You see a termite mound, artists see a canvas

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DRESS UP: Ian Hance with a selection of his striking paintings. Picture: supplied.The long stretches of highway across northern Australia have become the canvas for road-tripping “artists” dressing up the ubiquitous termite mounds.
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Katherine region residents fully enter the spirit of the dress up around Christmas.

The mounds, dressed in outfits ranging from lingerie to high vis work gear, are the focus of an exhibition by Charles Darwin University visual arts PhD candidate Ian Hance.

Ian said his collection of vivid and humorous paintings of the dressed-up termite mounds would be exhibited in the incongruous setting of the World War II storage tunnels near Fort Hill Wharf in Darwin.

Termite mound Santa near Katherine in outback NT.

“It’s a study into the irreverent, and often obscene, humour and the motivation behind people dressing these mounds throughout the Outback,” Ian said.

“My collection is a culmination of about four years’ research and painting. It depicts the grotesque and random absurdity of these mounds spruiking bras, sunnies and beer cans among other decorations.”

Ian said many mounds were simply adorned with a work hat.

“My paintings capture a range of caricatures found along the roads of remote Australia,” he said.

“One that had a profound effect on me was what I have named ‘Soldier Settler’. It was an embodiment of abject, uncanny and grotesque humour. It was simple and stark with a soldier’s hat and crowbar in salute.”

Termites enter the Christmas spirit on the Stuart Highway.

Ian said a variety of reasons seemed to inspire people to clothe the mounds.

“Some do it out of boredom on a long trip, others are a statement, commemorative or memetic,” he said. “Many simply see one and want to do one of their own.”

Katherine Times

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