24 February 2023

From the Murrumbateman community, tanks for the fine art

| Sally Hopman
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Man and woman in front of mural

Artist Jimmi Buscombe with Sally Bensley from the Murrumbateman Lions Club and the huge finished mural. Photo: Cathy McCutcheon.

Artist Jimmi Buscombe has created more than 35 pieces of mural art across Australia on everything from water tanks to silos.

He’s painted favourite pets for people in nursing homes, ranging from Clydesdale horses to labradors, and has had his work hung in such prestigious exhibitions as the Doug Moran and the National Portrait prizes.

But it is a project he has just completed in the small village of Murrumbateman, between Canberra and Yass, that has given him some of the greatest satisfaction.

Two years ago he was contacted by the village’s Lions Club. They wanted his advice on how to beautify a 2.5-megalitre tank that was installed when a water pipeline was opened.

“I ended up giving them a lot of time and energy because they were so enthusiastic and it was such a small community – and they weren’t getting any grants to help them do it,” Jimmi said. “I loved that they decided to take it on themselves.

But when the committee mentioned it wanted the tank to highlight the plight of endangered species like the Gang Gang Cockatoo and Golden Sun Moth, “they ticked all my boxes”, Jimmi said.

He was invited to come on board and, as of the end of this week, had spent a total of 178 hours on the project.

His work is designed to not only portray the beauty that is the local bush life, but to also educate people, visitors and locals, about the importance of caring for our wildlife and environment.

READ ALSO Murrumbateman draws on silo art as inspiration to beautify water tank

From day one, the Lions Club worked closely with the local Landcare group, discussing which birds and trees should be featured on the tank – while Jimmi said his job was to turn those ideas into a design.

“I ended up doing the design digitally on my iPad,” he said. “I had about eight images to work with … my job was to create a cohesive picture of them. I ended up with the Gang Gangs, a yellow box forest – and the glowing pink sky which could be sunset or a sunrise.”

Jimmi submitted his design to all the stakeholders – and he was off. He sketched the vision on the tank – helped by the fact that the concrete structure was formed with ring moulds every 2.4 metres so he could use those as lines to work out what needed to be painted where. “Then I used chalk lines and worked about a square at a time.

“It was sort of like a giant colouring in competition,” he joked.

So how hard was is to get all the dimensions right when you’re working on such a large canvas, mostly from high on a lift, sometimes 15 metres up in the air?

“I actually find this sort of work easier than working on a canvas,” he said.

Four people in front of giant water tank

Flashback to September 2022: Members of the Murrumbateman Lions Club launch their appeal to fund the water tank mural – when the plan was little more than a blank canvas. Terry Davis, Steve McCutcheon, Cathy McCutcheon, Paul Helmling and Sally Bensley. Photo: Linda Bensley.

“The only problem is your arms start to hurt when you’re doing such wide brushstrokes. Public art is very demanding work, but I love doing it because you are connecting to a community.”

During the painting process, Jimmi would regularly stop work to speak to visitors, answering their questions. He painted every day, unless the weather defeated him.

His finished product is a stunning piece of art in a precinct of the village designed to attract visitors. It is part of a larger campaign by the Murrumbateman Lions to draw more visitors to the area. Located within the Murrumbateman Bush Cemetery Precinct, beautification of this area has been top of the club’s agenda since the project began in 1991. A bush garden, memorial walkway, construction of a columbarium, a wooden perimeter fence and more seating had already been established in the area.

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Jimmi said he was impressed with how the Murrumbateman community, when it failed to get government grants for the project, took it upon themselves to fund the project.

“That’s why I was so happy to be part of this,” he said. “It’s all about community working with community. It’s a real grassroots effort to make something happen – and they did.”

Murrumbateman Lions spokeswoman Sally Bensley said the club was very grateful to everyone who helped make the project a reality, including the Murrumbateman Progress Association, Southern Tablelands Arts and the Murrumbateman Landcare Group.

“Caring for the environment is an important issue for the Lions Club,” she said, “and so is education.”

She said the new Murrumbateman school, which has only been open a month or so, was already planning to include the story of the endangered species, as illustrated on the water tank, in its curriculum.

You can view more of Jimmi’s work here.

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Jenn Stewart4:30 pm 27 Feb 23

What a great initiative – well done all involved.

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