Passiona, Curly Wurlys, Rainbow Paddle Pops, smiley fritz – Billie Justice Thomson is a champion of milk bar nostalgia. Her work celebrates all things kitsch, elevating simple domestic stalwarts – tuckshop treats, jugs of beer, daisies, a pink Sherrin and Indomie mi goreng – into drawings that ooze with Australiana charm.

Thomson studied painting at the University of South Australia, then spent five years working in Melbourne before returning home to Adelaide in 2016 to raise a family. She’s helmed seven solo exhibitions of her perspex pop art paintings, and her murals are dotted around the city – including at businesses like Roxie’s and Golden Boy, and in public spaces like Tonsley’s overpass pillars.

Her work is set to feature as part of the new Dining Galleries event series at Tasting Australia 2024. Part restaurant, part art showcase, Dining Galleries will showcase works by three other female South Australians, alongside menus from an exciting line-up of chefs.

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Thomson sat down with Broadsheet to tell us her favourite things to eat, drink and see in her city.

What do you love about Adelaide?

I love being able to walk and ride my bike absolutely everywhere. I love the botanic gardens, and I love bumping into my friends at the pub.

What do you love about festival season in Adelaide?

I love how the city feels. There’s so much excited energy in the air and so much to do.

What can we expect from you at Tasting Australia 2024?

I wanted the artwork to reflect the incredible produce grown here in SA and what chefs can do with it.

Tell us about someone or something that makes Adelaide a better place.

I think Adelaide has done a lot of growing up in the past decade. I think we’ve become aware of how lucky we are and proud of what we can offer – not only to tourists but to locals as well.

Where’s your favourite place to grab a bite in Adelaide?

At the moment it’s Loc Bar. With a new chef every few months, it’s always different and always delicious.

If you had to make a sticker or a magnet pack with five iconic Adelaide dishes, what would you include?

Ohhhh, probably a Vili’s pie, a Coopers pale ale, a Haigh’s chocolate bilby and a Halls Fruita

What about your favourite place to drink – and what are you ordering there?

Smokelovers on Rundle Street for a Margarita.

What’s one of the city’s most underrated spots?

Mandoo, the best hole-in-the-wall Korean spot. Always incredible.

Is there a shop, a cafe, bar or street in Adelaide that instantly invokes nostalgia?

The Exeter. It’s such an icon and has never ever changed (thank God!)

What your favourite artwork in Adelaide?

It would have to be this huge oil painting in the permanent collection at the Art Gallery of South Australia. Painted in 1684 [by Italian artist Luca Giordano], it’s called The Riches of the Sea With Neptune, Tritons and Two Nereids, and it is wild! It has to be seen in the flesh to be properly appreciated.

@billiejusticethomson
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