An artwork by Atong Atem on Hanover House titled Outdoor Living 2021

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Melbourne’s Hanover House has received a spectacular makeover, draped in vibrant 1970s-style wallpaper and dotted with native flowers that light up at night.

Artist Atong Atem was commissioned to create a piece for the building by property developer Beulah, who provided him with an extensive brief based on the idea of ​​an eco-friendly future. “I was thinking about the story and the space itself,” Atem says of the project, “so it felt really relevant to me because those are some of the things I think about when I do my artwork anyway. “

Atong Atem outside Hanover House, which has been transformed by his work “Outdoor Living”, 2021.
Credit:Wayne taylor

It’s sort of a last hurray for Hanover House: Beulah has purchased the property which will be demolished to make way for what will become Australia’s tallest building, the more than $ 2 billion project, STH BNK. Construction will begin next year.

South Sudanese Ethiopian-born artist Atem, based in Melbourne, has spent much of last year and several months this year in lockdown. This inspired her to create something bold and colorful, not at all subtle.

“Other than the fact that we haven’t been very exposed to art recently, we haven’t had much to look forward to,” says Atem. “It all seemed monotonous and overwhelming in a way, so it was kind of like – who knows what’s going to happen in a moment, we might find ourselves locked in, so let me say something really strong right now.” . It’s a bit of a novelty. I am not afraid of bright colors, I am not very minimalist.

As a nod to Hanover House's legacy, Atong Atem offered a vibrant '70s-style aesthetic.

As a nod to Hanover House’s legacy, Atong Atem offered a vibrant ’70s-style aesthetic.Credit:Wayne taylor

The 30-something is interested in Australian flora from a historical and colonial point of view. “I am also quite fascinated by the resemblance of the flora here to the flora of Africa. Banksias and waratahs are from the same family as proteas, which are native to southern Africa, ”she says. “In terms of thinking about movement and migration, and my own migration, it seems flowers are a very nice metaphor for it: seeds flown in the wind and planted elsewhere. “

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The motifs used in the work – which is titled Live outside (2021) – are evident in Atem’s earlier pieces, including his series of photographic studios, his work at the MARS gallery and in his first film Banksia, which was produced for the RISING festival. The short, which also has a 60s and 70s aesthetic, is due to screen at Sydney Contemporary in December.


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