David Bromley was looking for something, but he was not sure what. It was the 1970s, and he was adrift along the Queensland coast, a high school dropout unsure how he wanted to apply himself or where he could find purpose.

Call it fate or just good luck, but when he was wandering through a local market, David Bromley stumbled upon an artist selling pottery — that, he thought was something he could do. “I decided the most important thing I could ever do was to be absolutely committed to making art every day. That would be the answer,” he said.

And that is exactly what he did. Bromley devoted the next few decades, and himself, to his craft: he left Noosa behind to work as a signwriter in Adelaide, eventually selling his own pottery and pursuing a deep-rooted passion by teaching himself to paint by browsing the racks at an art supply store. He emerged as an accomplished painter in the 1980s, earning recognition for his paintings of nude women and whimsical themes. Now, the multiple Archibald Prize finalist’s journey is coming full circle.

In April, Bromley opened the Bromley Room, an arts and events studio and function space in the West Village development of West End. The colourful, dynamic area is housed in the historic Peter’s Ice Cream Factory — fitting, as Bromley once put his talents to work painting signs for Peter’s Ice Cream. “It’s something that’s not typically an art gallery, but a beautiful old building. That’s the sort of place that’s wonderful to be a part of,” he said. “I absolutely love these old industrial buildings, and I think this one is one of the most charming and unique in Australia.”

Bromley and his wife Yuge recently curated the exhibition as part of a 12-month artist-in-residence project with West Village. The collaboration between artist and developer is the result of a commitment made by West Village more than two years ago to bring art onto the site. An ideal opportunity: welding together art, development and the wider community is one of Bromley’s core tenets. “People should collaborate. They should bring together their different energies. You liaise with different environments and different people in different areas,” he said.

“I think it’s a great symbiotic relationship with a developer. You get to speak a language not always played out in that particular area.” Fostering relationships plays a prominent role in Bromley’s residency and what he hopes to accomplish with the Bromley Room. He collaborated with the Charles Blackman Foundation to work with Blackman’s imagery to create the Blackman by Bromley series. He has also mentored Brisbane street artist Lucks who, like Bromley, started his painting career as a signwriter.

For an artist so respected throughout Australia, who has had his art exhibited on every continent aside from Antarctica, to choose to establish his creative space in West End is a tribute to Brisbane’s thriving artistic community. “It’s very well to have places strong in culture like Melbourne and Sydney, but Queensland has a fascination and interest and passion for it, which is so important in building a strong energy,” said Bromley. “I’m a believer that art should be everywhere, and in unexpected places. Hopefully then you won’t just bring art as exhibition, but you’ll start to build a cultural resonance. That’s the spirit West End already has.”

 

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