Mothers and daughters, pair of brothers, paint for Rochester Mural Festival win

It will be brother against brother, and mother versus daughter, when Rochester Mural Festival entries are judged tomorrow.  

Two pairs of family members are among the eight artists selected to create large-scale artworks beside the Northern Highway in the central Victorian town. 

Muralist Kerry Nicholson, back for the third consecutive year, not only encouraged brother Malcolm to participate in 2017, he also used his family as the subject of his work.

The five-metre-long alfresco shows Mr Nicholson flanked by his son, Daniel, grandson Leighton and his great-grandfather. 

Mother-daughter duo Judy and Kirby Sens will also vie for the $5000 top prize tomorrow. 

The younger Sens woman sought to capture the Rochester sunset in her minimalist design, which she described as unique. 

“They’re always really warm, and there’s so many different colours,” Ms Sens said. 

You don’t get it in Bendigo, you don’t get it in Melbourne, it’s something you only get in farmland.”

A beam of sunlight in the work was Ms Sens’ way of offering Rochester hope after a period of drought, flood and locust plagues. 

Looking abroad

Melbourne-based Damian Cazaly also has family to thank for his first exposure to art; when he was a baby, his mother would sit him in her Tasmanian studio.

He drew inspiration from well beyond his native Apple Isle; the mythical Balinese creature Barong and Tibetan death lord Yama, images from a year spent travelling in Europe, feature in his work.

“There was a lot of life and death staring you in the face,” Mr Cazaly, who was on his second tour of Rochester, said.  

“But I also find a lot of inspiration in Australia, especially the flora and fauna, and our sense of larrakinism.”

An artistic collaboration

About 100 Rochester residents volunteer their time during the week-long festival, while passers-by also looked after sun-kissed painters with fruit from their gardens or cold drinks of water. 

Helpers also staff a Devonshire tea station inside the town’s court house, where visitors can also peruse and by examples of fine art from the competing muralists.

Organiser Judy Anderson said sports-mad locals were beginning to appreciate the benefits of arts tourism.

“The town’s pleased it’s here, and every year we’re building on it.”

Rochester schoolchildren were among those to observe the artists at work too.  

“They ask about why we’re doing certain things, how we got into it, how long we’ve been painting, so it’s good for them,” Malcolm Nicholson said, explaining the onlookers learnt mistakes could be painted over.  

She thanked new sponsors Burnewang North, Moama Bowling Club and the Pratt Foundation for supporting the festival, which costs the community about $17,000 to stage.

The mural competition concludes at midday tomorrow when the winning entry, and people’s choice award, are announced.