Growing up along the Murray in Robinvale, indigenous Griffith artist Uncle Rex Campbell grew up drawing inspiration from the world around him.
When his family moved to Hay some years later, he and his siblings would walk to school along the river. The colours, animals and scenes he saw went on to impact his art later in life.
His father hailed from Ngarrindjeri people of South Australia and his mother was Wiradjuri.
He was recently contracted by MLHD to paint three new pieces for the temporary renal unit (which will then move into the permanent hospital).
“We had all the flora and fauna. Then we moved to Hay. We lived on the river there too and used to work three or four miles to school. It was just lovely growing up with nature. The kids these days don’t know what they’re missing,” Uncle Rex said.
“Seeing goannas, gum-leaves and the way the leaves change colours throughout the season. It’s like a slide is put in front of my eyes and I just have to scribble it down.”
He also has experience in the health industry. Uncle Rex worked as in Aboriginal Health in Canberra during the 1990s.
“I worked in Aboriginal Health in Canberra, you had to wear a tonnes of caps like counsellor, educator. I went and did all the training and it was excellent. I got to go to Africa. It was a real eye-opener,” he said.
“Everything’s an influence in someway … I think geographical things, designs in clothes they sold at markets in Zambia and Zimbabwe. Even if we’re sitting in the back of the car and I see something across a paddock. It can turn into something.”
Uncle Rex said he wants to give people comfort during what could potentially be a tough time in their life.
“I’m really proud. Also, there’s a message. One of my first cousins is currently doing home dialysis now. I wanted to paint something that people are going to see and get comfort, not confronted by what they’re going through,” he said.
One of the pieces he has painted for MLHD – called community connections – aims to tell the story of Griffith’s multiculturalism.
“I had this design way in the back of a sketchbook,” he said.
“I think it shows the diversity of Griffith and the diversity of the communities that live here. It just shows we’re all connected with music, the arts, sports, education and arts.”