Reviews | Literally taking art to the streets

Scanning the horizon for sticker lickers, the artist parked his easel – illegally.

Artist’s easel, registration number STE 583, has had quite a few tickets for parking infringements.

But painter Neville Weston said it was all in the name of art. And without his trusty metallic blue Peugeot, he was unable safely to tackle large-scale paintings of Adelaide streets and buildings.

Attempting to use conventional easels he had experienced many nasty moments when canvas and easel simply took off in gusts of wind. On one occasion his nose was almost broken when the wind tossed his progressing work into his face.

“Strapping a painting on to the car’s roof rack one day it occurred to me that the car was not moving but the easels were,” he said.

So, using picture hooks and a cunning system of ropes, he strung his canvas on the side of the car, to create the world’s first motorized artist’s easel.

Last week it was parked diagonally in Union Street, city, where Weston, dripping palette in hand, was blocking in the shapes of the gracious old East End market buildings on a massive canvas.

He had completed 50 architectural paintings for an exhibition “Here Today, Gone Tomorrow: Changing Face of Adelaide” which opened at the Bonython Meadmore Gallery on Friday, but could not resist just one more before the streetscape changed shape in the name of progress.

Weston, 50, art lecturer and a former art critic for The Advertiser, had made it a point to try to represent elegant old buildings before they were demolished or redeveloped.

He said the race against time had given him “a certain sense of urgency” and, indeed, as he painted it, surveyors were out with theodolites, measuring the East End market site in preparation for its transformation into a parking station.

Weston did not mind the rubber-necked stares and curious comments of passers-by. He said the entertainment value of street painting was an element of its effectiveness as art.

“One gains rapport and becomes part of the environment – and that is partly what it is about,” he said.

“Another is the feel of place. On the spot one sees things that photographs miss. As Monet said, ‘five brush strokes done on the spot are as good as five days in the studio’.”

Even before the exhibition’s opening at Bonython-Meadmore Gallery, his Adelaide buildings series, which will be sold for up to $3500 each, had attracted many enquiries from corporations, developers and architects keen to buy representations of their premises.

Weston was now planning a six-month national tour in his easelmobile to paint big canvases of all Australia’s major cities.

But anyone who stopped to ask him what he was doing, as some Adelaide pedestrians had done, would be in for a verbal brush-up with the working artist.

“When I’m standing in the street painting a painting the size of a small car, what on earth else could I be doing?” he exclaimed.

Samela Harris

© 2014 Neville Weston