Public Sculpture @ Footscray

Working on my book on Melbourne’s public sculpture has given me an excellent excuse to explore Melbourne. In Footscray I wanted to see and photograph two public sculptures. Adding to my desire of explore the city was watching The Secret History Of Our Streets an excellent BBC Two production that introduced me to the work of Charles Booth (1840-1916), a pioneer sociologist mapping the streets of London. (There is an online archive of Charles Booth’s work.)

In the busy commercial centre of Footscray at the intersection of Nicholson and Hopkins Streets in the pedestrian mall. There was a gentle mist rising around the rocks of Wominjeka Tarnuk Yooroom. The fine spray of water at the base of the rocks is intended to represent the smoke in aboriginal ceremonies. The series of rocks helps define the intersection, adds to the pedestrian area and the rocks connects the place to earth.

Maree Clarke and Vicky Couzins, Wominjeka Tarnuk Yooroom

Maree Clarke and Vicky Couzins, Wominjeka Tarnuk Yooroom, detail

Maree Clarke and Vicky Couzins, Wominjeka Tarnuk Yooroom, detail

Maree Clarke and Vicky Couzins, Wominjeka Tarnuk Yooroom, detail

The sculpture is very recent but people are taking to it; it was hard to get a photograph without someone’s child or dog getting in the way.

Wominjeka Tarnuk Yooroom is a sculpture by Maree Clarke and Vicky Couzins. Vicky Couzins is from the Western Districts of Victoria and is a descendant of the Gunditjmara and Kirrae Whurrong clans and she was one of the trio of artists that created with Birrarung Wilam at Birrarung Marr. Maree Clarke is from the Mutti Mutti, Wemba Wemba and Yorta Yorta; she was one of the many indigenous artists involved with Scar – A Stolen Vision in Enterprise Park along the Yarra. (For more about Wominjeka Tarnuk Yooroom.)

Looking for Bruce Armstrong sculpture, Two People Hugging I found myself in a well designed neighbourhood of mostly public housing. The traffic of busy Moore St was gone; the pavement changed to pavers rather than concrete and even the sound of my footsteps changed. There were several small squares (sunburnt from the recent heatwave – I hope the trees grow in) in the area and public seating.

Bruce Armstrong, Two Persons Hugging

Bruce Armstrong, Two Persons Hugging

Two Persons Hugging located in a square midway down Vipont Street, a quiet street; you wouldn’t know that it was there unless you were a local. This square at the start of a series of stepped parks and playgrounds that lead down to the parklands along the Maribyrnong River.

Two Persons Hugging is an early work by Armstrong; I haven’t been able to find an exact date. The monumental carved wood is solid and the two persons are inseparable and awesome. The wide plinth at the base of the sculpture adds to the seating options in the square.

Bruce Armstrong was born in Melbourne in 1957 and after he graduated from RMIT in 1981 his sculptures are influenced by many mythologies creating archetypal beasts. Along with being represented in major art galleries and international collections Armstrong has public sculptures in several other Melbourne’s suburbs including Moonee Valley, Ascot Vale and Chadstone Shopping Centre.

The position of both of these sculptures, in their different parts of the suburb makes them landmarks for that small area, defining the way that people see, move and talk about the place. These two sculptures might only get a small mention in my book amongst the other work their sculptors have done but I’m glad that I took the time to see them and how they work with their locations.

The centre of Melbourne’s art scene will continue to move slowly counter clockwise around the centre of the city towards the western suburbs. It had already moved through St. Kilda and Prahran by the 1970s and was moving up to Fitzroy by the 1980s. Look out Footscray.

About Mark Holsworth

Arts administrator, artist, musician, philosopher and writer. Writes Black Mark - Melbourne Art and Culture Critic. View all posts by Mark Holsworth

4 responses to “Public Sculpture @ Footscray

  • Jane Doe

    Did you check out the coat hanger babies (?) that used to be near the Queen Victoria Market and are now in Footscray?

    • Mark Holsworth

      No, I missed Tom Bills “With and With Each Other”, it was in storage for a few years since it was at the Queen Vic Market – where is it in Footscray?

  • Jane Doe

    Thanks for identifying the piece. I am used to calling it the ‘coat hanger babies’. I’m not terribly sure where in Footscray (near a roundabout I think???). Every time I go past I remember it used to be near the QVM and then one day turned up in Footscray and I just assumed it was ‘dumped’ on the people out west. Not fair! I find it quite a confronting piece with its connotations with abortion etc. I assumed it made people feel uncomfortable whilst it was at the market. Well at least it got people talking about art in public places…

    • Mark Holsworth

      There is a long story about “With and With Each Other”. It had been installed as part of the Construction in Process Sculpture Festival 1998 with a three-month permit but had remained on the roundabout for 4 more years. Tom Bills, professor of art and art history at University of California at Davis and a disciple of the father of hardcore sculptural minimalism, Donald Judd. http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2002/06/17/1023864393161.html Looking at my notes about it they say that it is now located on Nicholson Street & the cnr of Ballarat Road in Footscray.

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