CANBERRA’S BUS STOPS STAR IN LEADING ART EXHIBITION

By: Fabian Cotter


THE NATION’S CAPITAL has had its iconic bus shelters immortalised thanks to a local artist’s passion to photograph and draw them to become stylish digital prints at a leading exhibition, currently running at the Canberra Museum and Gallery until 27 January, 2019.

CANBERRA’S BUS STOPS STAR IN LEADING ART EXHIBITION
The concrete bus shelter has been a ubiquitous feature of the Canberran landscape since 1975.

In this exhibition, artist Trevor Dickinson highlights the beauty and personality of Canberra’s ‘concrete bunker’ bus shelters and celebrates one of the most defining features of the local landscape.

Bus and transport fans aside, the concrete bus shelter has been a ubiquitous feature of the Canberran landscape since 1975. Designed by architect Clem Cummings, there still are nearly 500 dotted around almost every Canberran suburb from Amaroo to Conder, Dickinson states.

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For the past four years he’s been on a quest to find and photograph them all, selecting more than 50 of the most striking examples to draw and develop into digital prints.

This collection of artworks will reveal a new way to appreciate one of Canberra’s most familiar structures.

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A STAR IS BORN

In 1974, Canberra architect Clem Cummings designed a new bus shelter for Canberra. It was modern, efficient and built to last. Now, more than 40 years later, almost 500 are still standing, says Dickinson.

Arguably, they have become as much a symbol of Australia’s capital city as red telephone boxes are to London.

Keen observers need only travel along any Canberra street from the city centre to the outer edge to see how these retro shelters put a particular Canberra stamp onto even the most suburban location. 

It was this clear sense of place that attracted Dickinson to make the body of work.

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"One intention was to create a portrait of Canberra unlike any other, but mainly I just wanted to celebrate an overlooked and very cool seventies’ structure," he explained.

"I spent the past six years photographing every Clem Cummings shelter on the streets of Canberra.  This wasn’t as repetitive as it sounds because, although the shelters all seem the same, they can vary hugely."

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UNINSPIRINGLY INSPIRING 

Like Tikis of the suburbs, says Dickinson, they have a, "…distinct face and their expression shifts as the light changes throughout the day. Even the most uninspiring shelter comes to life in the hour before sunrise and sunset, or at night as deep shadows are cast under a street lamp."

As he further explains, they can be found in both rural and urban settings and their surroundings vary with the seasons as, "…leaves fall or blossom grows."

"Compositions are created using lamp posts, telegraph poles and signposts, and altered as rubbish is discarded, bins are put out and graffiti is added," he said.

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"Since starting the project I’ve enjoyed hearing stories from locals who’ve shared the experience of waiting and often freezing in these shelters as school children - from the ’70s, ’80s, ’90s and beyond."

"It’s most satisfying that nowadays I no longer hear people calling the shelters ugly."

He concluded, pensively: "If these drawings evoke memories and help Canberrans notice and appreciate a distinctive part of their culture … then I’ve done my job."

For the full bus stop imagery range visit: www.trevordickinson.com

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