ABOVE: Coonamble artist Brian Campbell and his mother Lila Campbell standing by Brian’s latest commission, a giant wire netting sculpture of a bandicoot due to be set up on a sculpture trail near Cameron Corner.
By OLIVER BROWN
LOCAL artist Brian Campbell is putting the finishing touches on his steel netting bandicoot and is due to truck it to the north-western border once the path is clear.
Mr Campbell’s sculpture is of a Western-Barred Bandicoot, and is the biggest being constructed as part of an expanding trail of scultpures in the area from Broken Hill to Cameron Corner on the border of NSW, South Australia and Queensland.
The trail is part of the Sturt’s Steps project, an upcoming circular touring loop and adventure experience designed to attract tourists to the area.
Mr Campbell was commissioned to construct the bandicoot late last year and has been working on it off and on for the past few months.
Mr Campbell said he has worked on projects with a similar amount of materials in the past, though this would be his largest.
“When it’s finished, it will be five metres long, from tail to snout, and three metres high,” Mr Campbell said.
“When I made the Bullocks in Gular, I used a similar amount of materials, but it’s the biggest piece I’ve worked on in terms of scale, which was a bit daunting when I first started.”
The animal required careful scaling and Mr Campbell kept an eye on the overall size to ensure it could fit through his workshop door with a couple of centimetres to spare when mechanically lifted.
The bandicoot is made up of several layers of stretched netting, creating a furry appearance over a steel skeleton made of used suction rod. The eyes are also recycled farm equipment – each eye is half of a ball from a large float valve.
The bandicoot has become more and more lifelike with each passing week, though Mr Campbell said he has constantly been trying to go above and beyond with its appearance.
“I sent the people organising the sculptures some photos while I was still working on it and they thought it was finished,” he said.
“The way I look at it is like paint – if you just have the undercoat, it looks good, but adding multiple overcoats makes it look even better.”
At the same time, Mr Campbell said he is not above taking creative liberties to make sure the sculpture meets his own standards as an artist.
“I actually removed two toes on its front feet – they are meant to have five, but I didn’t think it looked right, so I took them off,” he said.
“I’m going for authenticity, but it also needs to be eye-catching.”
Mr Campbell is relatively new as a professional artist, his family running Coonamble Steel for years, though those that know him say he was creative even from a young age.
This artistic spirit may have been inherited from his mother Lila Campbell, who was a long-term china-painting artist in her younger days.
Mrs Campbell said while her husband had prided himself on Brian’s success as a competitive rodeo rider in his youth, she was likely responsible for nurturing his future success as an artist.
“Even as a child, I used to tell him ‘light, medium and dark’, and I always told him to do the eyes first – then you know the animal,” Mrs Campbell said.
According to Mr Campbell, the bandicoot is destined to be set up about 20 kilometres from Cameron Corner. He planned to take it to the area personally on Sunday, 28 March in a convoy with several friends and family members.
However, as of Tuesday, 23 March, he said this would likely be delayed until at least next month due to the heavy rainfall impacting the roads in the area.
“Apparently, they’ve been hit with 100mm, which is the biggest rain they’ve had out there in the last 10 years, and there’s possibly more on the way,” he said.
“The bandicoot is finished and ready to go, but right now, we think the best course of action is to postpone the delivery for at least two weeks.”
He said this project will have a special place in his heart, though he will have plenty to keep him busy for the rest of the year.
“I’ll be proud to have it out there – I’ve always liked the outback and its history, so it’ll be great to be a part of that,” he said.
“I’m already booked out with projects for the rest of this year – I can’t disclose exactly what I’ll be working on yet.
“What I can say is that I do want to eventually get away from this kind of art using netting – I would like to get back into doing some work with pyrography and clay sculpture – but the other projects will probably interfere with that.”