Utes in the paddock - Condobilin

In the heart of Lachlan River country at the geographic centre of New South Wales, a dynamic celebration of Australia’s outback culture is building momentum. Residents around the central west town of Condobolin are buzzing about a quirky project developing on a nearby station. Iconic model Holden utes are taking on new life as part of an ambitious artists’ tribute to life in the outback. “Utes in the Paddock” is the brainchild of Graham and Jana Pickles, graziers whose passion for the outback led them to start a Dorper Sheep Stud on their historic cattle station Burrawang West at Ootha near Condobilin.

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While travelling Route 66 on a trip across the United States, Graham and his wife, Jana were drawn to an unusually popular attraction aptly named “Cadillac Ranch”, located in the west Texas panhandle near Amarillo. Along side Route 66, ten classic Cadillacs, buried to their windshields, provide a public spray paint graffiti canvas for anyone inspired to leave his mark. Intrigued by the ranch’s popularity, and with hundreds of highway miles remaining on the Pickles’ journey to Los Angeles, the “Utes in the Paddock” concept grew from a whimsical ‘what if’ seed to a plan with roots in outback Australia. When Graham returned to Burrawang West Station, he called in to see Mike Taylor of Mike Taylor Autos in Condobolin, who was immediately on board and the Utes team began working on the project in August 2007.

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Lightning Ridge’s famous John Murray was the first artist to join the team, demonstrating keen enthusiasm for the project by creating the initial artwork for the series of utes to be displayed in the “Utes in the Paddock” gallery. Murray’s “Circle Work” features a flock of galahs at play, encircling a 1971 Holden HQ series ute as it floats through the air towed by a flying sculptured galah. “My ute is called ‘Circle Work’. ‘Circle Work’ is the practice of madly driving a ute flat out in circles, better performed if ‘bundie'd up’ at a Bachelors and Spinsters Ball (a traditional bush get together for young blokes and ladies). I have used the galah as a reference to the larrikin lads and ladettes driving such utes. I painted the ute sky blue and have the galahs flying in a circular motion around the ute. The galah towing the ute away represents the ‘fun police’.”

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Joining Murray in the project, Shane Gehlert completed his striking painting of “Epitaph to Fossil Fuels” on a 1977 Holden HZ, which took its place in the paddock in late June, 2008. Featuring Gehlert’s signature Roboroo amid stunning outback hues of red, orange and blue, Shane’s ute reaches upward to the sky. Perched on its tailgate, “Epitaph” creates an undeniably imposing impact on its audience. “The roo watches you as you move from one side of the artwork to the other –I don’t know how he’s done it, but Shane has an incredible talent.”

Peter Browne, of Silverton fame, was inspired by time spent with his good mate Pro Hart for his painting of a 1976 HJ ute which features vibrant outback colours, spontaneous splashes of colour across the bonnet and many of Peter’s famous Emus to complete his artwork for the collection.

“Fourteen utes are on display now” says Graham “and we hope to have at least 4 more in place by the end of August this year.” Joining John Murray, Shane Gehlert and Peter Browne, accomplished contributing artists from all over New South Wales and Queensland include Michael Jones, Peter Mortimore, Eris Fleming, Paul Blahuta, Greg Brennan, Belinda Williams, Stephen Coburn, Karen Tooth and Lewis Burns.

Source: utesinthepaddock.com.au