Craig Walsh: Heads Up

We wanted to find an expressive way of letting people know the value of this game of rugby league within our community

Max Cowan, (former) Mkt Manager, Penrith Panthers *

Heads Up was a new body of work by Brisbane-based artist Craig Walsh, that was the result of a residency and collaboration with renowned Rugby League football club Penrith Panthers, in western Sydney, and represented the first C3West project in a gallery context.

Craig Walsh often works with people and locations removed from the traditional realms of art galleries. Invited by C3West to collaborate with the Panthers, Craig Walsh set out to explore the traditions of the 50 year-old Rugby League club and the important role that the people of Penrith – footballers, fans, club management, staff, members and local families and residents – play in contributing to, and defining, the Penrith community.

The project involved documenting Panthers players and supporters minutes after the final whistle of the first four home games of the 2008 NRL season. A mobile studio was set up at the CUA Stadium, Penrith and, working with Sydney photographer Josh Raymond, the artist invited players and supporters to face the camera.

With intense focus and unsettling calm, elite athletes and sports fans alike sat for their portraits. A total of 17 – the number of players in a Rugby League team – photographic portraits were selected, all taken following games the Panthers lost. Struggling with feelings of disappointment at the loss, the faces reveal a range of subtle, yet powerful, qualities such as individual pride, determination, commitment, strength and personal dignity.

For the exhibition, Walsh also incorporated a sound component within the space. Recorded from different points around the CUA Stadium over an entire game, complex layers of sound infiltrate the photographs, bringing a sense of the dynamic context in which the game is played. Voices from on and off the field, stadium sound effects, commentary, advertising and the coach’s briefing can be heard.

Craig Walsh’s Heads Up marked the beginning of a long and successful working history between the Penrith Panthers and C3West. Along with other artistic projects, the Penrith Panthers chose to exhibit a selection of the original 17 images for display in the foyer area of their club during 2010.

Artist: Craig Walsh
Photography: Josh Raymond
Business partner: Panthers Entertainment Group

Other C3West Projects

Image: Marita Penese, 2008, pure pigment print on archival paper, 200 × 150 cm, Photography by Josh Raymond, image courtesy and © the artist

  • Max Cowan, (former) Marketing Manager, Penrith World of Entertainment, The Art of Engagement Symposium, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, 22 October 2009.