Since moving to Australia as a child, the English-born artist has seen more of the country than most. These are the spots that really colour his world. As told to Di Webster.
2005: My family moved to Australia from Sheffield, England, in 1964, when I was three-and-a-half, and we settled in Adelaide. Over the years, I’ve lived in Byron Bay, Noosa, various places in South East Queensland and on the coast of South Australia. But for some reason, I always felt like a square peg in a round hole.
Then I went to Melbourne. Melbourne is that place, where all the stars align. It’s funny, you live in a place like Byron with its supposed bohemian, alternative lifestyle but there’s also a great sense of that in Melbourne. It’s a very cool city. The glass ceiling is set beautifully high, there’s a feeling that you can be what you want to be and it’s full of remarkable entrepreneurs, including artists and those just doing their daily toil. It’s so down-to-earth, from the people to the architecture.
I do love Australia. While I feel at odds with it at times, I also feel ultimately linked with its landscape and climate. And Melbourne is very special to me.
Central Highlands, Victoria
2007: Sometimes you can’t articulate what’s great about a place, other than you feel good there; there’s something in the air. I’m not always present in my own life – I do too much and I have a history of being a little bit mad in my head – so when I find a place that grounds me, it’s a tremendous pleasure.
I love the trees in Ballarat and Daylesford and the little grabs of old-school country Australia – you’ll see a guy walking down the street with his scruffy silky terrier, a walking stick and patches on his jeans.
My wife, Yuge, and I have bought a pub in Ballarat called the Peter Lalor Hotel. We were taking this big, old, ugly metal façade off and underneath found the wording “The Royal Highlander” so now we’ve called it The Pub with Two Names.
I spoke with a guy the other day who said Ballarat “seems to have a whisper or an unwritten story always on the tip of its tongue”. That’s so true! It’s really beautiful. Victorian people love Victoria; I’m quite charmed by that.
2017: I’ve just been doing a creative directorship in the old Peters Ice Cream factory in Brisbane’s West End. It’s called West Village. We’ve been camping in this beautiful building while we do big murals and sculptures and build cultural immersion into the development. The West End is a really cool, unique place. You could just about land a rock on the buildings of Brisbane; it’s a 10-minute walk into the CBD.
I’ve always had a bit of a love affair with Brisbane and South East Queensland. There’s a great diversity of people who are interested in and want to embrace culture and foster creativity but it’s still got that sense of a pioneering town.
I love a city that changes and evolves and I think Brisbane is doing that. The West End is a melting pot of nationalities and it has that really laid-back inner-city thing – and we’re in this giant factory that I used to drive past and be astonished by. ￼