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Member for Clarence Chris Gulaptis, Indigenous artist Blak Douglas, Grafton Regional Gallery Director Niomi Sands, local artist Kade Valja and fellow Indigenous artist Jason Wing in front of a breathtaking mural which has been created below the New Grafton Bridge. Image: Emma Pritchard

Bridging the gap between a blank space and a creative canvas

Emma Pritchard

The view underneath the new Grafton Bridge is just as eye catching as the view from above, thanks to the passionate creativity and talent of nationally recognised Indigenous artists Blak Douglas and Jason Wing, who designed and painted an extraordinary and culturally significant mural.

Inspired by the Clarence River and the life it holds and delivers, the majestic mural represents what you would see if you looked beneath the surface of the water.

The characteristic shapes and formations represent the underwater wildlife along with fish traps, canoes, water carrying vessels, knife heads and other tools used by Indigenous peoples during hunting trips.

The artwork was completed earlier this month and has been presented to the community by the Grafton Regional Gallery who have collaborated with Clarence Valley Council, Transport for NSW and the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) to activate the public space in the Grafton Bridges precinct.

The beautiful mural is part of the Building Bridges project, funded by the NSW Government through the Stronger Country Communities fund.

Grafton Regional Gallery Director Niomi Sands viewed the completed artwork on March 8 and said the gallery was proud to be able to present the completed project to the community and invite Indigenous artists Blak Douglas and Jason Wing to come and create the mural.

“I think one of the things that really excites me is we can bring amazing artists to our region to share their skills with the community,” she said as she praised the amazing talents of the Indigenous artists.

“We just hope that this (mural) makes people think, and I guess cherish their landscape, because this mural that Jason and Blak have created references our river and how important it is.
“It’s been a wonderful project to be involved it.”

Member for Clarence Chris Gulaptis was another admirer of the mural last week and thanked the Indigenous artists for their creative contribution to the Clarence Valley while acknowledging their incredible talent.

Mr Wing, a proud Biripi man who also has Cantonese heritage, has worked extensively for local government and the private sector with public art in NSW.

Describing himself as very proud to be involved with the project in Grafton, Mr Wing said the mural took three to four days to paint and he hopes the artwork will inspire other artists to follow their creativity.

Blak Douglas, a finalist in the 2020 Archibald Prize and winner of the Kilgour Prize in 2019 is a proud Dhungatti man and has had his artwork exhibited across Australia.

Along with Mr Wing, he acknowledged their Indigenous heritage and cultural importance in the mural and said he felt proud of creating it for the community to enjoy.

“It was such a rewarding project to be involved in and the mural will be here for everyone to see,” he said.

The artists also created a second, smaller mural opposite their main one beneath the new Grafton Bridge in Greaves Street and had the pleasure of working and speaking with students from Grafton High School about their own career options in the arts.

“It was a great opportunity for members of the community to be involved with the project,” Ms Sands said.