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  • Renee Cluff

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    North Queensland’s dressed-up ant hills inspire quirky Cairns art exhibition

    Termite mounds drinking beer, in wedding dresses, lingerie and superman capes – it doesn’t get more northern Australian than this.

    The dressed-up ant hills that dot the long highways of tropical Australia have inspired a similarly quirky art exhibition, which is aptly being held at the Tanks Art Centre over the silly season.

    In a case of art imitating art, the series of paintings, named “Kitschgrotesque” are the work of Charles Darwin University visual arts PHD candidate Ian Hance.

    Mr Hance told Tropic Now he’s drawn inspiration from ant hills in places like the Daintree, Mareeba and Mount Isa as part of a four-year study into the type of humour behind the artistic mounds.

    “Across tropical northern Australia, because the mounds are human-sized and a lot of them have definite heads, it's easy to stick sunglasses or a hat or a shirt on them.

    “The grey nomads did a lot of it, backpackers do some but their ones are really just signed t-shirts with political messages or swear words.” 

    “The funniest ones are definitely planned, not impromptu.”

    Mr Hance said the type of humour the termite mounds encompass is typical of the north.

    “They usually have a theme and very wide sorts of humour - Australian humour that’s typical of the north - and this is a humour related to the challenges of the climate.

    “A lot are dressed up in high vis gear and at night these are really spooky figures that get thrown up in your headlights.

    “Spooky with high vis gear is funny in itself.”

    The artist said his painting style reflects that wacky comedy.

    “You’re startled by these seemingly human figures in the landscape, especially at night, and I wanted to copy that.

    “I bring out elements of humour through exaggeration or colour,” he said.

    “They have very, very bright backgrounds, typical of the colours of the north, and then the simple mound with its clothing, which is fairly realistic.”

    The exhibition runs in the Tank 4 gallery until Christmas Eve, then again from January 2nd – 20th.

    More info: Tanks Arts Centre