22 March 2024

The Belconnen Owl has company - new mural at graffiti hot-spot celebrates all things northern

| James Coleman
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four men in front of a mural

The artists behind the new Belconnen Way mural – Paul, Kurt, Eddie Mowat and Byrd. Photo: ACT Government.

When Eddie Mowat attended Lake Ginninderra College, he had his after-school routine down pat.

“I was always hanging out at the Belco Skate Park, and then I’d race off to the Belconnen bus interchange to get home.”

So when he won a tender with the ACT Government to paint a mural on the back of a Transport Canberra and City Services (TCCS) depot building in Belconnen, his vision was crystal clear.

You know the building – pale brick with a strip of windows along the top, visible from Belconnen Way near the Coulter Drive intersection. It’s been a graffiti hotspot for years – and not the legal kind.

But now it’s new look is being described by the government as the Belconnen Owl’s “new friend”.

The design sports Belconnen’s postcode of 2617, with the number ‘2’ filled in with an old ACTION bus, ‘6’ with a skateboarder in action, ‘1’ with the Owl sculpture, and ‘7’ with a tranquil scene from the shores of Lake Ginninderra. All are backlit by a vibrant “collage of graffiti pieces”.

“That site has always been prone to graffiti and vandalism, so I figured it needed to reflect that history,” Eddie says.

“Let’s say a bit of fighting fire with fire.”

READ ALSO It’s taken 13 years, but a new ‘vert ramp’ is coming to Canberra’s biggest skate park. Is it enough?

Eddie traces his artistic streak back to high school when he would often wander the streets of Belconnen and the city, camera in hand, to capture anything that caught his eye. Frequently, this involved the humble stormwater channels.

“Back then, you could always walk along the drains, see the tags, and yeah, the interest just grew from there. I started realising I could be making tags myself.”

He signed up for the Street Art Youth Program at the PCYC in Turner, where he met his mentors, Kurt and Byrd. Together, they would spend every spare moment practising in the workshops and at the 30 legal graffiti practice sites dotted around the ACT.

man painting a mural

Fighting fire with fire. Photo: ACT Government.

To fulfil the dream of living in a “concrete jungle” surrounded by street art, he spent some time overseas in Amsterdam, Berlin and Copenhagen, where the scene is “huge”.

“I worked alongside artists I made fast friends with when living in those places on one-year visas and certainly picked up some knowledge of the art.”

Until the Belconnen depot building, his biggest job in Canberra covered two floors of the Fenner Hall Canberra Accommodation Centre at the Australian National University (ANU), one floor featuring pop art and the other surrealism.

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The Belconnen mural was completed in a little over a week earlier this month, with help from Eddie’s two former PCYC mentors and Pilipino friend Paul.

“Everyone has ties to Belconnen, living in the suburbs around it like myself or having been to school there,” Eddie says.

He says spraypainting the back of a building often gets mixed reactions from passers-by, and especially in a city, “you get all sorts of commentary”.

men paiting a mural

Rolling the bus. Photo: ACT Government.

“But I only noticed one happy toot of the horn,” although he adds, “it seems to be getting a very positive response online.”

Eddie regularly attends the Haig Park Markets in Braddon with a friend, selling artworks of Canberra icons, including the Belconnen Owl. He sees the mural as a poetic fulfilment.

“I’ve been joking that one day the government will pay me to paint a ‘Penis Owl’, and what do you know?!”

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