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.

Zanko graduated with a Bachelor of Creative Arts at Wollongong University with a 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. In 2017 he was invited to participate in Art Box Project’s Japanese residency in Shibuya, Tokyo.

Carrie McCarthy