Today a select group of students (from all year levels) traveled down to Essendon Fields to meet a very fine artist (and good friend of mine) named Eolo Paul Bottaro. I am told that this special ‘study tour’ organised with the kind assistance of the Essendon Fields management team is the first to visit Paul’s studio.
Melbourne-born Paul Bottaro has been a practicing artist for over 20 years and a self-confessed lover and exponent of the Renaissance art movement. In fact, he has succeeded in reviving ‘traditional’ art techniques that have almost been forgotten, such as paint from pure, hand-ground pigments. Paul also prefers to prepare his raw linen canvases by adhering to a 300-year-old gesso recipe (a recipe he customises for his own purposes). After four coats of gesso, he then adds an opaque organic pigment for coverage. Then, rather than using a white canvas to paint upon, he prefers to paint on colour which gives his background a mid-tone to work upon.
Our tour starts in the State Room at the Australian Event Centre where we get to stand up-close and personal with Paul’s magnificent fresco titled ‘Udepata – the Gathering Place’. What a sight to behold. Paul was able to explain in excellent and exact detail the lengthy and meticulous process he undertook to create the fresco. He was also able to comfortably answer some very good questions that were asked by our students.
Udepata depicts Ellery Creek Big Hole, one of the main waterholes in the West MacDonnell Ranges in central Australia. The Aboriginal name for the waterhole is Udepata, and as a permanent source of water it is an important place for the Arrarnta people. Many visitors come here to swim in its cool waters, and the artist has depicted contemporary figures immersed in an ancient, primordial landscape. His influences in creating this work include the paintings of Albert Namatjira (1902 – 1959), a prominent Aboriginal artist who depicted the region.
This work has been created in the method of buon fresco, a technique in which pure alkaline-resistant colour pigments, ground in water, are applied to wet plaster. When the plaster dries the painting is embedded in the surface of the wall. It is an exacting and labour intensive technique with little room for error. This piece was specially commissioned for the Australian Events Centre.
After a short walk to the Essendon Airport Terminal we were once again enthralled by Paul mastery with a brush as he highlighted the back story to a rather large oil painting titled ‘Pactolus’ that hangs near the entrance of the terminal. The painting has been created in the traditional egg tempera and oil on linen and depicts Victoria’s iconic NGV building as the backdrop of a scene depicting King Midas turning his daughter to gold.
Afterwards we were all invited to Paul’s studio located in a large disused building that resembles an hanger from the 1960s. Inside we were introduced to Paul’s latest work, a giant Titan sculpture that is destined to be turned into bronze and placed outside the Hyatt hotel at Essendon Fields. The titan sculpture is inspired by the mythological figure of Atlas – the Titan of Greek mythology – who was fated to bear the weight of the universe on his back.
Special thanks to Eolo Paul Bottaro for inviting us to his studio and to see his work at Essendon Fields. Thanks also to Christine Novo from the Essendon Fields Marketing Executive for helping to arrange the tour and for the lovely La Manna cakes.
To view more of Paul’s work please visit his website.