Surprise on the Streets

Subiaco unashamedly wears its art on its sleeve. Well, its walls, footpaths, laneways and even its lake to be precise. You don’t have to look far to spot murals, mosaics or sculptures such as Arrive to Paradise by Ayad Alqaragholli, the most photographed seat in Subiaco. We also know and love Stuart Green’s circular artworks on China Green and Shaun Tan’s paintings at Subiaco Library. But dig deeper and you might spot the faces of Muddy Waters or Marco Pierre White, a red pepper drizzled with olive oil, or banksias making friends with a wooden horse. These are all lesser known works in the suburb’s more unlikely places. Residents stumble across them and wonder out loud about who the artists who add a surprising splash of colour to their lives are. Here we meet four of those talented individuals.


Olive Cheng is a familiar and well-loved personality at Subi Farmers Market where a band of regulars watch her flex her pyrography talents each Saturday with native wildflowers, birds and heritage-listed buildings. Many are on show around Subiaco but some are more obvious than others. Take a drive down Nicholson Road to the Wholefood Circus and you’ll spot one of her most recent works which occupied her for two days last summer in searing heat. The result – a wall mural featuring juggling clowns, wooden horses (of course) dotted amongst banksia, eucalyptus and proteas – immediately resulted in more commissions at the Beatty Park Yin Yoga Centre and a shopfront in Leederville. Cheng, a former landscape architect, wanted to branch out from her usual wood burning (pyrography) artwork which features on cheeseboards, coasters, baubles and earrings. “Wood burning is such a solo activity and murals are a completely different beast,” says Cheng. “I began looking for places around Perth and noticed the Wholefood Circus providore on Nicholson Road. “I called Rachael Torre (the owner) and she agreed immediately, the only proviso being that I paint some circus images in the mix.” Cheng had also just finished a stunning 2.5m by 1.2m painting for the waiting room at the newly refurbished Shenton Park General Practice, which features the flora and fauna of nearby Lake Jualbup. Subiaco Primary School students were also privy to the Cheng charm during her stint as a relief art teacher, helping them discover the precious heritage of their surroundings. “We spent time sketching the school buildings and they loved it,” she says. “That’s where I got the idea to do a series of Subiaco heritage buildings, around 20 of which will be exhibited in midSeptember 2024 at the Subiaco Museum.” The works feature Jackson’s Drawing Supplies, Regal Theatre, Subiaco Hotel, Lums Wine Bar and several heritage-listed homes. “I went to Europe this year and took my sketchbook,” she says. “But what I realised when I came back was how many beautiful buildings are here, right under our noses.”

Joel Valvasori | Portrait artist When British celebrity chef, Marco Pierre White, stopped by Subiaco and tried the home-made pasta and exquisite Italian dishes at Lulu La Delizia he was immediately hooked. The godfather of modern cuisine became Joel Valvasori’s biggest fan, giving a worldwide official nod to what Lulu regulars already knew — that Valvasori’s hearty dishes from Friuli were enough to make anyone genuflect. Now, thanks to another long-hidden Valvasori talent, Pierre White has a permanent spot on the wall in the award-winning osteria in Forrest Walk which has just enjoyed a makeover and freshen up, along with a new coat of paint and raft of foodie awards. Pierre White’s portrait is one of several Valvasori artworks making up the darker, moodier fit out and customers are already putting in their bids to take one of them home. And they’re also asking if he does commissions and art classes. However, as he rediscovers a talent for painting which has lain dormant since he was a teenager, Valvasori is not parting with any of his beautiful works. “While I focused on my career as a chef I was just too busy to follow any other creative pursuits,” says Valvasori, who was named WA Chef of the Year by WA Good Food Guide. “But since I shifted my focus on the restaurant kitchen to front-of-house responsibilities and handed over the cheffing reins to James Higgs (who had been me for six years), I found more time on my hands. I rediscovered a part of my life that had been neglected.” He bought some pencils and paints and, over the past eight months has been immersing himself in “relearning the tools” as he calls it, starting with a picture of a fish and then moving on to musical icons and of course, Marco Pierre White. The black and white works look like photographs but are done in oil paints with a gritty, moody texture to them. Valvasori doesn’t know whether Pierre White has seen his, but he did send it to the chef’s daughter, Mirabelle. But, he is adamant it is not for sale. “I’m not ready to part with any of the works yet,” he says. “I am at the stage where I just want to look at them and see where I can improve them.”

Shane Pickett was one of the greatest Aboriginal artists of his time and is fondly remembered in Subiaco with his works showing his connection to country at Lake Jualbup and in the Subiaco Museum. The former artist in residence at Mossenson Galleries was commissioned to produce a painting at Lake Jualbup in 1996 to commemorate the resurrection of its Indigenous name. The work depicts maarle (the black swan), gorya (the frog), and boorda yaarkiny (the turtle). His message stick was commissioned by the Museum as part of its commitment to Indigenous reconciliation and takes the form of a painted section of tree branch which was originally displayed on a painted drum, also designed by Pickett.

Brendon Darby is one of our State’s most outstanding artists and is also a versatile musician. He has a long history with Subiaco as his brother-in-law is part owner of the highprofile Linton & Kay gallery. His astonishing still life, Antonella’s Caponata, featuring glistening red peppers offers a warm welcome to customers who climb the Cherubino staircase at the rear of Simon Johnson on Rokeby Road. The peppers, good enough to eat, are actually occasionally on the menu, courtesy of Larry Cherubino’s mamma. Customers are often so taken with the dish that some have offered to buy the $12,000 work to remind them of it. The painting, though, came about on Darby’s trip to Italy where he was running workshops with his friend, Antonella. “Julie, my wife, was posting pictures on social media of the food we were eating,” he says. “And people began responding. I decided to paint our lunch which happened to be made by our friend, Antonella. It not only tasted great but was fun to paint. I got a huge response. And it ended up in Linton & Kay as part of an exhibition. I have not seen it in situ yet though.”

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