"Heavy industry once defined the Illawarra. Squeezed in a narrow strip between the coast and a towering escarpment were coal mines, coke and brickworks peppered across the coastal suburbs. Miners cottages, postwar brick and fibro dwellings housed the workers and their families who operated and serviced this domineering industrial complex throughout the 20th Century. These homes were a prominent feature of the built environment, a profound mark between place and time in lived space. As the steel and coal industry has faded in the Illawarra in the last 30 years, so too has the texture of people's homes and their settings. New industries have led to dwelling gentrification. New replaces old without a murmur.
I have lived in the northern Illawarra my whole life. 'A Different Road Home' is an exploration of the smaller suburbs in the region often bypassed by the main roads and freeways. The homes in these suburbs, like many others, have been vulnerable to the changing circumstances and fortunes in recent years. In my practice I use woodblock printing techniques combined with painting to depict the vernacular architecture. By carving the image I create a level of density that ensures permanence, whether the existing structure remains or is destroyed."
Chris Zanko graduated with a Bachelor of Creative Arts at Wollongong University with a Distinction in Painting. He is a finalist of 2019 Wynne Prize at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, was the winner of the 2016 Gosford and Gongcrete Art Prizes and a finalist in the 2015 Lloyd Rees Memorial Youth Art Award. He has exhibited in group exhibitions including at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Hazelhurst Regional Gallery and Project Contemporary Art Space in Wollongong. In 2017 he was invited to participate in Art Box Project’s Japanese residency in Shibuya, Tokyo.
Townships change. Places we call home can become virtually unrecognisable overnight as populations shift and new industries take hold. Landmarks disappear, and a district’s charm is changed forever due to redevelopment and urban renewal. Bearing witness to this loss of character is artist Christopher Zanko, who sees firsthand these changes in his hometown of Wollongong, south of Sydney.
Situated on the narrow coastal strip between the Illawarra Escarpment and the Pacific Ocean, Wollongong is an area as noted for its heavy industry and bustling port as it is the natural beauty of its location. Like many regional towns, ‘The Gong’s’ varied past has resulted in an eclectic mix of architecture that reflects each wave of economic and social change.
Keen to preserve this layered history, Zanko uses his art practice to document the miner’s cottages, beach shacks and art deco bungalows that feature throughout the Illawarra. Combining elements of printmaking and painting, his woodcarvings play with texture and bold colour to depict the atmosphere and aesthetics of mid-century suburbia. An evolving project, Zanko’s landscapes form a archive of the vanishing beauty of regional Australia, and the communities we’re losing along the way.
Christopher Zanko graduated with a Bachelor of Creative Arts from Wollongong University with a Distinction in Painting. He was a 2019 finalist in the Wynne Prize at the Art Gallery of New South Wales and the National Still Life Award. He was a finalist of the 2018 and 2016 Gosford Art Prize and the 2015 Lloyd Rees Memorial Youth Art Award. He has exhibited in group exhibitions including at Hazelhurst Regional Gallery and Project Contemporary Art Space in Wollongong. In 2017 he was invited to participate in Art Box Projects' Japanese residency in Shibuya, Tokyo.
Bachelor of Creative Arts, Wollongong University
Diploma of Fine Art, West Wollongong TAFE
'Daily Dilemmas', EDWINA CORLETTE, Brisbane
'Kakurega', Laid Bug, Tokyo, Japan (forthcoming)
'Downshifter' Egg and Dart Gallery, Thirroul
'Wandering Where', Sydney Contemporary, Carriage Works, Sydney
'Lost Between', EDWINA CORLETTE, Brisbane
'Measured Moments', Laid Bug, Tokyo, Japan
Sweet Misgivings, Egg and Dart Gallery, Thirroul
'Heretofore', EDWINA CORLETTE, Brisbane
'Stranger Avenue', Egg and Dart Gallery, Thirroul
'A Different Road Home', EDWINA CORLETTE, Brisbane
'Online', Egg and Dart Gallery, Thirroul
‘Umbra’, Egg and Dart Gallery, Thirroul
SELECTED GROUP EXHIBITIONS
'Lateral Landscapes', Museum of Art and Culture, Lake Macquarie
'Vision Splendid', Hazelhurst Art Centre, Gymea
Spring 1883, Hotel Windsor, Melbourne
'Substratum', Woollahra Gallery at Redleaf, Woollahra
'Resistance', Beams, Harajuku, Japan
'Slippin Matters', Tsutaya Books, Tokyo, Japan
'93 Bourke & Friends', Ninety Three Bourke ARI, Sydney
'The Home', Hazelhurst Regional Gallery & Arts Centre, Gymea, NSW
'Treading Water', Egg and Dart Gallery, Thirroul
'The Home’, Hazelhurst Regional Gallery, NSW
'The New Gallery Show', EDWINA CORLETTE, Brisbane
'An Exhibition', Egg and Dart Gallery, Thirroul
'A Place Called Home', Wollongong Regional Gallery
'Schorcher', Egg and Dart Gallery, Thirroul
'TBD', School of Arts, Clifton
'YMO at Home', Leichardt House, Sydney
'Yours And Owls Stage Design', Wollongong
'Life in Working Art', Hazelhurst Regional Gallery, Gymea
Congratulations to Christopher Zanko and Paul Ryan who are finalists with a collaborative work in the 2022 Sulman Art Prize at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. The Sulman Prize is awarded for the best subject painting, genre painting or mural project by an Australian artist.
Christopher Zanko and Paul Ryan's work is set against the backdrop of Wollongong in NSW. This painting is concerned with the vulnerability of the changing demographics of an area once defined by coal mining, steelmaking and allied industries.
Still is a biennial, acquisitive award for artworks in the genre of still life, in all mediums. The award is open to artists at all stages of their careers. Still: National Still Life Award seeks to highlight the diversity and vitality of still life in Australian contemporary art practice, broadening the interpretation and meaning of this enduring genre.
The Still exhibition opens at Coffs Harbour Regional Gallery on Friday 20th September 2019, with the official opening on Saturday 21st September, and runs until Saturday 30th November 2019.
Christopher Zanko is a finalist in the 2019 Wynne Prize at the Art Gallery of New South Wales with his work 'Bulli: bricks and black diamonds' 2019.
The Wynne Prize is awarded annually for 'the best landscape painting of Australian scenery in oils or watercolours or for the best example of figure sculpture by Australian artists’.
This open competition is judged by the trustees of the Art Gallery of NSW. Finalists are displayed in an exhibition at the Gallery (although in the early years all entrants were hung). Many winning paintings have become icons in Australian landscape art, entering the collections of public galleries, including our own.
The prize was established following a bequest by Richard Wynne, who died in 1895, and first awarded in 1897, in honour of the official opening of the Gallery at its present site.
Christopher Zanko’s depictions of classic Australian suburbia and architecture – created through carving and painting – feel happy and nostalgic, as though cementing a time in local history, while also celebrating the beauty of an everyday normal.
“These days a lot of homes and buildings are being knocked down, so the area is not going to look like this for much longer,” Chris says. “It's great to be able to capture these beautiful buildings while they’re still here.”
Thirroul artists Chris Zanko and Paul Ryan are featured in the current issue of Country Style Magazine. The article looks at the richness of creative talent on the Coal Coast in the Illawarra region of New South Wales and their deep connection to the area.
Sydney based Art and Music publication Happy Mag recently caught up with artist and musician Chris Zanko to discuss his life down south, what inspires his works and the creative process from the start of a piece to its final product.
Christopher Zanko's wood relief carved work 'Redman Ave Reflections' is included in Wollongong Art Gallery's exhibition Here + Now.
Co-curated by Wollongong Art Gallery and Aaron Fell-Fracasso, Here + Now celebrates the diverse and unique creative energy of the Wollongong region and includes works by Jessica Cochrane, Tex Crick, Ebony Eden, Misha Harrison, India Mark, Paige Northwood, Nick Santoro and Chris Zanko.
The Gallery is delighted to announce we now represent Illawarra based artist Chris Zanko.
The streets of Australian suburbia with their red brick houses, electricity pole-lined streets and rusty Hills Hoist-filled backyards provide endless inspiration for Chris Zanko's work. His carved wooden surfaces depicting iconic mid-century architecture capture a nostalgic view of the vernacular architecture of our suburbs.
Zanko graduated with a Bachelor of Creative Arts at Wollongong University with Distinction in Painting. He was a winner of the 2016 Gosford and Gongcrete Art Prizes and a finalist in the 2015 Lloyd Rees Memorial Youth Art Award. He has exhibited in group exhibitions including at Hazelhurst Regional Gallery and Project Contemporary Art Space in Wollongong.