Lloyd Foye’s Outback Odyssey: Unearthing Australian Design History at the Australian Museum of Design
Step into a time capsule of Australian design history as we unveil the mesmerising tale of Lloyd Foye’s Outback Series. Nestled within the hallowed walls of the Australian Museum of Design, this discovery from early 2022 rewrote the narrative of our creative past.
A fusion of nostalgia and curiosity prompted our journey, as ten rare hand-drawn marvels of authentic Australian outback art emerged from the shadows. Like whispers from yesteryears, these artworks carried the essence of a forgotten era. The path to revelation was akin to a treasure hunt, an unveiling that unveiled itself over time.
Our odyssey began with delicacy, unrolling sheets of fabric untouched for more than three decades. This act was akin to unlocking a portal to the past, stepping into a world long shrouded in mystery. Never before had such a collection of hand-drawn art surfaced, a unified tale of the outback echoing through these strokes, as if a grand mural had sprung to life.
Venture back to the late 1980s, where computers scripted the future of design. In a twist of fate, technology forged a link back to the creator of the iconic Outback series. The online realm became a tapestry of connections, weaving stories and anecdotes that led us to the source – a pivotal phone call that broke the shackles of time and silence.
The artist behind this captivating journey was Lloyd Foye, an Australian visionary who crafted designs and artistic masterpieces during the 1980s and 1990s. Foye’s gift was his ability to materialize complex concepts into tangible visual marvels that resonated with clients.
Travel back to the 1st of May, 1986, and the canvas of history unveils Foye, hand in hand with Underline Pty Ltd, a design powerhouse. Commissioned to craft a mural for Ampol’s Jumbucks restaurants, Foye’s journey was a delicate dance of precision and creativity. “I remember that I did follow a fairly tight brief containing certain agreed subject matters, and then researched and planned the illustrations. Accurate tracings and roughs were approved at every stage. They gave me quite free rein to compose and design them as long as the history was covered,” Foye reminisces.
Preservation became an art form itself. These delicate creations were meticulously scanned, their flaws immortalised. A digital metamorphosis ensued, where vintage designs met modern technology, and pixels and screens waltzed in harmony for months. Amidst the layers, a key line vanished, a puzzle piece lost in time. Fate intervened through an original silk screen, bearing ink remnants of the missing layer.
The journey culminated in a chorus of thirty screens, each narrating a tale, together weaving the tapestry of Ampol Australia ‘Jumbucks’ restaurants. Foye’s brush invoked the spirit of the outback, rendering shearing, jackaroos, cattle, and more in vivid strokes. Amidst the layers, a narrative emerged – a story of Australia’s heartland.
Foye’s canvas spanned emotions and dimensions. His key-line etched the beginning, while light and shadow painted layers of depth and emotion. In a digital age, Foye’s skill harked back to an era of craftsmanship. Amidst the outback’s embrace, he immortalised a chapter of Australia’s design history.
Lloyd Foye’s legacy transcends valuation. His strokes evoke emotions that outshine material worth, resonating with a legacy that lives on in the hearts of all who encounter his timeless masterpieces.
We have had the great pleasure to speak with Lloyd Foye, the artist behind these rare and culturally significant artworks, to learn the story behind his commission. During the 1970’s and 80’s, illustrators and artists were in great demand to create posters, murals and montages to be printed in newspapers, billboards and flyers… to name a few. In a time that pre-dated computer drawings and design, you can channel the glamorous world of the advertising agencies who nonchalantly gives the creative brief to the waiting artists.
Corporates with the likes of Qantas, Singapore Airlines, Rugby Australia, and other famous individuals would need artwork to promote their latest ads, branding or tours, just so we would all rush out to buy the latest magazine to see what we loved next.
Line and wash style illustrations were very popular during that era and used to create the emotional connection with the artworks and the companies they were representing. In 1986, Ampol were looking to create a series of artworks that would represent regional and outback Australia for that era.
This included shearers, jackaroos, cattle, hay-bales, bank vaults and much more. The illustrations were to represent hardworking Australia during a time when working the land was a manual and laborious period.