‘You see a bit of Jackson Pollock there’: the country pub with a striking work by Nicky Winmar | life and style
You’d expect the walls of a country pub to be adorned with sports memorabilia or old photos – and, to a large extent, Castlemaine’s Bridge Hotel in regional Victoria is just that.
But on the wall in the back room hangs a striking piece of abstract art.
“You don’t have to make things look stupid,” says publican Pat Furze.
“You want ads to feel fairly accessible. You want people to walk in, in their work boots, and feel relaxed – so I tend to decorate the pub with old memorabilia. But that doesn’t mean you can’t elevate the pub with a truly beautiful and interesting piece of art.
The artwork is called Untitled, by Melbourne artist and AFL great Nicky Winmar.
“The response to the work from staff and customers has been overwhelmingly positive,” says Furze.
“I’m a huge fan of Aussie Rules – not St Kilda, I’m from North Melbourne. But Nicky is one of those players in his career who has transcended parochial team rivalries. He’s become such a beloved player on the pitch and then a cultural figure off the pitch. Everyone really likes him. You see him when he’s walking down the street, people gravitate [towards him] and want to chat. [For] anyone over 35, it’s a household name for anyone who loves the game.”
But it was Winmar’s art – mostly abstract work – that really caught Furze’s eye, leading the publican to buy Untitled through Winmar’s Instagram account. “Nicky has been painting for years – and it’s only been a few years since he made it his main calling.”
“He’s such an interesting painter. I collect art here and there – mostly for the home, sometimes for the pub. Nicky’s work draws a lot from his upbringing in WA, places he knew as a child, inspired by the Dreaming, but he also draws inspiration from the main abstract expressionists. We see a little Jackson Pollock. Talking to him was one of his biggest influences.
There’s a recognizable style in Winmar’s work, with his rich colors and thick paintwork, Furze says.
“If you live with it – if it’s in your house, sitting over your table – you can get something out of it on different occasions, it can grow with you.”
On a gray day in Castlemaine, the artwork gives the room some color, warmth and action. “The black and red – the background is split almost upside down [Aboriginal] flag. The chaos is all in white – in the foreground,” says Furze. “It just feels balanced to me.”
“The Winmar is a really chaotic painting, and some people would look at it and think it’s too much. It’s like being at a hectic party. But I find a lot more peace there.