A YOUNG couple share an intimate kiss at the North Fremantle train station and lonely men drown their sorrows in the National Hotel.
These are some of the everyday scenes that artist Marcus Beilby has been capturing in the port city for the last 40 years.
Sightings is a retrospective of Beilby’s work, revealing a working class Fremantle that no longer exists.
“The North Fremantle station now has high rise behind it,” Beilby says, as we moved onto the pub in question, the National.
The painting was done long before the hotel almost burnt down and rose from the ashes as an upmarket watering hole.
Beilby says paintings done years ago take on a cultural significance as they shine a light on the past.
With blokes leaning on the bar, but not talking, a younger man at a small table with his head in his hands, the National Hotel painting is a moment in time, preserved in vivid daubs of paint.
You can almost smell the cigarettes and stale beer, and feel the stickiness of the marinated carpet.
Two of the paintings are from the City of Fremantle collection: “We have three of Beilby’s works and this seemed the perfect time for showing two…to draw this exhibition together,” curator Andre Lipscombe says.
“I like the physical space of them and the connection between them.
“They create a particular view of the world, a thread of ideas with people in intimate zones. He has a keen observation of these activities.”
Born in 1951, Beilby went to Applecross Senior High School and then to Claremont Technical College.
Armed with a diploma in fine arts he and art mates Ken Wadrop and Ray Beattie (who became known as the High Street studio realists), expected to be a shoe-in for Curtin University, and an arts degree that would allow them to teach.
But already in trouble for their hyper-realist painting, when abstract was in vogue, the university knocked them back.
“We had won most of the art prizes and expected to get in, but they refused us,” Beilby reflects.
“They were frightened we would corrupt other students.”
Sightings is at the Fremantle Arts Centre on Finnerty Street until July 16.
by JENNY D’ANGER