Erika Allen

 

THE Gumboot Collective’s ethos shone brightly at the Yarram Chalk Art Festival last Saturday, February 24, where both local and international artists came together to turn the footpaths along Commercial Road into a walk-by gallery for all to enjoy.

Fifteen artists, including Yarram locals Sole Savage and Lain Phillips, as well as others from Queensland and Canada, came to the fourth annual festival armed with bucket-loads of chalk and plenty of inspiration.

Their vibrant creations unfolded over numerous hours; several artists began sketching their drawings at 3pm on Friday, February 23, returning at 7am the following day.

Some toiled until the 6pm deadline, their work hours evident on their chalk-dust-covered hands and clothes.

This year, the theme was ‘Forest’.

Matt Langdon, a member of the Gumboot Collective – an organisation founded to nurture Yarram’s growing art scene that has brought the chalk festival to life since 2021 – explained that the festival’s theme pays homage to the ongoing shift in native logging across Victoria.

It simultaneously acknowledges the timber industry’s substantial role in shaping Yarram’s history while aligning with the festival’s goal of showcasing the diverse international perspectives of participating artists.

Gippsland’s rugged terrain found expression in the festival’s sole black and white artwork. At the same time, other works featured native Australian fauna, such as a striking cassowary or more exotic creatures like a panther mingling with a toucan and a tree frog.

Imaginative interpretations of the theme showcased intricately drawn fairy-like forest creatures perched on a rock in a stream or floating through a forest.

Artists like renowned Warrnambool muralist Jimmi Buscombe elevated their drawings by adding three-dimensional perspective, making it appear like you were peering into another world from above.

Mr Buscombe said he was inspired by the children’s storybook Where the Wild Things Are that he used to read to his daughter.

Pointing to a specific spot on the pavement, Mr Buscombe explained that standing in said position creates a three-dimensional effect in the drawing, thanks to the meticulous shading and the angle of the tree trunks.

More than showcasing artistic merit, the Yarram Chalk Art Festival brings people together.

“The idea is that people walk up and down (Commercial Road) all day and engage with the artists and have conversations about the art and how they’re relating it to the theme, but also the connections with their home country,” Mr Langdon said.

“We’ve got artists from Japan, Colombia, and Argentina, so that’s a really cool opportunity for people in Yarram and surrounding areas to have that cultural exchange as well.”

Lautaro Musse has been the festival’s Creative Director since its inception.

Heralding from Argentina, Mr Musse has been able to create lifelong bonds with like-minded people throughout his time in Yarram.

“It’s a family,” he said, referring to the artist collective at the festival.

“Every year, it keeps growing. We have more people involved than ever, and we also have the same WhatsApp group I’m always texting.

“It’s a really nice way to connect with people and share different visions of the world.”

Observers had the opportunity to vote for their favourite.

Stacey Bennett, a first-timer at the chalk festival, won the People’s Choice award for her bold depiction of a tree frog titled ‘Jewel of the Forest’.

The future of the Yarram Chalk Art Festival looks as bright as the drawings that artists left behind.

“I think the sky is the limit,” Mr Langdon mused about what the chalk festival could look like.

“The artists that we’re bringing in have different perspectives and ideas, so (drawing) classes could be taught before (the festival). It could look like leaving pieces of art around the town as well.

“We’re happy to test things out and be experimental.”

Bairnsdale artist, Tracey Soloman challenged herself by creating a three-dimensional drawing. She used chalk to block out the colours and soft pastels to add details.

Tegan Louise Blair from Rosedale was the only artist who worked solely in black and white.

Geelong artist, Terri Pollock added a black border to make the cassowary pop.

Nathan Whitney from Canada, was one of many international artists to come to the Yarram Chalk Art Festival.