Tag Archives: Docklands

Yarra Sculptures

My brother-in-law, Tom wanted to take a hundred photographs of the buildings in Melbourne’s docklands and riverfront, so earlier this year I went along with him for the early morning walk. We got out at Southern Cross Station, the former Spencer Street Station and crossed the tracks out of the old city. This is not walking Docklands’ public “Art Journey” as Bronwen Colman, the urban art director of the Melbourne Docklands precinct planned but a psychogeographical meandering along the Yarra River.

Webb Bridge, Docklands

Webb Bridge, Docklands

The Yarra River is the reason for Melbourne’s location, it was the transportation hub for the new settlement and it became an industrial site. When the modes of transportation changed in the late 20th Century the river became a neglected site. Another use had to be found for this polluted waterway and like many cities around the world Melbourne turned it into a parkland, river walk, casino, aquarium, restaurants and arts centre. The Yarra River started to be redeveloped in the 1970s with the construction of the Victoria Arts Centre and this urban redesign required more public sculpture.

Patricia Picinni, Seats

Patricia Piccinini, Car Nuggets, 2006

While Tom was photographing the architecture I was looking at and occasionally photographing the sculptures. Just off Batman Hill Drive at the Kangan Institute of TAFE’s Automotive Centre of Excellence I spotted three seats by Patricia Piccinini, the Car Nuggets, 2006. The chrysalis forms of cars or motorcycles about to metamorphose is both typical of Piccinini’s oeuvre and appropriate for the location.

Duncan Stemler, Blowhole, 2005

Duncan Stemler, Blowhole, 2005

We could hardly miss seeing Sydney-based artist, Duncan Stemler’s Blowhole, 2005; a 15 metre tall kinetic wind-responsive stainless-steel and aluminium sculpture located in Docklands Park. In 2008 two of the anodised aluminium cups were blown off but there wasn’t much wind and it wasn’t doing much when we were there.

The area feels deserted until we crossed the river at the Webb Bridge and then things were there was the noise of a flock of parrots enjoying the palm trees. Tom didn’t mind the lack of people, he was happily photographing the architecture of all the new buildings.

As we progress up the south bank of the Yarra there are a few more people were around. I remember reading stories about the early days of Melbourne where people disembarking from ships at the port kept walking up river for what to them seemed like ages until they saw the city. It is very similar today or maybe the city was finally waking up on the weekend.

Further reminding me of the early days of Melbourne the area has these touches of hyper-reality in the old pump house with boilers made by the old Robinson Bros. foundry. I recognised the name of the foundry as they had made Percival Ball’s Francis Ormond Memorial at RMIT.

Megafun, John Dory, 2006

Megafun, John Dory, 2006

On the north bank of the Yarra River poking its head out from amongst the apartments is a giant metal John Dory fish. It was originally on a floating platoon during the 2006 Commonwealth games and was constructed by a company called Megafun. Megafun also provided technical and project management support to Scar – A Stolen Vision in 2001, the aboriginal poles further along the north bank.

The crowds started to build up around the exhibition building and the casino. We had to find some shade so that Tom could see his camera’s screen properly; he was up to his 81st photo.

Simon Rigg, Gaurdians 1997

Simon Rigg, Gaurdians 1997

Outside the eastern end of Crown Entertainment Complex are The Guardians by Simon Rigg. These two large sculptures carved from Italian statuary marble and clad with ceramic tiles. Rigg has a number of other marble public sculptures around Melbourne, including Babylon, 1995 is at 101 Collins Street, as well as, in Beijing and New York.

We come to Inge King Sheerwater, 1994 in front of the Esso building. (See my post on Inge King.) Tom puts his camera away, he has taken his hundredth photo and we cross the Yarra heading up Swanston Walk to Chinatown for a well earned yum cha.

Inge King, Sheerwater, 1994

Inge King, Sheerwater, 1994


Geoffrey Bartlett’s Public Sculpture

Remember Geoffrey Bartlett’s “Messenger” 1983 that stood in the NGV ‘s moat? It is now located at the back of the NGV in their sculpture garden’s moat. Geoffrey Bartlett should be better known as a sculptor in Melbourne. “Messenger” was from a time when Bartlett was influenced by the American sculptor, David Smith. It looked like a kind of Rube Goldberg device; I kept wishing that it would move to release some of the tension in it. There is an obvious reference in “Messenger” to Smith’s “The Letter” 1950.

Geoffrey Bartlett, “Messenger”, 1983, steel

Melbourne based sculptor Geoffrey Bartlett first solo exhibition in 1976 at the Ewing Gallery, University of Melbourne, seven years later his sculpture stood in front of the NGV. Artists emerged quickly in those days. Back in the 1980s the sculptors Geoffrey Bartlett, Augustine Dall’Ava and Anthony Pryor shared a studio on Gertrude Street.

Personally I prefer Bartlett’s later sculptures, after he was influenced by Henry Moore and added more volume and mass to his sculptures, and there are plenty around Melbourne. These later sculptures have fusion of elements organic and metallic with the individual parts united into a whole complex form. There is a biomorphic appeal of his sculptures, like “Nautilus, Study with 2 Legs” 2010, 24 George Street, East Melbourne. There is also the appeal that his sculptures show their construction process, you can see the bolts and rivets that hold his stainless-steel sculptures together.

“Bartlett intends to disclose, rather than hide the construction process, believing in providing the viewer with an honest impression of the nature of the structure.” [Caroline  Field, “Geoffery Bartlett: The Art of Refinement” Geoffrey Bartlett – Silver Cloud (Deakin University, 2001, Toorak) p.9]

Geoffrey Bartlett, “Orion”, 2008, stainless steel

Geoffrey Bartlett is inspired by astronomy – there is his “Orion” 2008 at the Lucient Building, 430 St. Kilda Road (or his “Orion, Study 2,” 2011, 20 Straun Street, Toorak), “Aurora”, 2006, named after the Greek goddess of dawn on the corner of Harbour Esplanade and Bourke Street in the Docklands and, in collaboration with Bruce Armstrong, “Constellation”, 1997 along the boardwalk at the Yarra Turning Basin.

Geoffery Barlett & Bruce Armstrong “Constellation”, 1997, wood and steel, detail

“Constellation” sees the return of maritime themes in Bartlett’s work but  in other ways a departure from Bartlett’s usual style. Seashells, like that of the Nautilus, have long inspired Bartlett. In 1988 Bartlett created “Mariner” for New Zealand’s Trans-Tasman Shipping.

Other sculptures by Geoffrey Bartlett in Melbourne include: “Landscape at Moyston”, Price Waterhouse Coopers, 215 Spring Street, 1996, and “Obelisk” for the City of Melbourne, Focal Building also on Spring Street. There are also public sculptures by Bartlett in Auckland, and Newcastle, NSW.

Geoffery Barlett “Aura”, 2006, stainless steel, Docklands


Docklands 1% Sculpture

There is an abundance of public sculpture in Melbourne’s Docklands precinct because the Melbourne City Council required the developers to commit 1% of its capital works program to art. The sculptures in the Docklands include some work by notable Australian sculptors but this post is not about all the sculpture, although I will mention some of them. This is about the commissioning process for these sculptures.

There are endless complaints about the Docklands, from almost everyone who speaks or writes about it. Except in Waterfront Spectacular – creating Melbourne Docklands – the people’s waterfront ed. John Keeney (Design Masters Press, 2005). This huge coffee table book is a puff piece of colour photography, hopelessly compromised with an editorial board that includes representatives from VicUrban and various state government departments. It has very little about the sculpture but lots of photographs of them. However, in one chapter, “State of the art”, Sue Neales gives details about the commissions and funding for the sculptures at Docklands.

There was a 1% contribution to public art from all construction. Of that 1% half would be spent within the public space of the developer’s building, 30% for artwork located outside of developers building and the remaining 20% went to fund commissions of large-scale sculptures and artwork for public spaces across the whole of Docklands. The art spend by the developers had to “involve the direct commissioning of an artist to design and construct a specific artwork”. A variety of commissioning processes were used in the Docklands from direct to open competitions.

Virginia King’s “Reed Vessel” 2004 is a stainless steel and aluminium sculpture above reflective pool with a path through the middle of the A frame support for the boat structure. Virginia King’s “Reed Vessel” on Navigation Drive was a result of a limited competition. Six selected artists were invited to submit designs and maquettes (models of the proposed sculpture) for a competition with three winners selected to create artworks along Harbour Esplanade. New Zealand artist, Virginia King’s proposal was chosen. This work clearly fits with the Dockland’s themes.

The selection criteria for the sculpture included meeting Dockland themes of indigenous history, maritime, water, industrial history and urban interface. The themes are a way of the city council manipulating the memory of the area exploiting a desire for the authentic amid the completely constructed landscape.

Obviously not all of the sculptures do meet these themes. Emily Floyd “Signature Work (Rabbit)”, 2004 a large black painted aluminium toy rabbit on Waterview Walk and John Kelly’s “Cow Up a Tree” 1999 on Grand Plaza have little do with any of the themes in the selection criteria (except for, maybe “urban interface” what ever that means). Kelly’s “Cow Up a Tree” sculpture toured the France, Ireland and the Netherlands, making it completely non-site specific.

The art needed to be made for durable materials not prone to corrosion, able to withstand vandalism, with no small parts that could be stolen, “and be safe for people to touch and move around without any public liability issues” (p.118) For years temporary fencing has surrounded “Shoal Fly By” by Melbourne-based architect/artist partnership, Cat Macleod and Michael Bellemo on the
Harbour Esplanade. And now the sculpture has gone. Maybe there is a health and safety issue with the sculpture?

There are lots of new public sculptures in the Docklands development but I’ve been finding it hard to get around all of the industrial scale development. I ended up looking at Virginia King’s “Reed Vessel” on Google maps.

Has the 1% for the arts improved Docklands?


L’Oreal Fashion Festival – Runway Shows 5 & 7

Before each runway presentation, an advertisement for L’Oreal products is played. It usually features close-up animations of skin cells and DNA strings. Perhaps being a medical librarian makes me biased in a way because I can’t help but scoff at the ‘scientific’ elements every time I see them.

But that is of no importance.

L’Oreal Fashion Festival – Runway Shows 5 & 7

Dion Lee’s collection was very strong and focused mostly on the hemline. He is a new up-coming designer who has had more coverage internationally than in Australia. I first heard of him via ELLE (US) when he was featured in the new designers section (unable to find exact reference). Collette Dinnigan’s presentation was to be expected, but featured a definite ‘Mad Men’ influence. However the shoes were totally wrong for the designs though – platform stilettos do not look well with ‘60s inspired dresses. Most of the music for Runway 5 was anon doof-doof but the final designer, Toni Maticevski, used Michael Nyman’s theme from Drowning By Numbers (Peter Greenway) – touch of class! Maticevski’s collection was wispy floaty and dreamy, ending with a standout piece of eveningwear; the models did have some trouble trying not to trip over the mini-trains.

I like Alannah Hill’s designs and decided to go to the show she was presenting in. The other designers appearing alongside were White Suede (high waisted skirts, brights, tie-dye), Wayne Cooper (party frocks, mini dresses, muted colours), Talulah (floppy hats with everything, a focus on the hips), Maurie Eve (shirt dresses, blacks tan peach), Joveeba (loose casual wear), and Bettina Liano (cardis, shorts). Alannah Hill’s collection wasn’t a surprise. As with Collette Dinnigan, they both have found a definite style that suits them and in Hill’s case, this means afternoon tea/garden party wear (florals, sequins, cute buttons, candy coloured jackets).

There were many AbFab moments that I observed before and after each runway presentation. ‘Darling!’ and air-kissing was not the only thing going on. Most were dressed to impress and many were looking at other people (I have to say that I was doing that as well) but what has to be remembered is that these runway shows are consumer events open to the public and not industry events (although industry types are represented). I wasn’t dressed designer and the pictures I have seen of industry-only runway events, the attendees are not dressed up to the nine’s either (remember, this is work for them).


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