Walking down North Terrace, you can hardly recognise the Adelaide CBD from how it looked only a decade ago. Our new RAH is moments away from opening, with the research centre next door resembling a gigantic cheese-grater. Then, off in the distance, the upgraded Adelaide Oval beams proudly in its place as the city’s most prized new feature.
Our beloved town of Adelaide is constantly evolving, but away from the CBD with all its glitz and glamor, us Radelaidians know that the ‘burbs are a little less trendy. Unlike many other cities, our streets still hold onto a remembered time of small, family-owned Laundromats and tacky independent petrol stations. They can still be found throughout the streets of Adelaide — once thriving businesses, now deserted shop fronts with peeling paint and dated signs, reminding us of what once was. Overlooked and perhaps a little bit grubby, there is also something beautifully nostalgic about these scenes. They are a snap shot of what life was once like in Adelaide, from a time when things were that little bit simpler and lollies were 10 cents a bag from the corner Deli. Home-grown artist, Donovan Christie, aims to capture these moments in time, before they are lost to us forever.
A 90’s kid, Christie grew up in Adelaide, and saw most of his neighbourhood by tearing it up on his skateboard or bmx bike. He later got into graffiti, which also took him to his local streets. Without knowing it, he was subconsciously forming a distinct image of what Adelaide looked like at that time. This is very fortunate for the rest of us, because Christie now creates painted replicas of the scenes that all of us 90’s kids (and generations before) remember from our childhoods. The works for his upcoming exhibition ‘Business As Usual’ breathe new life and fame into those forgotten yet very familiar areas of Adelaide.
“This era is very rapidly fading and being replaced with a monopoly of prefab structures,” says Christie, “I’ve decided to capture and document all these scenes in their current state before their ultimate demise.”
Christie says he has chosen to look at these scenes romantically, and has a particular look in mind for his paintings in terms of lighting, time of day and mood.
If you are a Radelaidian looking through Christie’s work, you are bound to find a familiar scene or landmark – probably one that is local to you. Christie is drawn to certain architecture, the type that often goes unnoticed and unappreciated. His pieces are also extremely intricate, focusing on tacky 70’s and 80’s signage and capturing elements such as fonts and general unkempt-ness to recreate an abandoned vibe. His upcoming exhibition consists of 11 works, all of which feature old store-fronts that are still standing in Adelaide today. “I decided to paint this particular body of work to give people a chance to smell the roses while you still can,” says Christie, “to cherish the character and charm of our humble city.”
While he has been busy recreating Adelaide on his canvases, Christie has also made a name for himself in the city of Adelaide itself. In 2016, he was awarded the Channel 9 Young Achiever Of The Year Award for Arts and Fashion, and he has also used his creative pathways to work with at-risk teens in community housing as well as detained young people.
He is dedicated to his practice, working in his Morphettville studio from 2pm-5am, 7 days a week (with hip-hop and 80’s ballads apparently slamming out of the speakers) and the proof is in the painting, with his works becoming more realistic and intriguing with each exhibition. Christie says he is also inspired by others in the Adelaide art scene. “The most influential Adelaide artist would have to be good friend, painter and author Richard Maurovic, who has known me since I was born and seen me terrorising the streets ever since,” says Christie, “alongside Rick is another amazing Adelaide talent, Jim Thallasoudis, a realist painter who is an artist I very much aspire to.”
Christie says his plans for the future are all very hush-hush at the moment, but he does plan to stay focused on this line of work. He hopes to broaden his focus and paint scenes from around Australia, and eventually, around the world. But for now, we’re pretty stoked that we still have this amazing Adelaide talent here to remind us of the good times.
Images of work via: Donovan Christie