Mulga's Marine Murals
By Alec Smart
If you’ve enjoyed a cocktail or dined in Beach Burrito at 158 Pacific Parade, Dee Why, you’ve likely seen their ‘Welcome To Dee Why’ mural on the external side fence.
Facing The Strand, motorists refuelling at the petrol station opposite can’t miss its colourful message, illustrated with palm trees, a spaceship, and an odd mix of sunglasses-wearing characters, including a cactus, pink dolphins, a sombrero-wearing chilli and a surfing avocado.
The artwork was created by painter Mulga, aka Joel Moore, a Sydney-based mural artist and illustrator, in April 2021. His idiosyncratic, vibrantly-coloured work appears on the walls of countless businesses and school playgrounds and along Bondi Beach seafront.
He has also undertaken a number of collaborations with popular high street brands. As well as their Dee Why restaurant, Beach Burrito commissioned Mulga to illustrate a mini skate ramp at their Coogee diner.
Joel told 2099 how he came to be called ‘Mulga’. “It was already my nickname from school and I got it when I was in year 5 and I recited Banjo Patterson’s poem Mulga Bill’s Bicycle in front of my class. I remember one of my snot-nosed classmates who sat next to me saying ‘Hey it’s Mulgaaaa’ and the name stuck; some variations have been Mulga Bill, Mulga Pig, Mulgs. “I think Mulga works well and it ties in nicely with how my art has an Australian larrikin feel and the fact that my nickname comes from a character in a poem, and now I write poems about my own artistic creations, is a nice, full-circle kind of thing.”
Bearded, sunglasses-wearing characters appear in several of his artworks, whilst Mulga himself sports an enigmatic Ned Kelly-style bushy beard. “I think beards are magical,” he explained, “and someone who has a beard can often achieve greater things than if they were beardless.”
A recurring theme in Mulga’s work, including the Welcome to Dee Why mural, is characters wearing black-framed sunglasses with reflections of palm trees in the lenses. What inspired this motif? “I love summer and surfing and the beach and palm trees are my favourite tree,” he revealed, “so, by drawing sunglasses-wearing palm tree-reflecting characters, it brings those summer good vibes to my art.”
Whilst Mulga’s murals in urban areas frequently follow jungle themes, his seaside suburb artworks focus on marine themes showing fun in the sun. Like the Dee Why mural, they feature dolphins, whales and sea creatures frolicking through waves, usually wearing those tropical sunglasses. What other works has he undertaken on Sydney's northern beaches, and where might we find them?
“I love ocean-themed murals and summer, so painting them is always a pleasure. I’ve got a mural at St Augustine's College in Brookvale and another around the corner in the Colormaker Industries office (which is actually an underwater mural painted with their flouro paints)..“I painted a whale-themed mural at Beauty Point Public School - that turned out nice. I remember the kids all started clapping me at one point, classic!”
Mulga has also undertaken a lot of private commissions in homes and gardens, featuring brightly painted cockatoos, koalas and flamingos. “It’s a great feeling knowing I can bring joy to someone in the place where they live,” he said. “It’s win, win really; they get to enjoy some uplifting fun art in their home and I get to make a living doing something I love doing.
He particularly enjoyed painting the Welcome to Dee Why mural on the fence at Beach Burrito’s Dee Why restaurant. “That was sweet because I ran down to the beach and went surfing at lunch time; I was living the dream!”
Mulga (Joel Moore)
Ph: 0423 120 130