A cynical Craig Roberts explores the artistic landscape of Broken Hill and discovers plenty to be amazed by . . .
When most people think of artists today, the image tends to be of über-pompous university educated gits who cut cows in half, paint a canvas plain white, or cover tables in sugar satchels and then have, for some inexplicable reason, money thrown at them. This is a prejudice I hold with great resolve. Though I’m always happy to be proved wrong, I do hate modern art.

Skill, patience and persistence rarely thrive in big city life, so it’s not totally unsurprising to find it doesn’t exactly flourish within the self-indulgent arty farty sections of the big smoke. That it blossoms in Broken Hill really shouldn’t amaze too much. The relative isolation of this “backwater” is the local art community’s saving grace from the pollution of self-importance.

A gay Italian master painted the Sistine Chapel, sponsored by the might of the Vatican. A wandering Aboriginal miner painted Mario’s Palace in return for a place to rest his head.

Now, Broken Hill Tourism should issue a health warning to anyone coming to experience its local art scene. With 30-plus art galleries within a town a shade over 20,000 people, it’s easy to get all arted out very quickly. All are well worth a look, but to help avoid an overdose for the time- and care-poor, we’ve compiled a small diverse list of art to see:

1. The Art of Deirdre Edwards: For one completely out of the box, there’s none better in Broken Hill than Dee Edwards. Her work swims against the flow of the region and rather than offering a photorealistic interpretation of landscape, Dee paints her inner impressions of the surrounding environs by using unique visual abstract metaphors and techniques.
Details // 34 Williams Lane, (08) 8088 3913.

2. Amanda Johnson: Amanda is of a rare breed that traverses two styles. At the centre, though, is always the vivid use of colour – whether it’s through her contemporary landscapes and flowers or the intricate portraits that collage an entire life on canvas.
Details // 191 Argent St, (08) 8088 6888, www.amandajohnsonartist.com.au

3. Howard William Steer Art Gallery: Howard’s art is not unlike the outback itself: literal, full of colour and always looking to take the Michael out of any situation.
Details // 721 William St, (08) 8087 4736 (call when you arrive in town), www.howardsteerart.com.au

4. Boris Hlavica: Anyone can take a beautiful photo, saturate the colour and trim the edges for Photoshop perfection. Not everyone can exoticise the mundane, make the hard industrial edges of machinery look magnetic or bring the parched desert to life. Boris does. After dousing your eyes in photorealistic paintings all day, some real photography should be just the thing to make you self-conscious of your own photographic shortcomings.
Details // 145 Sulphide St, (08) 8087 1051, www.imagesofaustralia.com.au

5. Bushy White’s Mineral Art Gallery and Museum: If you can find anyone else in the world that creates art like Bushy, we’d love to know about it. Using the raw colour and reflections of crushed minerals, Bushy has created thousands of pieces of work that depict the life and history of Broken Hill. His gallery is no ordinary timber frames and white walls affair but a reconstruction of an underground mine, complete with blasting and drilling machinery, mineral displays and history lessons to boot!
Details // 1 Allendale St, (08) 8087 1051.

6. Mario’s Palace: A gay Italian master painted the Sistine Chapel, sponsored by the might of the Vatican. A wandering Aboriginal miner painted Mario’s Palace in return for a place to rest his head. That unknown painter left behind ceiling and wall murals that have been described as Italian Renaissance meets the outback. Currently under refurbishment, the Palace has reopened limited rooms for accommodation. Have a squiz.
Details // Cnr Argent & Sulphide St, (08) 8088 1699, mariospalace@hotmail.com

*Craig was a guest of Tourism NSW.

HAVE YOUR SAY: What do you think? Have you experienced some fascinating outback artworks you’d like to tell us about? Sign up free to the AT Website and have your say by posting a comment below on your best “Artback” experience.