David Humphries




Artist & Director of Public Art Squad P/L
Born 1948 Wollongong NSW Australia 

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Artists Statement
Media Profile

In a career spanning over 30 year, David Humphries has re-imagined the way Australian cities can present and promote their public spaces. As the director of Public Art Squad, David has proven that art can add cultural and capital value to a city. David regularly speaks at conferences and symposiums to share his passion for and involvement in the movement towards "Creative Cities."

David's works reside among communities and inside the city scapes so that they can be enjoyed by one and all around the world, making him one of Australia's most reveared public artists. His depth of experience and achievement leaves Public Art Squad well positioned to take on large scale and ambitious projects.

Energising Public Spaces

Humphries David has worked with in communities since the 1970's . He has created creating hundreds of murals throughout Australia, including:

  • The Peace, Justice and Unity mural in Sydney's CBD
  • The Devonshire Street Subway murals, at Central Railway.
  • Think Globally, Act Locally in Redfern , awarded the Sir John Sulman Prize in 1985.
  • The Sydney Opera House 10 th Anniversary Mural

David is the co-author of the Mural Manual, first published in 1982 and his public works have received countless prizes, including the prestigious Sulman Award

Breaking New Ground

Since the 1990's David has expanded his artistic output to include mosaics and terrazzo flooring. He is responsible for infusing the classical European medium with a distinctively colourful and Australian aesthetic that has now graced over fifty large-scale floors. High profile projects include:

  • The Olympic Journey Celebration Pathway, at Darling Harbour.
  • The National Maritime Museum, in Sydney
  • The Fashion and Textile Museum, in London
  • Star City Casino, in Sydney
  • The National Capital Authority have commissioned him to create several memorials, including the Walter Burleigh Griffin tribute at the Canberra Exhibition Centre.

While terrazzo and mosaic floors have become exclusive and sought after features in luxury hotels and private homes, David has balanced this with a commitment to public arts. New floors continue to be created in council areas and public spaces.

Changing Cities

David's experience and accomplishments are invaluable to any project. High profile achievements include:

  • The Harbourside Festival Marketplace at Darling Harbour, a pioneering project of groundbreaking scale.
  • Skygardens, a major retail development in Sydney's CBD.
  • He has just completed directing the artwork for Melbourne's Bourke Street Mall. At over 2 kilometres in the centre of the city, it's the largest public artwork in Australia. A multi-million dollar collaboration that included hundreds of people, it has revamped the area before Melbourne's Commonwealth Games.

Upcoming commissions include the Millennium Arts Project , which will see David collaborating with Indigenous artists to create a centrepiece floor for Queensland's Cultural Precinct.

Artist Statement - DAVID HUMPHRIES

Underpinning my public artwork is a desire to create images that acknowledge those who have gone before us and to respond to the aspirations and needs of the current and future users of the space. My work is often characterised by the interaction of the old and new, the real and the unreal: traditional cultures and contemporary life, the natural and the built environment. The viewer (or user) reacts to the work on several levels - the layers of images and/or text; the simplicity and richness of the colours and forms within the work; and the transformation of the space or place by the work.

In the same way that cities, natural environments and cultures have their own dynamic, cycles and rhythms, I believe public art should also be energetic, flowing and always, be able to speak to the viewer.

I have been privileged to work and collaborate with diverse groups of people - from

Indigenous desert women; the fashion designers of London; from environmentalists in far north Queensland to trade unionists in Tasmania; from small suburban community projects to large international projects. From all these experiences and from the people who have shared their stories, I have learned much and my work has benefited.

Through each stage of a project I draw on local expertise and knowledge to complement my own experiences and research, to inform the design and development of the work. The materials I use provide an inspirational range of colour, durability, flexibility and functionality. Architectural and environmental references influence the style and statement of the work.

My professional art practices and disciplines transfer across all mediums. Although painting and murals are still part of my range of disciplines I have over the last 15 years focused on mediums such as terrazzo and mosaic installations in architectural/urban environments. I have developed a high level of understanding of the medium and industry, which as an artist/ designer enables me to be very innovative in my work.

Achieving awards such as the Sir John Sulman Prize and the American Terrazzo & Mosaic Association Inc. Honor Award 1998 for design and innovation is both national and international acknowledgement by the industry.

Artist & Director of Public Art Squad P/L
Born 1948 Wollongong NSW Australia

‘What is evident is a clever man who has instinctively been able to accumulate, revise and modify his capabilities to make them relevant to our changing society.

I get the feeling that this consummate post modern man finds a lot of happiness and contentment in the order, discipline and security his work provides. It consumes him

It is refreshing and inspiring to meet someone who continuously works, works and reworks: adapting and almost reinventing the old self whenever and to whatever is required.

To invest every ounce of passion and energy into ones' work takes courage and faith .Not to mention trusting that the path you are on is the right one.'

Quote from feature story 'One Man Band' in LINO by Sharyn Rosenberg -

David is the 'hands-on' director of Public Art Squad – in its 25th year of operation - a company that has completed some of Australia 's most memorable large-scale community and commercial public art commissions. Colossal murals, sculptures and marble terrazzos' make up his design portfolio.

David Humphries draws upon experience and sensibility to centre his creativity, applying a pluralistic approach to the making of public icons. For his own pleasure he is a painter and maker of beautiful environments and objects.

As a youngster plagued by asthma, David Humphries lay in his sick bed hour after hour staring at the ceiling. One day he'd had quite enough, so, the pintsized Michelangelo transformed the ceiling into a multi coloured wall to wall mural. "My parents thought I was delirious but my art teacher thought it was brilliant so it was saved and became a curiosity that actually led me on to my first commissions. Soon I was making good pocket money and forming an identity for myself as an artist''

Australian Womens Weekly 1977

Humphries defied convention and was the only student to study art for the Leaving Certificate at the Illawarra Grammar School in 1965. He gained admission to the National Art School and moved to Sydney , paying his way through college by working at BHP steelworks as a laborer during the holidays. The experience in big industry and intrigue with the industrial landscape has stayed with Humphries for life, fuelling his love of complexity and mega proportions. Although he won the National Art Students prize in 1968, Humphries' interest was already becoming shifting to production of Theatrical Events and Happenings. Alexander Nevskys Homecoming, and A Oneway Ticket to Sunshine in the Cellblock Theatre were large-scale environmental works, which challenged the role of the audience in the art and theater experience.

David's interest in public art was spurred when at Art School he participated in Christo's team for the wrapping of Little Bay; an experience that also gave him an insight into the type of business an artist needed to support public art projects.

Thirty odd years on, his experience equips him to undertake large-scale public art projects that are subject to the rigor of building programs and budgets.

Soon after leaving Art School , he became one of the first field officers for the Community Arts Committee of the Australia Council and was actively involved in pioneering the community arts movement in Australia

In 1974 he was awarded an Australia Council Travel / Training Grant to complete a Post Graduate Diploma in Arts Administration at City University London. He specialized in Festival Direction and Public Art.

'Humphries was one of those whiz - kids with mixed - media and entrepreneurial flair.

After art school in Sydney he painted, created happenings, directed festivals [ Orange and Wollongong ], went to London to complete a post - graduate diploma in Arts Administration, traveled to every festival in the world he could find, then spent a year in New York 's Lower East Side ghetto environment, working on a community arts program.

From a feature story 'by the people for the people' by Susie Eisenhuth POL Magazine 1978

During this period in New York, David's involvement in the model project ‘Seven Loaves' became a catalyst for changing his perception of the artist as an individual to that of a collaborator in the community context.

He returned to Australia determined to make a difference; established Public Art Squad and moved into community mural projects, which culminated in a five-year stint as the first Policy/Projects Officer for Community Arts with the NSW Premiers Department.

For the next ten years Humphries and his then partner Rodney Monk worked with various community groups directing hundreds of murals across Australia including the 10th Year Celebration mural for the Sydney Opera House in 1983.In 1985 they won the prestigious Sir John Sulman Prize for their mural in Redfern and, to cope with the constant and growing demand for information on murals wrote the Mural Manual - a guide to community murals in Australia (published by the Arts Council NSW 1982)

Working at the Ministry of the Arts enabled Humphries to broaden his range of reference and develop new skills –budgets, dealing with corporations, government bodies, red tape, and deadlines and collaborating with other professional individuals. This newfound expertise would serve Humphries well in his next incarnation: back as practicing artist with Public Art Squad.

Instituting yet another change in the art world Humphries forayed into previously unexplored territory and formed financially rewarding and professionally challenging liaisons with commerce and industry

His relationship with the Merlin International Property Group as the Director of Decorative Arts provided one of the most exciting periods in his professional career when they set an art in architecture precedent with the original Harbourside Festival Marketplace in Darling Harbour and Skygarden

A thoroughly experienced art professional, Humphries is daunted neither by dimension or conceptual brief. His creative flair is fired by complexity and mega proportions. He has always liked a large playing field. More often than not he is inspired by cosmic, kinetic context. From an early age he has had a fascination for universal scale. This evolved in an almost organic way from ideas and experiences he was exposed to as a child in his home environment. He was of the generation who can remember Sputnik, the first astronauts and the first images of Planet Earth from outer space, as well as the Vietnam War.

Encountering the outback, driving vast distances across land to Ayres Rock (Uluru) and flying over the interior gave him a sense of human scale, of mankind's place on the planet and the universal scheme of things. Formative years and experiences such as these were seminal in shaping how he saw the world and in determining how he would go forward.

His fascination with large scale is countered by passion for detail and close focus. This plays a vital part in the manner of his delivery. The world in all its minutiae is a constant source of inspiration. This disposition for observation and awareness of things around him and his curiosity about their interconnectedness is expressed in the imagery of his projects. He likes to wow his audience. In the process he simplifies and creates the spectacular.

Humphries' talent to entertain draws on a remarkable and eclectic background as an arts festival director. He understands well the importance of game, play and interaction in motivating an audience. It's a sense of pageant and fantasy that is both challenging and whimsical. Aware of the propagandistic nature of public art, his imagery is tuned to the symbolic and democratic language of theatre. They are images informed by issues of social concern. Conscious placemakers, many are about the planet and its fragile environment, as in his beautiful terrazzos for St Mary's Cathedral in Sydney.Sometimes they are of a narrative genre - objects to evoke memory, especially those of holiday or escapist dreaming. Powerful images always. Humphries demands that the viewers' attention be captivated. He makes you look again. This sense of immediacy and the provocative tease is what matters most.

Enjoying the challenge of working with other art professionals, Humphries works with leading architects, artists, designers and master craftsmen, at the cutting edge of international art design. At his sprawling warehouse in Rosebery, a unique space and the dynamic heart of his operation, they work with him as he plans and develops his commissioned work. Always "hands on", Humphries is not office- bound but rather works on site whenever opportunities permit. Passionate about the humanizing impact of art, he rates its commercial value highly, regarding its cultural impact as significantly value adding to the worth of Properties

Compiled from "Corporate and Public art Visionary - feature story in Craft Arts International 1998" by Marie Geissler