TITLE: Memories of SurfAir Hotel
SIZE: 4.8metre long x 2.8metres high
MEDIUM: acrylic on aluminium compound board
CLIENT: Sunshine Coast Council & The Marcoola Traders Association
SITE: Suncoast Drive, Marcoola, Australia.
A mural produced during the summer of 2012 – 2013, commissioned by the Sunshine Coast Council as a key component to the public art project for the Marcoola/Surfair shopping strip, jointly funded by the Marcoola Community and Traders Association. Titled, “Beach Escape And Memories Of Surfair”, the mural is approx 3 x 4 meters, painted on aluminium composite board.
Inspiration for my art comes from growing up on the coast.
As a child, I have personal recollections of ‘the big drive’ along the sandtrack behind the dunes we now know as Marcoola and the unlikely construction of the Surfair.
For this mural I portray a local narrative as a ‘beach tableaux’ and have drawn inspiration from the site itself and it’s outrageous contemporary history.
The entire area was originally an exposed, open plain of incredible wild flowers with the David Low Way running parallel to the open beach and around the airport runway. Apart from the site’s obvious features, like the glare of concrete, the passing cars, the wall of buildings, the strong winds, the open beach, the nearby island and the thundering jets – I took a look back into my past to recall what the area was about during the 70’s and 80’s.
There are many myths as well as facts about what went on at Surfair – the first building to go up beside the runway.
For over a decade, Surfair Hotel sat alone, six stories high, on the sand beside the barren airport. Was this place going to be another Surfers Paradise? Like the bridge of a rusty aircraft carrier she went into disrepair until the David Low Way site gradually developed. Eventually smaller buildings appeared along the other side of the road and several high rises eventually joined Surfair during the 90’s. What was once a ‘drive-by’ has become a more welcoming destination for our ever growing population. The original hotel is near invisible to my eyes amongst the newer beach-side buildings.
Everyone seems to go into a trance when speaking about their times at Surfair – its beautiful gardens, the bars, the pool games and of course, the fantastic rock & roll every Saturday night in the beer-garden. Being the artist, I would often turn up with a quiver of cheap felt pens to get my friends in free with a copy of the night’s pass-out stamp.
Australia’s top bands played there every weekend and people were drawn from all over the place.
Red nosed, intimidating, underbelly types flew in for weekends with their pretty escorts to mingle around the kidney-shaped pool and the bars, dressed in their best thongs. Wild characters, including the ‘dolphin teeth man’, would be perched at the bar in their speedos or stubbies.
The bars were initially lavish with carpet lined walls, Hollywood lighting and city-like chintz. The North Shore crew (Mudjimba to Noosa) seemingly dominated the Saturday night crowd and on Friday nights everyone would fall into the beergarden after 11pm to continue their night where the Johnnie Moselle, All-Male-Revue would perform Las Vegas show-tunes up on the stage.
While working on this mural to radio Christmas carols, I reminisced as I gradually painted specific colours around these representational images of my youth.
Much of my work chronicles the coastal plain and comes from the spirit of place – as I work on it – and for this mural I sensed it needed to represent how significant this site truly is for so many of us, as an integral element of Australia’s contemporary history.
This commission took me on a journey that was both reflective and curious.
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