Arriving at the airport after a long flight can often leave you feeling a little sketchy as you step into the terminal, however that could take on a more literal meaning for travellers through Brisbane Airport with the introduction of the very first artist-in-residence, Robert Brownhall. One of the most renowned realist artists in the country, Brownhall will undertake a six month residence painting scenes from the busiest airport in Queensland.
The first appointment of its kind in the country, Robert Brownhall was selected as the first artist-in-residence by the Brisbane Airport Corporation (BAC) to capture the airport’s ‘behind-the-scenes’ aspects. Currently based in Queensland, Brownhall has already spent time sketching scenes from the waiting area, occupying a seat in the area just like fellow travellers.
The flat landscapes of airports offer great views, however the landscapes themselves are quite different to what many artists are used to capturing. “There’s nothing like the airport” Brownhall says. "There's so much to draw just from the waiting chairs, I'm just sitting amongst the passengers all the time."
Allowing him to play with space and distance, Brownhall uses the airport environment to experiment with shapes and shadows. "While sitting there drawing I'm using my eyes and hearing everything that is said around me — people greeting each other and their hellos and goodbyes" he said.
The length and darkness of the runways is the biggest challenge to recreate in his work, with Brownhall explaining "the tarmac is cement and it is a challenge to make cement look good, but I'm doing it." While you might be forgiven for thinking that many of these sketches feature emotionally charged farewells and reunions, there is still plenty of opportunity for playfulness.
In fact one of the more entertaining sketches is of the baggage claim area, drawn from above, and depicting the chaos of children running amok and bags tipping over. For frequent travellers, this is a scene they would know well. "I started drawing scenes without people, and I have several scenes like that, but that would be a lie as the place is crowded. The human element is big," he added.
Artist-in-residence Robert Brownhall will spend time sketching scenes at both the domestic and international terminals of Brisbane Airport over the next six months. Of his process, Brownhall explains, "I make a drawing first and then work from the drawing to bring the painting to life."
Having been drawing from a young age, Brownhall has stuck to his style. "I drew realistically then and I haven't really changed that much," he said. "I think I will end up with many, many more drawings than I need for this project so I will pin them on the wall and keep painting for years to come."
Brownhall aims to hold an exhibition of his works in partnership with the Brisbane Airport Corporation. After his six month stint as artist-in-residence has come to an end, an exhibition is planned to showcase 15 of Brownhall’s airport artworks, with one piece to be selected as a permanent additional to the public art collection of the Brisbane Airport Corporation.
So if you’re travelling through the Brisbane Airport anytime within the next six months – who knows, perhaps you might just feature in these artworks.