Artist Ash Keating makes the drive to Sydney and back every year. Heading along the Hume Highway into Melbourne, most people wouldn’t have taken much notice of a relatively nondescript warehouse building that belongs to a concrete pumping company on the Craigieburn exit. All Ash could see was the canvas for his next work.
Celebrated in the art world for his large-scale murals that explore colour, movement, and gravity, Ash’s work has featured in major institutions and exhibitions across Australia, including at Melbourne Now, Sydney Contemporary, TarraWarra, at the VCA for Sugar Mountain Festival and Meat Market in North Melbourne. But after taking on so many commissioned projects over the last few years, Ash craved the freedom that a self-initiated project would allow him – and now he had the perfect wall.
Built facing grassland, the Craigieburn site didn’t run the risk of being knocked down or built up against, like every other wall Ash had painted in Melbourne.
Between 2012 – 2016, Ash painted a series of landscapes on walls that spoke to the rise of development and the loss of the natural world, camouflaging the works back into its surrounds. A Love Letter To to a Very Rocky Creek (Hume Response) in all its bright, burning glory approaches the same idea from a different end of the spectrum. ‘It’s a continuation of that project, but also a contradiction to it’, Ash explains, ‘I’m painting quite bright and outlandish work, and highlighting rather than hiding it’.
In contrast to the often tightly controlled conditions of commissioned projects, Ash wanted to be ‘free to improvise’ while he made this work, and take new paths in his creative process. Completely self funding every element of this personal project (that means buying hundreds of litres of paint, and hiring a scissor lift!) allowed Ash to ‘fall in love with painting again’.
Ash took a trip to Canberra with a graffiti artist friend many years ago, just as he was first getting into painting. He painted the underside of a bridge, first with a 10 litre tin of black paint, and later added bursts of bright blues, yellows and reds over the top. The colours in this new work recall the palette one of the important first works for Ash. ‘It’s almost like a memory of a really dynamic work that was kind of pivotal to me, but there’s no documentation of’, Ash tells, ‘part of the inspiration is this memory of making a work that I knew was interesting but not documented.’
Setting out at sunrise just as the mural was nearing completion, Ash and photographer Dan Preston, an old friend, collaborated on this series of images and video that captured Love Letter To to a Very Rocky Creek (Hume Response) in all its glory.
Love Letter To to a Very Rocky Creek (Hume Response)
by Ash Keating
Visible from the Craigieburn exit on the Hume Highway