Installation view of Pitcha Makin Fellas' <em>Keep Australia Beautiful</em> 2023 on display as part of the Melbourne Now exhibition at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne from 24 March – 20 August 2023.   Image: Sean Fennessy

Pitcha Makin Fellas

Pitcha Makin Fellas
(est. 2013, Ballarat, Victoria)

The Pitcha Makin Fellas is an art collective based in Ballarat, Victoria. Hailing from different language groups across Australia, the Fellas – Ted Laxton, Alison McRae and Trudy Fatnowna Edgeley – have become known for their powerful advocacy for First Nations people, tongue-in-cheek humour and the signature stamps that they make to create brightly coloured paintings, which are usually collaboratively made. Inspired by the histories and cultural traditions of South- East Australia, as well as observations, news and public debates, their works span films, paintings, murals, handpainted breastplates and a series of ‘Blakfella Time’ clocks. 

Keep Australia Beautiful, 2023, is a portrait of the degradation of Country over time and a comment on the group’s collective desire to protect Australia’s natural flora and fauna. It is a picture calling for care of Country for its beauty, spirit and survival. It’s also a warning that if we don’t really care, the end result will be the loss of all that makes this land extraordinary. The Keep Australia Beautiful organisation began a campaign in 1968 with an emphasis on picking up litter; the Fellas Campaign goes much deeper than that. The Fellas say, ‘Pull your pants up Australians or we’re buggered’.

Made from acrylic on plywood, the individual wooden panels in the work were allowed to contort during the painting process, eliciting the sense of a contemporary bark. The cassowary, crow and white cockatoo reference the artist’s ancestral totems. This monumental work is the artists’ way of drawing attention to the environmental devastation that is caused by climate change and pollution of our land and waterways. Since the collective’s inception in 2013, it has exhibited in group and solo settings, led community and school-based projects and workshops, and worked on projects everywhere from local schoolhouses to the Koorie Heritage Trust and Bunjilaka at the Melbourne Museum. The collective’s work is held in private and public collections, including the NGV and the United Nations in Geneva. In 2017 the Pitcha Makin Fellas published the picture book What’s in a Name?, which was included in that year’s List of Notable Books by the Childrens’ Book Council of Australia and features illustrations by the Fellas.