Living Lanes project to transform Katoomba streets

A stroll through the laneways of Katoomba will soon double as a sensory extravaganza, following the announcement of the artists selected to create new contemporary art installations that promise to imbue the town with a renewed artistic, experimental verve.

Living Lanes is a community arts initiative developed by Blue Mountains City Council in partnership with Toolo, the Blue Mountains Tool Library, that seeks to enliven local towns through public art. Earlier this year, installation proposals were invited from artists in Greater Western Sydney. The five artists or artist partnerships selected are Freedom Wilson and Georgina Donovan, Andrew Belletty, Bianca Hayden and Mark Leacy, Mark Surtees, and Heidi Axelsen and Hugo Moline.

The artists have responded to a theme of 'sustainability', with the works interpreting this in various ways. Wilson and Donovan's piece, Mushroom Matrix, responds to local rainforest fungi, 63 silkscreen printed plywood forms that, Wilson said, "celebrate just a few of the incredible local fungi species."

"We began working on the concept during a bush walk along the Sassafras Gully track," added Katoomba-based Wilson. "Finding unexpected species of fruiting fungi along the way, we were inspired, and began photographing, drawing and observing nearby plants, and fallen branches."

The two artists worked on the project through lockdown, and their piece will be installed in Penny Lane in the centre of Katoomba. At the end of the installation, their plywood fungi forms will be woodchipped and scattered on public garden beds.

Of the other artworks, Belletty's piece, Echo Lane, is a sound installation (Belletty was a founding member of the band Yothu Yindi), while Hayden and Leacy's Time Spectrum is a sculpture work that toys with colour and sunlight. Mark Surtees's The Click uses QR codes to explore questions around sustainability, and Axelsen and Moline's The Gift is a sculpture that addresses themes of generosity and community. Installation of the artworks commences soon, with the works rolled out gradually between now and the new year - Mushroom Matrix is first.

Katoomba is of course already a rich trove of street art, thanks to the Street Art Walk, created in 2017. That initiative, a collaboration between Street Art Murals and Blue Mountains City Council, invigorated the town with colour, with Living Lanes aiming to do the same.

"Hopefully January evenings will be a fantastic time to enjoy walking the Katoomba laneways, exploring the richness of creative thought that adds so much to Blue Mountains life," said Wilson.