A vivid new artwork by artist Atong Atem
Transforming Southbank's Hanover House
The city’s Hanover House, and future site for STH BNK By Beulah, will be brought to life by Melbourne’s rising star artist Atong Atem, who has been commissioned to animate two facades of the building.
The ambitious new public art commission has been commissioned for BETA By STH BNK, an experiential event series that will bring together international brands, revered artists and makers, immersive dining and much more over a six month period.
Situated in the heart of a dynamic international arts precinct, STH BNK By Beulah aims to showcase how future expressions of art and culture can enhance and enrich daily life. Atong Atem’s dramatic statement in paint and LED neons, Outside Living (2021) draws inspiration from her archive of colonial and vintage European wallpapers.
Dramatic, large-scale illuminated neon flowers will overlay a painted wallpaper design across two facades of the 20m building in a vibrant transformation that encapsulates the artist’s vision of Melbourne’s past and future. The signature motifs have been adapted from Atem’s past works, including her photographic Studio Series at NGV Triennial, and new film Banksia, commissioned for this year’s Rising Festival.
Beulah appointed London-based cultural placemaking and world-class arts commissioning agency Futurecity Ltd to create the temporary artwork to transform the building, with the brief to showcase Beulah’s commitment to sustainability, wellness and technology by incorporating low-VOC and low-energy consumption materials.
Atong Atem, an Ethiopian-born, South Sudanese, Naarm/Melbourne-based artist, says that her work explores her relationship to Melbourne, Australia and beyond when forming the sense of belonging to a place.
“I’m interested in the relationships between people, our connection with the natural and built environments, and how this is interwoven with the visual signs and symbols that define our histories. With the work I have developed for Hanover House, I’m interested in the aesthetics of 1970s Australian homes and have chosen to reference the intimacy of those spaces by creating a wallpaper pattern reminiscent of late 20th-century living room walls.
“With the work I have developed for Hanover House, I’m interested in the aesthetics of 1970s Australian homes and have chosen to reference the intimacy of those spaces by creating a wallpaper pattern reminiscent of late 20th-century living room walls.”
“Wallpaper and fabric have featured prominently in my past work, with patterns overlapped and collaged together. They balance layers of complexity within the visual composition and weave diverse histories, cultural narratives and contemporary culture into the frame. I’ve done a lot of work with local flowers found on walks in my local area, taken home, scanned and captured as images, frozen as permanent depictions of the time and place in which I live,” she said.
For Outdoor Living, Atong has paired wallpaper design with an overlay of LED lighting; whilst the wallpaper refers to interior spaces, the LED evokes the neon signs of a 20th-century cityscape lit with commercial designs.
“Neon has a long history in pop and conceptual art; using new LED technology enables a more sustainable way to evoke nostalgia for this classic neon imagery. This also speaks to a time when Hanover House was one of the tallest buildings in Southbank,” she said.
BETA is designed to give Melburnians a feel for what can be expected as part of Beulah’s $2 billion-plus project, STH BNK By Beulah. A project of unprecedented scale, STH BNK By Beulah is set to become Australia’s tallest building, boasting fully integrated vertical villages, drawing together leading figures in design and placemaking with pioneering creative collaborators.
Designed to positively impact the community, STH BNK By Beulah will also support the transformation of the Melbourne Arts Precinct and will become a quintessential destination for the city’s 2.2 million international tourists and visitors.
IMAGE: EGO, 2020 & RUTH WITH VEIL, 2020, DIGITAL IMAGE, COURTESY THE ARTIST AND MARS GALLERY, MELBOURNE