Artist springs mural surprise in Freo
Artist springs mural surprise in Freo

It appeared overnight, a 25m numbat spray-painted on to a wall in Henderson Street mall, but far from being graffiti the mural has put Fremantle on an A-list of cities to feature the work of an enigmatic artist.

His identity is a secret, he does not give interviews and his creations grace public spaces in cultural meccas such as Berlin and New York.

Known only as ROA, the 30-something Belgian-born street artist was paid $15,000 by the City of Fremantle to leave his mark on the town.

Not as well known as British street artist Bansky, ROA has nonetheless earned international acclaim for his animal-themed murals, which first appeared in public spaces near his home town of Ghent in Belgium.

In WA for an exhibition of his work at Perth's Form Gallery, ROA decided the piece in Fremantle would feature a numbat after he spent time with Aboriginal elders in the Pilbara and learnt about the wildlife.

Fremantle's co-ordinator for cultural development, Alex Marshall, said given most of the artist's gallery works sold for more than $10,000 each, the city had gained an "iconic" piece of art at a steal.

The mural was started on Friday about 1pm and finished by Saturday morning. Mr Marshall said it had been fascinating watching the Belgian work.

"He used a tiny roller on a stick to get the shape and outline, then used it to paint in chunks in black and white, making a smudgy version of the animal," Mr Marshall said. "He went back with spray cans to get the character and fine detail. He would stop and stare at the wall for 15-20 minutes, and you couldn't talk to him."

Mr Marshall said ROA had told him he had chosen the numbat because it was an endangered species.

"He thinks people who live in cities forget about their natural environment," Mr Marshall said.

"He's very concerned about animals and he wants people to think about them."

The West Australian

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