Welcome to the sixth instalment of 'UQ by design', a 12-part Contact series celebrating the beauty and abundance of UQ's cultural assets. Join us each month as we take you on a virtual guided tour across UQ's three campuses, providing a brief overview of the pieces and where you can find them. This month, we take a look at the marvellous murals on the walls of particular buildings to draw attention to aspects of the University's academic specialties.


Within the Forgan Smith building – where the Arts and Law faculties are housed – is a mural by 1949 Archibald Prize-winning artist Arthur Murch (1902–89), The arts of peace. Commissioned in 1951, the 127.5 x 754 centimetre oil painting on wood-backed canvas depicts a Molonga corroboree. Murch admired the work of French Post-Impressionists Cézanne and Seurat and his style certainly demonstrates this influence. The work, located in the East wing, Level 3 stairwell, has been recently renovated, thanks to funding from the UQ Art Museum.

Near the Geology Museum in the Richards building are three heritage-listed murals by artists Don Cowen (1922–87) and Quentin Hole (1923–99) that were painted in the 1950s for decorative and instructional purposes. The 1951 The age of reptiles depicts the changes in animal and plant life from the Permian to the Cretaceous periods, a timespan of 150 million years. The age of mammals, painted in 1952, chronicles local megafauna living within the past million years; and King of the sea, painted by Quentin Hole by himself in 1958, celebrates the giant marine reptile, Kronosaurus queenslandicus, which once swam in the seas of Central Australia 110–100 million years ago. Its underwater landscape features seaweed, ammonites, small fish and even a skeleton at the bottom of the ocean. All three murals were painted directly onto the plaster and cannot be removed.1

The Zelman Cowen building is home to a unique Stairway Mural painted in the late 1970s by Portuguese architect, sculptor and painter Amâncio d'Alpoim Miranda ‘Pancho’ Guedes (1925–2015) and tells a story of chance meetings, shared ideas and joy. Described as an archetype Eclectic Modernist, Guedes’s colourful pop art-style work inspired the design of the building’s later refurbishment.

Painted in 2016 by Street Art Collaborative’s Ihab Imam, the foyer in Central Library (Duhig building) features an extensive painted mural, Knowledge coming to life. Representing the changing and powerful volume of knowledge all around the world, and society’s thirst for and pursuit of it, like water, it is dynamic, flowing and powerful – transforming from passive blues and greys to add texture, depth and contrast to the bold foreground.

The artwork on the curved wall represents arrival and is an abstraction of the variety of knowledge fields held in the Library. The patterns are placed as a collage as if torn from paper pages to represent the interplay and transformation of learning from traditional paper books to modern digital resources.

Mural in Biological Sciences Library.

Mural in the Biological Sciences Library, UQ St Lucia.

Mural in the Biological Sciences Library, UQ St Lucia.

Ihab Imam also painted a mural in the Biological Sciences Library called Biology versus science, an abstract expression of the interplay between the natural and man-made worlds. Designed to reflect on the nature of biological sciences, the piece explores the grandeur, wonder and brilliance of the natural world through the technology, rigour and process of modern science. Both the biological and science themes come together from opposite sides of the building, with each breaking down, pixelating and merging into the other at the central zone.

Across the exterior wall of the Student Support Services building (21D) in the Student Union Complex is a large mural, painted by several Aboriginal artists under the direction of Joe Hurst, called White Australia has a black history. According to local sources, as soon as the mural was painted it was vandalised with a white ‘KKK’, but Joe Hurst repainted over the letters, leaving a faint residue, and added an image of an AK-47 with a belt of bullets in the bottom right of the wall as if to say, “We’re ready!” If you look closely, you too can see the faint ‘KKK’ residue.

Mounted on the mural is a plaque dated 26 May 2003 with words by Indigenous activist, poet and writer Sam Watson (1952–2019):

This is Aboriginal land

All people who walk upon this land
and who breathe in the air of this land
and who drink the water of this land
Must know and honour the law of the land. 

This law says that all people are as one family.
This law says that there should be no hatred
or fear within our family.

Only when we love, respect and support each other
Can we know the truth of the land.

That is our word…
That is our land…
That is our law…

ONETIME!


Click on the photos of the murals below to reveal the full image

Wall mural by Arthur Murch at UQ St Lucia.

The arts of peace, by Arthur Murch, 1951, in the Forgan Smith building at UQ St Lucia.

The arts of peace, by Arthur Murch, 1951, in the Forgan Smith building at UQ St Lucia.

A wall mural at UQ St Lucia.

The age of mammals, by Dan Cowen and Quentin Hole, 1952, at UQ St Lucia.

The age of mammals, by Dan Cowen and Quentin Hole, 1952, at UQ St Lucia.

King of the sea wall mural at UQ St Lucia.

King of the sea, by Quentin Hole, 1958, at UQ St Lucia.

King of the sea, by Quentin Hole, 1958, at UQ St Lucia.

Wall mural of 'White Australia has a black history'.

White Australia has a black history, by Joe Hurst, 2003, in the Student Union Complex at UQ St Lucia.

White Australia has a black history, by Joe Hurst, 2003, in the Student Union Complex at UQ St Lucia.

Wall mural at UQ St Lucia.

Stairway mural by Pancho Guedes, painted in the late 1970s, at UQ St Lucia.

Stairway mural by Pancho Guedes, painted in the late 1970s, at UQ St Lucia.

Wall mural by Ihab Imam at UQ St Lucia.

Knowledge coming to life, by Ihab Imam, 2016, in Central Library foyer, UQ St Lucia.

Knowledge coming to life, by Ihab Imam, 2016, in Central Library foyer, UQ St Lucia.

Wall mural at UQ St Lucia.

Biology versus science, by Ihab Imam, 2016, in Biological Sciences Library, UQ St Lucia.

Biology versus science, by Ihab Imam, 2016, in Biological Sciences Library, UQ St Lucia.

Sunflower murals at UQ Gatton.

Sunflower murals on bookshelves at UQ Gatton, installed in 2018.

Sunflower murals on bookshelves at UQ Gatton, installed in 2018.

Mural of baby wobbygong.

Baby wobbygong, by Belinda Close, 2008–2010, at Moreton Bay Research Station.

Baby wobbygong, by Belinda Close, 2008–2010, at Moreton Bay Research Station.

Mural of ancient hammerhead shark at Moreton Bay Research Station.

Spirit spine, by Belinda Close, 2008–2010 at Moreton Bay Research Station.

Spirit spine, by Belinda Close, 2008–2010 at Moreton Bay Research Station.

Lightbox images of rockpools.

Rockpool rhythms, by Ali Braybrooks, 2008–2010, at Moreton Bay Research Station.

Rockpool rhythms by Ali Braybrooks at Moreton Bay Research Station.

Photographs of inter-tidal zone.

Mudflats, by Bernadette Millison, 2008–2010, at Moreton Bay Research Station.

Mudflats, by Bernadette Millison, at Moreton Bay Research Station.

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Wall mural by Arthur Murch at UQ St Lucia.

The arts of peace, by Arthur Murch, 1951, in the Forgan Smith building at UQ St Lucia.

The arts of peace, by Arthur Murch, 1951, in the Forgan Smith building at UQ St Lucia.

A wall mural at UQ St Lucia.

The age of mammals, by Dan Cowen and Quentin Hole, 1952, at UQ St Lucia.

The age of mammals, by Dan Cowen and Quentin Hole, 1952, at UQ St Lucia.

King of the sea wall mural at UQ St Lucia.

King of the sea, by Quentin Hole, 1958, at UQ St Lucia.

King of the sea, by Quentin Hole, 1958, at UQ St Lucia.

Wall mural of 'White Australia has a black history'.

White Australia has a black history, by Joe Hurst, 2003, in the Student Union Complex at UQ St Lucia.

White Australia has a black history, by Joe Hurst, 2003, in the Student Union Complex at UQ St Lucia.

Wall mural at UQ St Lucia.

Stairway mural by Pancho Guedes, painted in the late 1970s, at UQ St Lucia.

Stairway mural by Pancho Guedes, painted in the late 1970s, at UQ St Lucia.

Wall mural by Ihab Imam at UQ St Lucia.

Knowledge coming to life, by Ihab Imam, 2016, in Central Library foyer, UQ St Lucia.

Knowledge coming to life, by Ihab Imam, 2016, in Central Library foyer, UQ St Lucia.

Wall mural at UQ St Lucia.

Biology versus science, by Ihab Imam, 2016, in Biological Sciences Library, UQ St Lucia.

Biology versus science, by Ihab Imam, 2016, in Biological Sciences Library, UQ St Lucia.

Sunflower murals at UQ Gatton.

Sunflower murals on bookshelves at UQ Gatton, installed in 2018.

Sunflower murals on bookshelves at UQ Gatton, installed in 2018.

Mural of baby wobbygong.

Baby wobbygong, by Belinda Close, 2008–2010, at Moreton Bay Research Station.

Baby wobbygong, by Belinda Close, 2008–2010, at Moreton Bay Research Station.

Mural of ancient hammerhead shark at Moreton Bay Research Station.

Spirit spine, by Belinda Close, 2008–2010 at Moreton Bay Research Station.

Spirit spine, by Belinda Close, 2008–2010 at Moreton Bay Research Station.

Lightbox images of rockpools.

Rockpool rhythms, by Ali Braybrooks, 2008–2010, at Moreton Bay Research Station.

Rockpool rhythms by Ali Braybrooks at Moreton Bay Research Station.

Photographs of inter-tidal zone.

Mudflats, by Bernadette Millison, 2008–2010, at Moreton Bay Research Station.

Mudflats, by Bernadette Millison, at Moreton Bay Research Station.

Following a refurbishment of the JK Murray Library at UQ Gatton in 2018, the bookshelves were adorned with over-sized photos of sunflowers, taken from the University’s extensive photo library. The images were installed by a signwriter contracted by the University’s P&F section.

Way off campus, at Moreton Bay Research Station (MBRS) on Stradbroke Island, are several large digital photos on glass and acrylic paintings, created between 2008 and 2010 as part of the MBRS Public Art Project, Lines in the sand. Instigated by then station manager Dr Kathy Townsend and art curator Jo Kaspari, the project was designed to use art as a means of helping people understand and preserve marine environments.

Baby wobbygong is a photo of a large acrylic painting by Belinda Close depicting a local island ‘resident’ found in the waters at Amity Point. “I want people to see what a beautiful creature he is, how special he is, as the old wobbygong is so often forgotten. I want people to see that beauty so I put him up there in bright red,” she said.

Spirit spine, also from a painting by Belinda Close, portrays an ancient hammerhead shark that roamed the foreshores of Minjerribah (Stradbroke Island). Based on a Dreamtime story, the image shows how the laws of the water must be upheld to retain a healthy environment for all.

Rockpool rhythms are two digital photos taken by Ali Braybrooks and mounted on lightboxes. According to the artist, rockpools are “a quiet haven of protection against the elements of climate change” and are a shifting, colour-filled image in nature’s kaleidoscope.

Mudflats is a series of photographs of the inter-tidal zone near One Mile jetty by Bernadette Millison that show the transient yet indelible features of the island’s shore environment.


1 from The King of the Sea and other stories of prehistoric life at the University of Queensland (2010) by Kerry Heckenberg.

Be sure to check back in next month, as Contact looks at UQ's recycled rewards.


Words and concept: Suzanne Parker
Artwork and design: James North
Photography: Anjanette Webb
Contributors: Barbara Robinson and Jeremy Crowley

All artworks and artefacts mentioned in this series are located on UQ's St Lucia, Gatton and Herston campuses, and we acknowledge the Traditional Owners and their custodianship of the lands on which the University stands. We pay our respects to their Ancestors and their descendants, who continue cultural and spiritual connections to Country. We recognise their valuable contributions to Australian and global society.