that sits on the corner of Lava and Liebig streets.

It is a vexed issue.

On one hand, Warrnambool can’t simply close itself off to artists from elsewhere, but on the other, a $13,000 commission (which includes materials and equipment) is the sort of work that can start to make an art career viable to a local artist.

Unlike in metropolitan areas, major commissions are rare in the south-west and many of the murals you now see around Warrnambool were done for very little money, but significant goodwill.

We look forward to seeing what Adnate produces, but at the same time will continue to argue that at least some of these large commissions should stay “at home”.

[box]The Ngatanwarr Mural will be launched on Friday March 20, 2015, to coincide with ‘Close the Gap’ day. You can find more of Adnate’s work on his website here.[/box]

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17 thoughts on “Street artist secures W’bool mural project”

  1. Totally agree. If council was serious about supporting local businesses surely this would include self employed artists. Just look around there are local artists volunteering their skills for little or no money whilst out of town city artists get thousands of dollars thrown at them. No doubt this artist is wonderfully talented but so are some of our own.

  2. I must agree with Bluestone and Karen. Very difficult to understand how those in charge of our city think these things through. Perhaps you could do an interview with them. I would love to know the thought process behind the decision.

    1. From what we have been told, the chosen artist was considered to be the best from what was described as a high calibre field, but we would argue that, in some instances, perhaps the field should be confined to local artists only so that they are in with a fighting chance.

  3. It’s “art” and it’s on the “Street” but I wouldn’t class his work as “street art” .

    It’s just fine art with a spray can. Looks great, but it is what it is. I just get annoyed when these guys start claiming “street” cred with large scale legal murals which may as well be airbrushed in a corporate lobby or a business class airport waiting room.

    I’m sure it will look great though. Hopefully the locals involved have at least some input,

  4. Great score for Warrnambool but I must agree with some of the earlier comments. Local artists will never get a break because of the risk of upsetting some in a small and tight knit community. It’s easier for the council to award the commission to an “outsider” and eliminate the scandal of being seemingly biased towards one particular local. I knew a lady named Renee Broders who was responsible for the inception of the beautiful and locally relevant mosaic opposite the sculpture at the corner of Leibig and Lava Streets. An awesome example of local art and produced over 18 months with zero pay by Renee, Warrnambool’s disabled community and the kindness of the local businesses who donated materials and time. (Edited)

  5. That’s interesting. Well at least Fiona’s ‘Ngatanwarr’ mural will be saying ‘Welcome’ to those shoppers in central Warrnambool right up until 31st May. The site is the ex Jewellery store next to the old ANZ building and it is currently being painted off site. You can see what it will look like here:

  6. I am so happy to have an artist that creates such touching and thought provoking art in our city! I do wish we had more street and building space given to our local artists to create. I know people in Melbourne who do not ask permission and create art any way in which they can around the city and perhaps we need to be brave and ‘take it to the street’ so to speak Local Warrnambool Artists. Each time I do see Matt’s art in Melbourne I stand in awe. I also believe Aboriginal Australia does need to be seen and celebrated around every corner of our city, I cannot wait to see what you create Matt “Adnate” Last with our true land owners for all of us to enjoy here in Warrnambool.

  7. We have received a critical comment on this story from “Abi” but the email address provided is a false one. If you would like to submit your real email address, Abi, then we are more than happy to publish your comment. Bluestone, however, does not publish comments that have neither a full name or correct email address attached for verification. We figure if we are prepared to put our opinions out under our real names (or a valid email address), then those who wish to comment should be too.

  8. I was fortunate to recently visit Japan purely to look at art, I travelled seven hours from Tokyo to Kanazawa specifically to see the work of two European and one American artist. In the process I discovered an amazing city, local artists and culture. We do not need to be afraid of established artists from else where making public work here. The problem with public art in Warrnambool is that we simply need more of it- to cultivate a local audience; to make our arts culture more visible to tourists; & so importantly so we can all have a few works that we hate passionately & even more that we love. Being insular is not the answer here. In my thirteen years of practising art in this town I have never seen a more concerted effort to create opportunities for local artists. Nor have I ever seen the gallery more active in public engagement. These are not one off projects, this is a longer term cultivation of arts visibility in our town. We should also proudly note the CBD murals that went to local artists David Higgins & Nathan Pye – at the same pay rate.

    1. Hi Bec, As you know, Bluestone is supportive of all artistic work in the local area, having written hundreds of stories about our creatives in the past 15 months. We welcome recognised artists, too, who win large commissions, for many of the reasons you note – but all too often we see local artists overlooked for significant public commissions and paid significantly less (or not at all) when they do win. (As an aside, Dave Higgins and Nathan Pye were not paid the same amount as Agnate will receive and Bonsai has received.) We have proudly publicised the work of Nathan, David, Fiona Clarke, Ella Webb, Liz Gannon and others who have painted murals in the area – our argument is that there should be just as many well-paid opportunities for local artists as there are for those from elsewhere.

      1. Hi Louise and thanks for replying to my comment. I don’t take pride in discussing other artists pay checks publically but I think that you will find that each of the mural artists mentioned in my comment were paid the same hourly rate for the work done.

        1. Louise I only reassert my claim about artist pay because I believe that emphasising the difference (which is negligible) unfairly upsets local artists.

          1. Agreed, Becky. It is surely very upsetting to many artists that some are paid large amounts and others smaller – and many have spoken to Bluestone about his privately. We don’t aim to upset any individual but we will keep asking questions where we see they need to be asked on behalf of the fabulous south-west arts community – and in the name of fairness, transparency and equity.

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