Art Series Hotels’ latest stay, The Schaller Studio, has opened in vibrant Bendigo. To celebrate, hotel namesake (and Aussie artist) Mark Schaller painted us these exclusive paintings of his Bendigo

We all have a place that captures our imagination leaving a lasting impression. For award-winning Aussie expressionist Mark Schaller, the Victorian township of Bendigo is that place. Schaller is now one of Australia’s strongest mid-career artists who has had numerous successful solo gallery exhibitions both at home and abroad. When we heard his work was to be celebrated in a new Bendigo hotel, we couldn’t resist asking: would he share his favourite aspects of the town with us? Amazingly, Schaller went one step further with these incredible paintings.

Painting 1: The most inspiring spot to sketch is a place where lovers go.

It’s called Mickey Mouse Hill, a quiet and peaceful spot where you get a view across Bendigo – all the big buildings, the very large Sacred Heart Cathedral, and the suburbs of Bendigo trailing off into the distance. There are also lots of trees, all different kinds; trees that were planted hundreds of years ago, poplars and willows and deciduous European varieties. It’s especially beautiful in Autumn.”

Painting 2: There are many things I love about this town.

The French-style mansard roofs on the buildings, the Victorian artworks, the beautiful buildings with balconies and iron lace work… you can imagine the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet happening here; it’s all quite romantic. They actually brought a lot of those buildings stone by stone from England, which would have cost an absolute fortune – but Bendigo’s goldfields were the richest in the world. There’s a really interesting Chinese history here as well; a lot of the Chinese walked here all the way from South Australia to set up businesses around the gold mines. A giant Chinese kiln was recently discovered buried underground here. I love the idea of that. It’s sort of like gold itself – you can’t see it, it’s uncut, you’ve got to rediscover it.”

Painting 3: If you were getting married, you’d definitely have a photograph here.

This fountain in the main square was donated by someone who made a lot of money in the goldfields. It’s very ornate, sort of art-nouveau; reminiscent of Rome, perhaps, although it was built by the English. All around the centre of town is pretty nice, in fact. The romance of Bendigo is that there are still things to be discovered, hotels that aren’t being used, buildings that have a lot of potential. Chancery Lane, which they’ve just done up, has a boutique beer café, coffee shops, very trendy clothes shops – actually, if you’re after a cup of inspiration, any one of the little cafés on that street are good. Although I think I’d prefer a glass of red wine… Speaking of which, there are some seriously good vineyards nearby. Heathcote is very close and they reckon some of its wines have been judged among the best in the world. The Pyrenees ranges – named for their likeness to those in the south of France – are not far, either, and they’ve got really wonderful open wineries that you can drive around and visit.Ilike Mount Avoca winery, and one called Blue Pyrenees Estate – in the foreground you’ve got these rows and rows of grapes, hundreds of acres, then in the background you’ve got the Pyrenees and that vast Australian sky.”

Painting 4: The people in Bendigo are very polite

They seem to be very relaxed and well mannered – it’s such a relief! Especially those you meet on the trams – they just seem more conducive to… well, they’re more open, I suppose. It goes hand in hand with that feeling that you can just jump on and off as you like. Every three years, Bendigo puts a different vintage tram on its tracks. They’ve got an entire depot of original trams here, dating back to the 1800s – our trams use the same gauge as in San Francisco. In fact, I think the Americans bought some trams from Bendigo, to take back there – they’d neglected all theirs. They’re open, and all wooden, and you can see that they’re really crafted, these beautiful old transport vehicles. A few years ago the powers that be wanted to get rid of them but the people of Bendigo protested. The current tram is actually mine, all painted on the inside like an artists’ studio. My daughters love it.”

Painting 5: This is my favourite stop on the tramline – the art gallery.

It’s just had a wonderful new extension, which backs onto a park with a cafeteria. It’s an international destination now, with exhibitions from all over the place. It had an exhibition on Grace Kelly – it’s about time she was recognised as one of the Kelly gang, I say. It’s also in a really lovely street, with a whole lot of bars, coffee shops and hotels… it’s slightly romantic. And then there’s an old bank that they’ve turned into a bar, called Wine Bank. They might even be able to arrange finance, if you’re hard up for a drink.”

You can Stay at the Schaller Studio, Bendigo…

…from $125 per night. Alongside the usual creature comforts, each of the 150 rooms features a quirky, localised mini-bar menu,free wi-fi, in-room coffee machine and a one-off piece of Schaller’s artwork. See Art Series Hotels

 

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