Abandoned cars in Central Australian desert turned into 'ghostly' works of illuminated art

Abandoned cars in Central Australian desert turned into 'ghostly' works of illuminated art

Abandoned cars in Central Australian desert turned into 'ghostly' works of illuminated art

Updated 6 November 2017, 9:05 AEDT

Award-winning artist Robert Fielding has been painting, illuminating, and photographing abandoned cars in the Central Australian desert in a bid to reclaim their former lives and reconnect them to elders in remote communities.

The roads of the remote APY lands, which straddle the Northern Territory–South Australian border, are strewn with abandoned and rusting cars, but one artist has turned these forgotten objects into a canvas.

Robert Fielding is also helping to redefine what Indigenous art looks like.

He has produced a series of long-exposure photographs of the old vehicles, which he has painted with reflective materials and lit up with tealight candles.

"I'm salvaging what belonged to the elders of our communities, throughout the APY Lands and from Indulkana and Mimili … and bringing these cars to life," he said.

"[This car] belongs to somebody, and it belongs to the artist also, which is I, but it belongs to the family members who know who this vehicle is."

Artist turns to new digital media to experiment

Mr Fielding is an established artist in the APY Lands, winning the work on paper category in the esteemed National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards this year, and in 2015.

He has also held solo exhibitions in Adelaide and Melbourne, and has work in the collection of the National Gallery of Australia.

But now he is experimenting with digital mediums, in a way that many Australians would not associate with art from remote Indigenous communities.

"The reason I like new media is the camera is a tool that Indigenous people are very strong and proud to be in front and behind the lens," he said.

He has painted about a dozen cars around his community of Mimili, on the eastern side of the APY Lands.

The photographs of the cars are all taken at night with exposures of around 30 seconds.

"I'm lighting them up with tealight candles and giving it another feeling and another ghostly effect with what's going on," Mr Fielding said.

"There's a light within this vehicle that's hidden in crevices throughout."