A DELICATE restoration process is underway to preserve one of the Maranoa region’s beloved artistic icons.
The wartime mural at the Yuleba Memorial Hall is being restored with state government grant funding obtained by the Maranoa Regional Council.
The mural was painted in 1964 by jackaroo Robert Fred Doyle, who honours the region’s men and women who served in World War II and the Vietnam War.
Brisbane-based art restoration experts Tessa Blair and Maite Le Mens have been commissioned to carry out the restoration, which is intended to preserve the vibrant painting for decades to come.
Working on the project has been a delightful coincidence for Ms Blair, who grew up in Roma and has strong family links to mural itself.
“My great-grandmother (Alice Coleman) was involved in getting the painting in the hall,” Ms Blair said.
“She was the secretary of the hall committee back in 1964, and then my grandmother (Marie Klein) was the secretary after her.
“Here I am, back to fix it up again!”
Working to preserve the decades-old painting, which is permanently attached to the back wall of the hall’s stage, has been a delicate process.
Ms Blair, proprietor of Blair Paintings Conservation, has partnered with Ms Le Mens (of Studio 204) on several previous projects but admitted the pair had “never worked on anything quite like this before”.
Ms Le Mens, originally from France, said the restoration would involve “consolidation” of peeling paint, cleaning loose dust and dirt, and retouching the areas where there’s been a loss of paint.
“We came and did a lot of tests with different solvents to see how stable the painting was – how sensitive – and then see what we could and couldn’t do,” she said.
“I think it’s great. A piece like this is really important for the community. It carries lot of knowledge and history.
“Sometimes it’s not just the painting, it’s the people and the history behind it. The artwork is important but the story makes it more special.”
Ms Blair added: “It’s always nice to work on something that is loved and treasured and you can really feel that in this community”.
“You can tell they really appreciate having this here and you can feel how protective they are of it. It’s really important to look after things like this,” she said.
Once the cleanup has finished, plans are in place to cover the mural with high-grade perspex – a technique commonly used to conserve ageing artwork.
Maranoa mayor Tyson Golder said restoring the mural was “hugely important”.
“I’ll never forget the first time I walked into this hall and saw it – it just blew my mind,” Cr Golder said.
“Fred Doyle was an enormously talented artist.
“I’m very glad that Council has engaged very knowledgable people to look after this piece of our history.”