Fremantle artist’s brush with reef life


Roger Swainston’s unusual art project has been turned into a TV documentary . Picture: Ed Cardwell
Roger Swainston’s unusual art project has been turned into a TV documentary . Picture: Ed Cardwell

ROGER Swainston is an artist of a slightly different ilk.

He is in the 15th year of a project studying the vast array of life on the Ningaloo Reef through art.

But rather than creating his pieces on dry land he submerges himself, drawing and painting on the reef that has become his inspiration.

His story will be brought to the small screen tonight in a documentary by Fremantle independent production company VAM Media, the camera following Swainston to Coral Bay as he recreates the reef through drawings, paintings and photographs while underwater.

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VAM Media director Brendan Hutchens said Swainston had more than 6000 pieces of artwork that could be found in fishing guides, museums and publications all over the world, but he was relatively unknown in Australia.

“Roger’s work deserves to be seen and celebrated by a much broader audience,” he said.

“Many people who have seen the film already have mentioned that they felt emotional and even shed a tear. But there aren’t any really overly emotional moments, it’s just a feeling that wells up because the work and the process and the resolve is so engaging.”

He said he felt “on top of the world” about his small, independent company getting recognition through this screening.

“This is my big dream,” he said.

“Making long form arts documentaries is something I have aimed for for many years and it has taken a lot of hard work and commitment, not just from myself but people I have collaborated with over the years to get to this point. What I am really excited about is that this is a true Fremantle story, a Fremantle based artist and film-maker teaming up to make something pretty special.”

Swainston will also be exhibiting his work at the Earlywork Gallery in South Fremantle until April 20.

Drawn to Water will screen at 10pm, tonight April 11 on ABC.