THOSE working near The Street Theatre on the corner of Childers Street and University Avenue in Civic may have been astonished at what’s happening on one of its walls.
This time it’s not, like Pink Floyd’s 1979 hit, a tribute to “the wall”, but rather an artistic response to the wide-open, red-brick spaces.
Canberra stencil artist Luke Cornish (also known as ELK, and the first stencil artist to have been hung in the Archibald Prize) is busy transforming 175 square metres of red-brick space into a visual ode to the theatre’s most celebrated image, Hamlet’s hand holding the skull of Yorick.
A musical response to the work is being planned.
Street Theatre director, Caroline Stacey, concerned that the theatre and the City West precinct had been reduced to an urban desert during the pandemic, and worried by the large expanse of red brick that greeted passers-by, carried out a survey in which ordinary Canberrans and theatre lovers expressed their opinions.
“The wall is pretty boring at the moment,“ said one.
“It cuts the theatre off,” said another.
“I’d love to see messages about solidarity and humanity,” said a third.
Long-time Street Theatre designer, Imogen Keen, said, “I’d love for it to be hinted what goes on inside.”
“The space is huge, it’s got scale,“ said director Stacey who, in partnership with City Renewal Authority, went on to commission Canberra-grown Cornish to create a street-art project expressing the journey of theatre over this time of global uncertainty.
The “Hamlet” image is complemented by a huge mandala embellished with the masks of drama, a fitting tribute to those who love the theatre and all it stands for.
Cornish recently explored the same image in his exhibition “Don’t Shoot the Messenger” at the nearby aMBUSH Gallery in Kambri, ANU, and said at the time that he was holding a mirror up to society through his art, hoping to inspire people to think critically about power, spin and extremism.
But Yorick, of course, has also become a byword for the human condition.
Watch the progress of the huge mural here.