Issue 6
Tuesday, 06 August 2019
Charles Darwin University
Artist Matt Grant at his “Buffel Busting” exhibition in Alice Springs
Artist Matt Grant at his “Buffel Busting” exhibition in Alice Springs

Artist on mission to bust desert weed

By Patrick Nelson

Charles Darwin University visual arts graduate Matt Grant says he has been delighted with the public response to his latest solo exhibition where almost all his works were snapped up on opening night.

Mr Grant, who is fast developing a reputation as one of Central Australia’s more prominent young artists, produced 14 acrylic-on-canvas works for his “Buffel Busting” exhibition, which went on display at Olive Pink Botanical Gardens in Alice Springs last month.

“It felt like a success with about 70 people showing up for the opening,” he said.

“Eleven out of 14 works sold; my cheeks were hurting from smiling.”

Mr Grant, who graduated with a Certificate IV in Visual Arts in 2017, said the genesis for the exhibition rested with a phone call he received from former CDU art teacher Henry Smith, who invited him to help remove buffel grass from a hill (now known as Henry’s Garden) in the bush about 15 minutes’ walk from Henry’s home.

“What I saw was inspiring. His efforts and those of other volunteers to restore the landscape and to allow the native plants to flourish was astounding. It has prompted me to pick up a mattock and help with Alice Landcare’s regular buffel busting session.

“This exhibition and the works in it celebrate the native species and the efforts of the community to ‘de-buffel’ the land,” he said.

Mr Grant said buffel grass had thrived in Alice Springs since the 1960s and ’70s when it was sewn widely as a strategy for controlling dust in the Red Centre, and for use by pastoralists.

“But we quickly learnt about its adverse effects. The grass burns at a higher temperature than native grasses, so when there is a bushfire, the landscape is ravaged.”

Mr Grant said an untimely foot injury last year also had been serendipitous.

“I had three months off work, which gave me a lot of time to think. It was then that I decided I would stay in Alice and develop my art practice.

“The desert provides me with a lot of inspiration and Alice is home to a vibrant arts community. I’m grateful to my mentors, including the art staff at CDU: Henry, Suzi and Mel.”