Nundah Artist Kenji Uranishi Makes Art Accessible to the Public in a Big Way

If you’ve been to the revitalised Kingsford Smith Drive riverside in Hamilton, you might have seen a number of brightly coloured public artwork around the area. These are the art beacons created by Nundah artist Kenji Uranishi, who was commissioned by the Council to beautify one of Brisbane’s most significant routes.

Who Is Kenji Uranishi? 

Mr Uranishi was born in Japan and trained as an artist using stoneware clay as a medium at the Nara College of Fine Arts. He moved to Australia in 2004 and expanded his practice to porcelain. 

The artist eventually established himself in the Australian art world by holding a series of workshops and exhibits in universities and galleries, not just in Brisbane but also in Sydney, Cairns, Canberra, Adelaide, Victoria, England, Sweden, New York and Japan. 

Photo Credit: Facebook/Kenji Uranishi

“In some ways, moving to Australia represented a fresh phase in my life that provided me with the energy to explore new materials, without cultural expectations,” Mr Uranishi said.

He has other public artworks on display at the Ipswich Courthouse and at 400 George Street.  

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Magnificent Flying Machines

In mid-2017, the Council tapped Uranishi to prepare his concept designs for the beacons, alongside another artist, for public consultation.

Mr Uranishi dubbed his creation as the “Magnificent Flying Machines,” which consists of 10 sculptured beacons that also double as a lightning path for Kingsford Smith Drive at night. Two of these beacons have been installed at Cameron Rocks Reserve in April 2019, whilst the rest will be located at Bretts Wharf and the Riverwalk.

These beacons were inspired by Hamilton aviators Sir Charles Kingsford Smith, the first pilot to fly trans-Pacific from Australia to the United States, and Maude “Lores” Bonney, the first female Australian aviator to fly solo from Australia to England. 

Featured with an aerodynamic design, the intertwining curves of the beacons represent the pioneering spirit of these aviators, which also resembles the wings of an orchard swallowtail butterfly, the most common butterfly species in Brisbane. 

“The art beacons are designed to maximise public access to the river and create way-finding markers to encourage exploration and make it easier for visitors to move around the local area,” the Council press release stated. 

Lendlease manufactured the beacons made of 3mm aluminium. Mr Uranishi hand-decorated every piece with 300 white polyethylene discs and added white LED lights at the base.