On the road with ROA

I watch ROA through my binoculars against the backdrop of the Pilbara landscape. The natural habitat of this Belgium born artist, are the urban streetscape of big cities. A dense and compact environment of steel and concrete, that can seem claustrophobic, when compared to the arcing sky and open plains of the Pilbara, with its feeling of infinite space that overwhelms and dwarfs everything within it.

For many hours, our four -wheel drive has lumbered along a rutted earthen track, and the highway has vanished long ago. We are deep in Ngarluma country, which, runs, between Maitland River up to the Peawah River and inland to the Chichester Ranges over the West Pilbara. Out here, it’s difficult to fathom the industry that is roaring around us; the towns absorbing new workers and the frenzy of construction to feed the appetite of the mining industry.

Although this is ROA’s first excursion into the outback, he doesn’t fear walking into the wilderness that unfolds and unfolds all around us. Our guide, a senior Ngarluma Aboriginal man, has observed ROA’s sense of exploration and adventure. ‘I don’t want to be tracking no white fella’s today,’ he warns me.

But, ROA is used to exploring foreign places, having spent the past two and half years travelling and painting tirelessly. ROA explains that he is not attached to this work he leaves behind. ‘It’s like an exorcism; it’s not mine any more, it belongs to everyone,’ he says, ‘there is always a quality of impermanence to painting on the street. Anyone could come along; the wall could be buffed, the site bulldozed.

More than the habitual behavior of a nomadic, renegade artist, the extreme environment of the Pilbara suits ROA’s proclivity to push the limits, to rebel against constraints, as is evident in the demanding scale and location of much of his work, which, features animals, at various stages in the cycle of life, from decay to procreation.

ROA is always prepared to explore, to scope new walls, jump over fences, run, if he has too. As he explains; ‘Street art is just art, but there is a spirit to it. The way you work within the structure that you choose to paint on, the way you play with architecture, and, always this feeling that you don’t have much time, that you may have to leave. This gives it a unique energy.’

Through the prickly spinifex, I can see him now, turning a skull over in his hands, not only with anthropomorphic curiosity, but with awe. This is not a macabre fascination with death, but rather, part of his interest in the natural world.

This nature fetish goes beyond that of an avid biologist. His gaze is tuned into nature, and it’s such a strong part of how he sees the world, that over the few days I’ve been travelling with him, he’s influenced my own way of looking. I’ve become more aware of the prettiness of the small red finches that dart around us; the osprey’s circling in the sky above.

In a similar way, the Ngarluma elders who take us through their country reveal a depth and complexity to the land, so that, what appears to be a vast emptiness becomes rich with a cultural, social, and sacred ecology of stories, myth, knowledge, and histories.

ROA is particularly taken with the engraving on a non-descript outcrop of rocks, of a Thylacine or Tasmanian Tiger a species that is now extinct. He muses about the way humans destroy our environment, and with it, other living things. ‘Humans are the same everywhere, we know it’s not good how we live, but we do it anyway.’

As we traverse through Ngarluma country, there are frequent stops to pick bush lolly, or Gardangu, a glucose laden sap from the kanji bush, it appears just before summer and is a signal that the heat is on its way. We visit a thalu or ritual increase site for Moorumburri beetles that has a special ritual attached to it, known by only a few custodians.

We also explore abandoned places of industrial and human waste, old station sites, which have become surreal installations of decay, and neglect, full of indecipherable stuff that is now, the colour of earth-toned rust from the erosive effects of time, and the force of sun and wind.

We pick through spaces chaotic with random objects that have been left behind: old tools, fans, a toaster, car wrecks, caravans, cabinets, bones. To me, this is evidence of how inhuman and destructive this environment can be, a hard-edged, dangerous place, to ROA, this detritus offer the possibility of renewal and transformation, that he incorporates into his gallery work.

At one such place, ROA paints a cute, giant size, marsupial; that looks so alive, at any moment you expect it to spring off into the bush. Amongst this industrial graveyard, this act of creation is a celebration of life, a symbol of hope and new beginnings, a reminder of nature, and the life that dwells within it, even amidst the carnage brought about by humans.

This experience in the Pilbara informed ROA’s exhibition, Paradox, which was presented by FORM and Skalitzers Contemporary Art, at the FORM Gallery in Perth, from October 24th, 2011 – January 13th, 2012.

Pilbara Project Prize Winners!

To celebrate the launch of the inaugural Pilbara Project exhibition 52 Weeks On FORM gave away two hardback copies of the limited edition publication The Pilbara Project: Field Notes and Photographs Collected over 2010, and two prints from the book by feature exhibition photographers Tony Hewitt and Christian Fletcher. Winners were drawn from new or renewed members during the 52 Weeks On exhibition.

Membership Print Winner #1
Andrew Auret, on behalf of ABN Group from Perth (Group Membership)
Congratulations on winning on Salt, Dampier by Christian Fletcher

Membership Print Winner #2
Rebecca Clarkson from Perth
Congratulations on winning ‘Tidal Creek’ Dampier by Tony Hewitt (Individual Membership)

Membership Book Winner #1
Steve Harris of West Perth (Individual Membership)

Membership Book Winner #2
Suzette Worden from Perth (Individual Membership)

Pilbara Project SLR Camera Winners

To celebrate the launch of the inaugural Pilbara Project exhibition 52 Weeks On, FORM and the Courthouse Gallery each gave away a digital SLR camera. Winners were drawn from postcards handed into each of the galleries.

FORM Gallery Pilbara Project Camera Winner
Sarah Hope from Perth

Courthouse Gallery Pilbara Project Camera Winner
Petra Kerr from Port Hedland

Pilbara Survey Winner
Amber Fletcher from Port Hedland
Congratulations on winning Industrial Lines 7 by Peter Eastway

A special thank-you to the Artists for their generosity with the Artwork.

Principle Partner:

The Pretty side of Hedland

Roughly 9 months ago i came home from my job (BHP Billiton Worsley Alumina), sat down with my wife and said “I’m going to apply for a job in Port Hedland”. She shot me this strange look and then simply said “Go for it!” After all the interviews, medicals and hoops you need to jump through when applying for a job these days i finally received my letter of offer. I was stoked, were moving back to the Pilbara! And then came everyones opinion.
“Why the hell are you moving there?”
“Hedland?… Yuk”
“Port Hedland? Have you been there before? Do you know how sh*t that town is?”
“Thats a pretty rough town, everyone gets broken into or beaten up”
We didnt care, we were commited! Come January we start a new chapter in our life. I was really looking forward not only to new possibilities in my career but also the photographic opportunities the Pilbara has to offer. Storms, stunning sunrises and sunsets, Karijini National Park all at my doorstep. I have taken it upon myself to prove to all those who write-off Hedland as a dirty – crime ravaged town, that it has a great sense of community, a great place to live and all the beauty it has to offer. You just need to get out and find it!

Finucane Island

Hedland Storms

Hedland Sunsets

Epson International Pano Awards

The past 5 months have provided me with plenty of photographic opportunities since moving to the Pilbara. Storms, lightning, Stunning Sunsets seem to find their way to Hedland. This year i decided to enter a few of my recent Panoramic’s into the Epson International Pano Awards. Well im absolutely stoked to announce i received 3 bronze awards. Now to look towards next year and hopefully snag a silver!

Karijini National Park – Dales Gorge

Port Hedland Storm

Karijini National Park – Hancock Gorge

Urban Artwork – Port Hedland

Never one to do things by halves, the Courthouse Gallery courtyard underwent a major transformation as two featured artists in Last Chance Studio’s When it Rains it Pours – Ryan Boserio and Timothy Rollin – created a large-scale mural along the blank wall space.
The unveiling of the installation coincided with the exhibition opening night and drew crowds to the vibrant new space which can now be utilised for events and workshops.
The idea for engaging urban artists to activate a thus-far unused area of our town stemmed from the Port Hedland Small Wins Group – a group of community members who initiate and facilitate community-owned projects aimed at creating a more exciting and liveable town.
Urban artwork has the capacity to transform whole areas of a city or town, revitalizing unused public and not-so-public spaces and engaging passersby. This in turn creates a fresh and vibrant essence of place.
Ryan and Tim visited Hedland and De Grey Station earlier this year to gather inspiration for their design which explores the natural and industrial landscapes and the people that react with them. Both artists have adapted their signature styles and techniques to the artwork; Tim drawing from a mash-up of counter culture and childhood nostalgia imagery to create surreal landscape scenes and Ryan working in a skewed mixture of realist and his trademark theme of planes.
If you haven’t stopped by the Gallery to take a look yet make sure you do – you can also catch a ‘making of’ film developed by Ryan and Tim which is currently playing in the Courthouse Gallery. This is a big ‘small win’ to celebrate.

The Pilbara Survey – Your Chance to WIN!


The Pilbara Project is designed to explore and showcase this beautiful region in all its intriguing layers. The first outcome of the project, 52 Weeks On: A Pilbara Project Exhibition, has been one of our most successful exhibitions so far. Showing at both the Courthouse Gallery in Port Hedland and FORM Gallery in Perth, the exhibition showcased the magnificence and complexity of the Pilbara region in a way rarely seen before.

Now it’s time to have your say on how to take the Pilbara Project to the next level.

Plus, to sweeten the deal, by completing this survey you’ll go into the draw to win a stunning print by Peter Eastway worth $3100!


Industrial Lines, by Peter Eastway, 2010

Greetings from Wickham

I currently live in Wickham, am a mother of two, work in admin and have a real passion for landscape photography. Below are a few pictures I have taken recently – its not hard to get a good shot when you are surrounded by such amazing landscapes!

Silver Star Treasure

My grandfather, Logan Napier Muir, emigrated from Scotland in 1901 and went to work for the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy. He retired from the railroad in 1948. Owing to his seniority, he was able to be the engineer of the Zephyrs and undoubtedly had the Silver Star in his consist on many occasions. His railroad watch was passed down to me and I treasure it. As an 8 year old, I had the experience of riding in the cab of the Denver Zephyr from Chicago to Aurora, Illinois, hitting speeds up to 80 mph, an amazing speed at the time. There was a 3 track main from Chicago to Aurora and I remember the occasions when my friends and I would ride our bikes to an overpass to watch the Zephyrs go by at speed. Being on the overpass when steam engines went by was a completely different, but exhilarating, experience.

You indeed have a treasure in the Silver Star. I learned about it listening to 6PR this morning. I hope to travel to Australia in the next year or two and will definitely spend some time in WA

Douglas Muir
Tallahassee, Florida USA

West End Markets in Port Hedland a Big Hit

The West End Maker’s Markets were a fantastic night out for Hedlanders a few weekends ago. As part of the highly anticipated West End Festival that kicked off with the Before the Town Got Big exhibition and the soft opening of the Silver Star Cafe and then moved into Saturday with Pilates in the Park, the Spinifex Hill Artist’s story-telling session, and then finished with the Markets. Whew! It was quite a weekend, and all of us at the Gallery enjoyed every minute of it.

The Markets were complete with live music, stilt-walkers, and food stalls. It was a great way to show our support for Hedland’s local talent and crafters. We are hoping October’s Markets will get our community excited for 2011 where we will be having 4 West End Markets evenings throughout the year.

Port Hedland Port Authority Control Tower

Visiting Port Hedland for work to deliver a training course, I came prepared to capture some of the colour and industry in the area. I’d been to the Pilbara a few times with work in the past, but those trips were before I’d been seriously bitten by the photography bug. As I was working during the day I had limited opportunity to scout locations before nightfall. I was immediately attracted to the striking architecture of the Port Hedland Port Authority Control Tower, and wanted to make an image from it. I had made several attempts to photograph it at sunset, which both enriched the rusty colour of the tower and enhanced the contrast in the structure. However I was foiled by the lack of a tripod in the low light and frustrated by limited access to an un-obstructed view of the tower. On my final day in Port Hedland I had an early flight out, but I chose to rise before dawn to have one final shot at gathering some images. I found one vantage point in town (from Leap Park) where there was a partial view of the tower. The base of the tower was obscured by some buildings but at least there was a rock I could use to stabilise my camera. I initially considered the foreground buildings rather uninteresting and the lights flaring from the port undesirable, but I took the shots anyway. My composition put the tower on a third. Once I started to process the captured images my opinions changed. The obscuring buildings became more interesting after processing for the details instead of having them silhouetted, and even the brightness of the port and flare from behind became more appealing. It’s almost like a UFO lifting off! Cropping to position the tower centrally seemed to work for this particular image. Also my original attraction to the rich red of the tower gave way to the contrast afforded by a duo-tone treatment.

Designed and Delivered by FORM

FORM is an independent, not for profit organisation dedicated to advocating for and developing creativity in Western Australia.