Creativity is never far away in Launceston and the art and architecture of Launceston is a delight to explore. Even the streetscapes are works of art in themselves and are ideally explored on foot.
Art and architecture
Launceston showcases almost every style of architecture possible: Georgian, Regency, Victorian, Federation, Italianate, Edwardian, Art Deco, Queen Anne Revival and even some Japanese inspired design given the sister city is Ikeda in Osaka. Robyn Jones from Launceston Historic Walks is full of fascinating tales about the buildings.
For instance, she regales us with the controversy surrounding the rebuilding of the clock tower in the Queen Anne style on the corner of Cameron and St John Streets.
The row of Victorian terraces on Cameron Street were deemed most suitable for a single Victorian lady to reside in as they were built with the modern luxuries of electricity, gas stoves and piped indoor water.
Not to mention the stories about the building Robyn owns and has restored with her husband Trevor. Now 1842 Gallery, it was the original counting house of grocery emporium Johnstone and Wilmot.
The walking tour starts and ends at the gallery, which includes Trevor’s handcrafted furniture, art nouveau and art deco antiques, clocks, paintings, jewellery and photo exhibitions in Australia’s only tin-lined room; clad in 1934 to protect precious food items from the former tenants of the rodent variety.
Robyn believes the reason for Launceston having such a wide range of preserved architectural styles is due to a lack of property development thanks to a downturn in the economy, “Poverty helped preserve Launceston.”
You won’t find any high rises but nonetheless, don’t forget to look up as the date of the building is often featured on the elaborate façades.
Just as there’s a strong sense of pride in preserving Launceston’s history, there’s also innovative contemporary architecture to admire.
Architect Jack Birrell and wife and designer Rebecca of local architecture company Birrelli, showcase their distinctive style at Boag’s Brew House, Pierre’s Restaurant, Elaia Café and Josef Chromy Wines in the Tamar Valley.
Perhaps you’ll be lucky enough to relish in their boutique accommodation, the Hatherley Birrell Collection.
In carefully selected locations across town each suite and apartment is uniquely designed and beautifully outfitted whether that be the Petite Matisse, in an 1830 mansion inspired by the French artist, or the oriental inspired two-bedroom Teahouse Apartment ideal for families and friends close to all the action in town.
Immerse yourself in Launceston’s art scene in the most novel of ways. Explore the city’s galleries by an Artbike which can be collected at Design Tasmania, along with a map and helmet.
The not-for-profit gallery is an ideal spot to begin your adventure with the rotating exhibits and retail outlet bursting with innovative homewares like the beautiful and functional Indeco kitchenware range crafted from Huon pine–a native conifer endemic to Tasmania.
Owner and designer Tamika Bannister of pop-up store The Spotted Quoll creates environmentally conscious designs for the home and body inspired by the stunning natural surroundings; of which Launceston has no shortage of.
Also on the art trail, which can be covered on foot, is the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, Academy of Arts, Sawtooth and The Mill Providore and Gallery.
Located on the banks of the Tamar River and at the mouth of Cataract Gorge, the flour mill was built in the 1840’s and purchased by resident Kate Seagram and her husband Rod Ascui in July 2000.
Kate and Rod conducted a full conservation plan and transformed the building to house Stillwater, one of Launceston’s finest restaurants, and the gourmet outlet Mill Providore showcasing some of the best produce the state has to offer.
The top floor houses a gallery exhibiting local artworks and commanding views of the Tamar River and as Kate observes, “Living in a pocket of the world offering a beautiful lifestyle will naturally attract creative types.”
Continuing on the art trail and housed in an early 1800’s building on George Street, Gallery Pejean may be tiny, but what it lacks in size is compensated for by its calibre of talent presented. The gallery features photos, paintings, sculptures, prints, drawings, glass art and jewellery.
Owner Margot Baird points out one artist to watch is Estella Mason whose photographs on perspex are her interpretation of how Westerners see other cultures.
“I discovered her at a school exhibition,” Margot proudly declares. Estella’s work explodes with colours and patterns which somehow all work together despite their contrasting hues; most inspiring considering she’s only 20 years old and also styles the scenes as well as the models.
If it’s not on display, ask to view Archibald Winner Geoff Dyer’s portrait of local famous choreographer Graeme Murphy.
Interestingly, Geoff Dyer won an Archibald in 2003 for his portrait of Tasmanian novelist Richard Flanagan, who won the Man Booker Prize for his latest novel The Narrow Road to the Deep North. Another author to check out is Nicholas Shakespeare, although originally from the UK, his time on Nine Mile Beach on the east coast has inspired his vivid account of the island in his books Tasmania in Secrets of the Sea and In Tasmania.
Local photographer Philip Kuruvita has documented his love of his hometown in Launceston: a sense of Place, Cradle Coast Pantry and Tamar Valley Pantry. Fitting keepsakes to your journey and available at bookshops and galleries around town.