The Man Behind The Mural
East West Design Gallery
If you’ve driven down South Terrace in the last three years, you may have noticed a mural slowly developing on the façade of the very large East West Design building. The incredible detail and scale of the mural draws attention from both tourists and locals, with an 86 meter long shop front covered top to toe in life sized scenes of elaborate furniture stores from all around the world; alluding to the variety of wares that can be found inside the building and their origins, including Thailand, Africa and Europe.
But who is responsible for this masterpiece of epic proportions? The sheer scale of the building suggests a team of artists painted it, but in fact it is the work of just one man named Graeme Richards.
A muralist for 28 years, Graeme was approached to execute the vision of the owner of East West Design, Kim Russo. “It’s quite amazing, he should be commended on it,” says Graeme, “He’s done something amazing to employ me or anyone to do this; it’s quite a gift to the community.”
Graeme started the project three years ago, but theoretically might’ve finished sooner if it weren’t for taking breaks in between. “I’ve sort of been away a few times doing other projects,” he states. Aside from the odd project, Graeme says the mural “has been quite a steady job over the last 3 years;” quite a unique opportunity for an artist. Graeme’s work is largely weather dependent, starting at nine and finishing around three when the sun gets too hot. When it rains he won’t turn up at all and will head back to his studio to work on other projects.
If you walk past the mural you’ll notice a lot of little details that you won’t catch on a drive by, including “a few inch-high aliens shooting turkeys,” he laughs. “There’s a lot of little hidden things. I wanted to paint stupid little details when I get bored with a particular bit.”
“There’s also an elephant I did on the side of the building with a real pipe for its trunk that seemed popular. So I made up a story and did a newspaper article about the “South Fremantle Pigmy Elephant” and its history, so that will go on a notice board half way along.”
While Graeme says the mural is not incredibly deep and meaningful, he keeps himself amused by painting in little stories along the way. “I did a globe, cos I’m a Kiwi, and people stand there and look at it but they don’t notice that New Zealand is three times as big as everything else,” he says, smiling. “I’ve painted the North Island, South Island and Australia has ‘West Island’ written on it.”
The characters that have passed by over the years are equally as colourful as the mural itself, “I’ve been asked by a lot of people to have photographs taken with them. There’s a lot of characters I’ve met who I got to know because I see them everyday,” says Graeme.
“There’s Jeff, who goes up and down on his bike with a bottle of wine for example and a Japanese guy who travelled the whole of Australia on his pushbike.”
The East West Design mural has become an incidental tourist attraction, as good as any other. “There’s lots of really good feedback from travellers from Europe and Asia, you know they stop and talk quite a lot. It seems to be a touristy thing as well,” he says. It’s no surprise really, there’s not many places in the world you’ll see a mural of that length with such intricate detail; you only need to get up close to appreciate the huge amount of work that went into it.
Graeme hopes his mural will encourage other businesses in Fremantle to do the same. Collaborating with artists to transform what would otherwise be “white walls and a bunch of letters” into a piece of art on the street. With three months left to go painting the Marine Terrace side, you might even spot him turning other buildings into artwork in the future.
Why not check out Graeme’s Top 5 things to do in Freo.