Charlotte Swiden grew up in Malmö, Sweden, where as a child she was drawn to the nation’s proliferation of public art. So it’s fitting the now-Melbourne-based painter and graphic designer should make her own foray into public art with work aimed at children.
Swiden is among 100 artists commissioned by The Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH) Foundation to paint a sculpture as part of Me and UooUoo: The RCH150 Anniversary Art Trail, commemorating the hospital’s 150th anniversary. The trail is centred around UooUoos (“you-you”), a wombat-like imaginary creature designed by Victorian artist Alexander Knox, who’s five-storey sculpture, dubbed Creature, is a beloved fixture of the hospital’s atrium. The walking art trail will loop through laneways, parks and public spaces around Melbourne and Geelong from January 20 to March 21,2021.
The aim of the trail is to foster community and discovery, especially among the young. At the conclusion of the Art Trail in March, each sculpture will be auctioned to raise funds for the RCH. Each sculpture is also sponsored by various businesses, with Broadsheet sponsoring Swiden’s contribution.
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Known for her paintings that typically explore rounded edges, soft colours and overlapping patterns, Swiden’s UooUoo is flecked with trees, feathers, and raindrops of varying colours, evoking a dreamy, mythical setting. “I wanted to create something where kids could let their imagination run loose,” says Swinden. “Something colourful and magical.” It will take up residence in Fitzroy Gardens, where it should be right at home. “It’s like a magical forest for kids to disappear into,” she says of her piece. “Like hide and seek in a special wonderland.”
Some of the acclaimed artists involved in the project include Jane Reiseger, Ghostpatrol (David Booth), Josh Muir, and Bonsai (Sai Neoh). Working on the piece in staggered, socially distanced sessions inside a warehouse space, Swiden saw some of their work firsthand. But the real appeal of the project was being able to contribute to such a good cause.
“I’ve got two boys myself, and we’ve been to the Royal Children’s lots of time, for themselves and to visit friends,” she says. “It’s such an amazing environment and it’s really important that kids can have a positive experience in a place like a hospital. That’s the real reason I wanted to do it.”
Swiden first fell in love with Melbourne while travelling in her early 20s. She relocated to study illustration and printmaking at RMIT University, and has now been in the country for 15 years. More recently she moved with her family to the Mornington Peninsula to be closer to the ocean, and had her first solo exhibition in early 2020 at Fitzroy’s Modern Times.
Though Covid altered her plans this year, she sees a positive side to the disruption. “It allowed me to slow back down again,” she says. “I just want to keep painting and making, and see where it takes me next.”