Melbourne Art Trams

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By Aleah Espanta

The Melbourne Art Trams project has once again populated Melbourne’s iconic tram network with moving works of art after its successful debut last year.

This is all thanks to a creative partnership between Melbourne Festival, Yarra Trams and Arts Victoria, which takes inspiration from the popular Transporting Art – a project that ran between 1978 and 1993.

But did you know that a local St Kilda artist designed one?

That’s right, James Cattell, of the well-loved Barkly Street institution of Honeyweather & Speight is one of the eight artists chosen (out of 150) to design a tram painting for this year’s Melbourne Festival.

His tram ‘Melbourne Dreamscape’ was inspired by the Gothic remnants of Melbourne’s architecture with imagery from the Manchester Unity Building, the Forum, the State Library, Flinders Street Railway Station, the Shrine and the lions of St Kilda Road.

“I recall the impression that Melbourne made when I first arrived in 1979 – [the] city’s Gothic architectural details created an atmosphere that conjured up an earlier time,” Mr Cattell said.

“Just as the tram itself is an iconic symbol of Melbourne, I have tried to capture this Gothic spirit in my painting for a tram design”.

Mr Cattell and his partner, Dorelle Davidson, decided to venture around Melbourne to take photos of various images.

“We decided to go in for a day and take photos of all these various images around Melbourne. I misread the brief so I thought that we were meant to be designing for one specific type of tram, which we weren’t, and I designed [a piece] for one of those W-class trams. And luckily that’s the one we got,” Mr Cattell laughingly said.

From the opening of this year’s festival, eight trams from eight depots running across 21 different routes have been transformed.

The project showcases some of Victoria’s brightest artistic talents – both established and emerging artists – in a vibrant celebration of a vehicle that has become an emblem of Australia’s premier arts city.

There is no denying that Mr Cattell is incredibly grateful and happy to be chosen, but he admits that to him it was “just another job”.

“It’s a good profile job, and I’m also delighted that it’s on the City Loop [tram] from the point of view of the work being seen. You know, you’ve got quite a few rotations”.

So how did he feel when he saw his tram for the very first time?

“It’s fun. We were all driving away, and we said: ‘oh, yeah, that looks good’,” Mr Cattell proudly said.

The other 2014 Melbourne Art Tram artists, selected from 150 entries, are:
• Jeff Makin – Leading Australian landscape painter, and one of the original Transporting Art artists.
• Gabriella Possum Nungurrayi – Internationally renowned Indigenous artist.
• Kristin Headlam – an award winning painter who uses photographic images in her artistic process.
• Christian Thompson – Inaugural Charlie Perkins scholar and an internationally acclaimed multi-disciplinary artist.
• Janine Daddo – Painter, cartoonist and illustrator.
• Emerging artist, Callum Croker – A Year 12 student at Wesley College.

James Cattell’s Melbourne Dreamscape will roll around the City Circle line until April 2015.

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