Artists in Conversation Series: Damien O’Mara

Windmill of your mind: Stories inspired by Queensland’s oldest building is the latest exhibition by Queensland State Archives (QSA). The exhibition, showcasing the artwork of students from the Queensland College of Art at Griffith University, alongside treasures from the state’s archives, focuses on the Old Windmill on Wickham Terrace in Brisbane.

The heritage-listed Old Windmill has stood witness to much of Brisbane’s 190 year history and some of these intriguing, and at times, disturbing historical events were highlighted in a recent short film created by QSA staff.


It was the passing of time and the influence the building has on the city over its lifespan that inspired Damien O’Mara, one of the talented artists who contributed to the exhibition. Damien produced a high-definition video played on continuous loop entitled Spring Hill Windmill.

We recently caught up with Damien asked him about the iconic building that inspired his artwork, and if he knew much about the history of this Spring Hill landmark before he commenced this project.

I really didn’t. I’d driven past ‘The Old Windmill’ but I didn’t know anything about its history. One of the great things about the project was not only learning about the windmill, but learning about all of the significant events that occurred throughout the windmill’s lifespan.

Damien rose to the challenge of focussing on the building to represent a long and complex history, drawing on both the origin of the structure and its journey through time, which he discovered through the records held in the QSA collection. We wondered about his experience of drawing artistic inspiration from historical Queensland stories. Damien told us:

It was difficult. Using a built object to signify the history of a city is more difficult than I thought it would be. Built objects easily represent certain, more generic aspects of urban growth, but to make it significant for a particular city was hard. It forced me to use the form and the material in a more abstract way, to break the more familiar associations we have with the brick/concrete form, and to allow it to represent something unique and significant to Brisbane.

In his Artist Notes, Damien describes how his work presents a singular camera movement around the circumference of the windmill, as the centrally located mortar joint and the uniformity of the panning camera evoke the rhythm of passing time. The changing texture of the brick surface represents the events that punctuate the history of the city – some change is gradual, like the steady change from shade to light; other elements pass abruptly, such as cracks and other imperfections in the aged and altered surface. The changing façade serves as a visual timeline to symbolise the lifespan of the structure and its influence on the character of the city.

Our artists participating in the exhibition told us that the experience offered some illuminating insights, so we asked Damien about what he took away from this experience.

There’s always a lot to be learnt by focusing on a specific challenge. It’s rare that artists are asked to stray from familiar territory and that’s why the ‘Stories from the Windmill’ exhibition was so interesting for me.

O'Mara with artwork

The Windmill of your mind: Stories inspired by Queensland’s oldest building exhibition can be seen at Queensland State Archives, located at 435 Compton Road Runcorn. Opening hours are 9.00am to 4.30pm Monday to Friday, as well as the second Saturday of every month. Entry is free of charge and the exhibition runs until December 2017.

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