“At first,” she said, “I was afraid they were going to want something to do with football!”
Drop into the club any evening or weekend – “I try to be there when the carpenters aren’t,” she
says – and you’ll find her on the job, in paint-splattered blue jeans. By now she’s half-way around the warehouses along the Quay, and the mural, in muted blues, greens and pinks, is taking shape.
When will it be finished?
“When it’s finished,” she said calmly. “I don’t hurry.”
Elain Haxton’s wall, in the new restaurant at Grace Brothers, Parramatta, was finished a week ago, but it isn’t “up” yet. That’s because it isn’t strictly a mural, but a series of mosaic panels made from plastic pellets.
“They’re polystyrene – hard, shiny sort of plastic they use for canisters and radio cabinets – and manufacturers buy them in bulk and melt them down for moulding,” Miss Haxton explained.
She’s had the idea of doing a mosaic for years – “since I was in Italy in ’49 and watched them dismantling the dome of the cathedral at Ravenna.”
“The workmen let me get up a ladder to get a better look at the mosaics. Of course they’re not menat to be seen up close; you see extraordinary bright patches of colour in the faces that blend in quiet normally from below.”
When the chance came to do a mosaic, Miss Haxton decided to experiment with plastic. Off she went to the Colonial Sugar Refinery and came away with a few pounds of pellets in every available colour. At home in Clareville she juggled them around, fitted them into five three-foot square panels, and glued them down with toluene. The subjects, says Miss Haxton, are to do with food – “a loaf of bread, glass of wine.” (But no thou.)
She’s “reasonably happy” with the finished product, though “it lacks a three-dimensional quality, possibly because the pellets are too uniform in shape.
On the floor above – the new staff restaurant – is Roma Hilder’s wall.
Actually, she’s sharing it with her artist husband Bim Hilder. “I’m doing the background and he’s doing the figures in the foreground,” she says. “It commemorates the first Easter Show, which was held in Parramatta in 1824.”
The Hilders have been collaborating on murals for longer than they can remember, but this time they’ve tried a new technique. Mrs Hilder’s 25ft x 12 ft background, which includes many buildings still standing in Parramatta, is painted in oils on a huge sheet of plywood; her husband’s foreground figures are all silhouettes of white copper wire.
He bought it by the yard, then clipped and coaxed it into the shape of the carriages, crinolened women, children with hoops and all the fun of the fair.