North of the Yarra 2018
POWELL, Arthur Ted
POWELL, Arthur Ted
North of the Yarra
pencil, watercolour and wax
Dimensions (H x W x D)
242 x 17 x 9 cm (perspex box frame)
City of Melbourne Art and Heritage Collection Image courtesy of the artist
British-born and Melbourne-based, Arthur Ted Powell is a painter, printmaker, sketcher and advertising art director. He studied at Ealing Art College in London before coming to Melbourne in 1976 and making a home of the southern capital. But it was Powell’s return after a 15-year absence from 1990, during which he lived in several global cities, that marked a decisive shift in his work; Melbourne of the new millennium was a radically different place to the urban backwater he called home in the 1970s and 80s.
Place is writ large in Powell’s work, energetic representations that clearly express his deep engagement with cartography, geography, topography, urbanism and history. These interests are apparent in both his vibrant paintings of remote landscapes and in his slice-of-life portraits of urban locations. Powell says of his art that it ‘embodies a particular way of seeing and thinking about place’, and this is nowhere more evident than in his concertina artist books, many of which exemplify unfurling portraits of our own city. The views they present are not grand, portentous cityscapes, pegged down and mirrored back through a commanding eye of the artist; rather, they are wonderfully individual, partial and intimate vistas that capture details large and small, permanent and fleeting, worthy and incidental.
The City of Melbourne acquired three of Powell’s concertina watercolour and wax sketches in late 2018, following his exhibition ‘Mighty Melbourne’ at Fortyfive Downstairs. Each was sketched along the Yarra, the ribbon of river simpatico with the panoramic format and the flow of the artist’s pen across the paper. A view anchored to Princes Bridge, ‘North of the Yarra’ is dominated on its left by the watery vista down to Evan Walker Bridge before sweeping along the river’s north bank and over Flinders Street Station, St Pauls Cathedral and Federation Square, scooping up all details from chugging boats to ‘racy’ trams. As the view pans right, it zooms in to the street, perhaps not accidentally invoking Google street view. But doubtless, this creative hand is far more compelling and aesthetic than the handy-yet-visually-clunky technology of street view.