Arnhem H-way is the outcome of a recent residency at Gunbalanya (Oenpelli) where Betheras chanced upon a roadworks crew. Working with the roadcrew’s offcuts – sheets of oil-based paper laden with tar and bitumen – Betheras began to assemble the offcuts in various combinations. Part readymade, these works represent a signifcant experimental departure for the artist better known for his high-key figurative and semi-abstract paintings. Some works bear more of the artist’s painted mark than others while the raw expression inherent in the overall project conjures names like Anselm Kiefer, a conscious influence for the artist who was surprised to discover that Kiefer too had visited Gunbalanya (in the 1990s).
Melbourne-based Betheras began his artistic career as a street/graffiti artist before moving into a career as an AFL footballer for Collingwood. He maintains his connection to football and has run various football academies in Aboriginal communities within the NT. ‘The football connection allows me to enter places’, writes Betheras, ‘and from that I am able to produce artwork specific to those places and to the experience of being there’. The ‘higher states of consciousness and physicial application needed to perform at the highest levels of sport’, according to the artist, are also manifest in his artistic process as a painter.