Written by April Spadina
Paul Pettersson is a humble fellow, gently spoken with a peaceful, calm energy. It is this quietness that echoes through his artwork and flows through his brush strokes. A hazy, dreamy quality filters through old trees, dappled light plays on painted leaves and streams through deep, clear water.
From across the busy car park at Pialba Place shopping centre in Hervey Bay, the giant-sized painting “Bay and Beyond” reaches along the playground wall and beckons you to enter the beautiful Australian bushland. An award-winning artist, Paul painted the immense piece after his incredible Urangan Pier mural at the Tourist Information Centre was unveiled. These are monumental pieces covering huge areas. The Pialba Place mural spans 60 metres long and 160 square metres alone!
Paul’s artwork softens the hard edges of the modern buildings and allows the viewer to escape the rat-race for a moment.
Paul’s ability to paint nature comes from years of absorbing himself in the “real world” of the natural landscape with his life-long love of escaping to the bush and beach to recharge and feel complete. He often disappears into nature to trek the bush or kayak the clear waters of the Fraser Coast where he has lived for 30 years.
An intrinsic observer, Paul has over the years become so at one with nature he has developed an almost photographic memory of the wildlife he is captivated by. Most of his art is painted without the use of reference photos and he remarkably picks out the tiny details from his mind’s eye and skilfully produces them in three-dimensional form.
His connection to the land and sea has given him a strong appreciation of the local indigenous people and he realised the importance of including authentic artwork in his recent mural.
Butchulla artist Aaron Henderson contributed to the piece with striking art along the rockface where tiny wallabies and native creatures peer from behind grasses, much to the delight of the children playing in the area. Further along in the more surreal mid-section of the mural, Aaron is pictured as a fire spirit emerging from the bark of an old gum. It’s a beautiful interpretation of how Paul feels entwined in nature at its deepest core.
For Paul, to become so absorbed in his artwork is to disappear into the depths of the bushland, to dive into the cool aqua waters of the ocean and to focus on the tiniest detail of a natural form. It’s how he survives, as he lives and breathes, and as long as he is among it, he is in harmony with it.