The artist behind Canberra’s enormous and ill-fated magpie sculpture is back. This time he’s tucked in a Queanbeyan alleyway climbing atop a scissor lift, paint roller in hand.
Yanni Pounartzis was enlisted by Creative Road and Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council (QPRC) to bring his distinctive style of layering fun colours to No Name Lane off Monaro Street.
Neon lights, greenery, new seating and a collection of lightboxes to showcase rotating exhibitions from local artists will help bring the large-scale mural alive.
“The brief was pretty simple: revitalise the alleyway by bringing some colour to it,” he says.
“They thought my style was suited to what they wanted to do.”
Yanni has worked nationally and internationally as a mural artist and his paintings are held in private collections in Melbourne, Sydney, Canberra, Berlin and New York. Local striking works include his Pedestrian Strips mural and most recent sculpture Big Swoop, which landed in Garema Place in Civic earlier this year.
He describes No Name Lane as his “biggest job to date”.
“In terms of the amount of surface area and paint, this is the biggest one so far,” he says.
“I’m also having to use a scissor lift, which is whole new experience for me.”
It will be a familiar style but Yanni says the composition is thoroughly custom.
“There are lots of lines, windows, pipes, so I used that as a grid system,” he says.
“I don’t like to just slap artwork onto any environment, it has to be born from what the environment is doing. In this case, that meant a lot of lines.”
Two large walls line No Name Lane – nine metres high and 25 metres wide. The artwork will run down both walls and meet on the ground in the lane’s centre.
“The idea is that when you walk into the alleyway, you’re engulfed by colour from the bottom and around you, left and right,” Yanni says.
The artwork is “just over halfway” done with another 10 days or so to go as he heads onto the second wall.
“This week will be the second wall, followed by the ground last of all.”
As for his previous work, Yanni says Big Swoop is still “in hospital”.
Within weeks of the magpie sculpture coming to rest in Civic, vandals attacked the concrete body, chipping it in several places.
“He’s definitely coming back – we’re just negotiating with people who can help us fix it,” Yanni says.
“We just need to rethink the location and how to protect it. Obviously, we can’t trust people.”
Yanni says the new mural can’t really be damaged beyond graffiti, which is easily rectified with solvent and touch-up paint.
“All street art is exposed to graffiti – you just have to hope people respect it. Artwork on a wall can’t break.”
The lane’s rejuvenation is part of the Monaro Lanes project which will improve the pedestrian safety, amenity and functionality of No Name Lane and Blacksmiths Lane.
The first exhibition in the laneway will include photographs from local photographer, portrait specialist Hilary Wardhaugh.
QPRC secured $505,701 in funding from the NSW Government’s Your High Street program in May 2021. The grant program enables councils to support local business recovery, provide economic stimulus, and improve community safety and comfort.
Follow Yanni Pounartzis’ work on Instagram.