Large-scale LED neons of native Australian flora have come to life with the unveiling of rising star artist Atong Atem’s new public artwork in Melbourne’s Southbank. Created over six weeks, the large-scale murals across two facades of Beulah’s Hanover House building signal an exciting new chapter in the city’s creative scene.
Set to be home to Australia’s tallest tower, STH BNK By Beulah, the art installation was commissioned for BETA By STH BNK, an experiential event series that will bring together international brands, revered artists and makers, immersive dining and much more over a six-month period.
Situated in the heart of a dynamic international arts precinct, STH BNK By Beulah aims to showcase how future expressions of art and culture can enhance and enrich daily life.
Atong Atem’s dramatic statement in paint and LED neons, Outdoor Living (2021) is inspired by her archive of colonial and vintage European wallpapers.
Illuminated neon tulips and a 8.5 metre banksia by Electric Confetti overlay a painted wallpaper design across two facades of the 20 metre building in a vibrant transformation that encapsulates the artist’s vision of Melbourne’s past and future.
The banksia was drawn from a ‘Banksia marginata’ also known as a silver Banksia, that grows along the Merri Creek Trail, while the flowers on the City Road facade are a reinterpretation of a tulip wallpaper design from a vintage store in Preston.
Atong Atem, an Ethiopian-born, South Sudanese, Naarm/Melbourne-based artist, shared that her work explores her relationship to Melbourne, Australia and beyond when forming the sense of belonging to a place.
“I’m interested in the relationships between people, our connection with the natural and built environments, and how this is interwoven with the visual signs and symbols that define our histories. With the work I have developed for Hanover House, I’m interested in the aesthetics of 1970s Australian homes and have chosen to reference the intimacy of those spaces by creating a wallpaper pattern reminiscent of late 20th-century living room walls,” she said.
For Outdoor Living, the wallpaper refers to interior spaces, while the LED evokes the neon signs of a 20th-century cityscape lit with commercial designs.
“Neon has a long history in pop and conceptual art; using new LED technology enables a more sustainable way to evoke nostalgia for this classic neon imagery. This also speaks to a time when Hanover House was one of the tallest buildings in Southbank,” Atem said.
City of Melbourne Lord Mayor, Sally Capp, expressed her support for the works, which signifies another milestone for the Melbourne Arts Precinct.
“I’m excited to see Outdoor Living light up our city, and continue to enrich Melbourne’s reputation as the arts capital of Australia,” the Lord Mayor said.
“Atong Atem has created a visual representation of what Melbourne means to her, and I believe we can all find some connection with her work – whether it be a connection to nature, city or a sense of belonging.”
“The transformation of the Melbourne Arts Precinct continues to prove itself as a major drawcard for our city.”
Beulah appointed London-based cultural placemaking and world-class arts commissioning agency Futurecity Ltd to create the temporary artwork to transform the building, with the brief to showcase Beulah’s commitment to sustainability, wellness and technology by incorporating low-VOC and low-energy consumption materials.
Beulah Executive Director, Adelene Teh, said the mural not only acts as a test for the public art inspirations for the future development, but will help showcase how art and culture can enhance and enrich daily life.
“Atong’s piece is the first installation in our 6-month BETA programme and we are thrilled with the end result; it is bold, exciting and fresh and has really helped to transform the cityscape in Southbank,” Teh said.
“We hope Atong’s artwork can help to bring some joy and life back into the Melbourne CBD after what has been a challenging time for the arts industry and the city more generally.”
BETA is designed to give Melburnians a feel for what can be expected as part of Beulah’s $2 billion-plus project, STH BNK By Beulah.
Atong’s artwork can be viewed on Hanover House, located at 158 City Road, Southbank. To find out more about Melbourne’s flourishing arts, residential precinct and the highly anticipated landmark STH BNK By Beulah, visit: sthbnk.com