work / HUME HIGHWAY PROJECT 2010
Hume Highway Project
Melbourne Art Fair 2010
Hume Highway Project
The Hume Highway is a route I have traveled frequently since moving to Melbourne from Sydney over a decade ago and I have developed a great fondness for it. In that time I have photographed hundreds of signs along the highway in both directions from Melbourne to Sydney and back again. It was only later, after I had begun this documentation process, that I could look beyond the 'signage', past their words and see them differently from their intended purpose. I had begun to see these signs as simply beautiful abstract forms. Each one in my mind an incidental or unintended abstraction, like enormous roadside Rothko’s. As anyone who drives a car knows, in ‘highway language’ different coloured signs signify different things e.g. green with white letters indicate informational signs, such as directions, distances and places. Brown with white letters are for cultural directions to Parks, Museums and Historic sites such as ‘Kelly Country’ or ‘Dog on Tuckerbox’. Red with white letters are for stop signs and warning signs such as ‘Slow Down’ and ‘Accidents Can Happen To You’. Blue signs are for Petrol, Food and Rest Areas. Orange with black letters are used to indicate detours or road construction and white with black letters for speed limits and so on. Once you become attuned to the variations of colour within these signs you become aware of another interesting aspect and that is that over time the colours slightly fade, especially the signs that stand without shade, in the harsh sun. Ultimately, there is no standard green, blue, yellow or red but many shades in between. Often, obsolete information on signs will be covered with new sections of coloured metal, rarely matching the original colour, creating a lovely patchwork of evolving history. I am always reminded of early American quilts when I see these signs, especially Amish quilts and the quilts from Gees Bend which generally use wornout work-clothes to create a patchwork of subtle colour shifts.There is nothing fancy about them, they are simply utilitarian objects. It is the encoded history within the material and the various layered narratives that can take a generation to achieve that I find so interesting. The paintings in the Hume Highway Project act not only as markers for specific places but also become a personal map, charting my interaction within the Australian landscape. They are at once a celebration and a documentation of the many road-trips undertaken between Melbourne and Sydney.