Historically no city in Victoria was designed with a square because the then Governor Gipps didn’t like them because they encourage democracy. Melbourne City Square was only built in 1980 (when democracy was no longer a threat) and marks the start of the architectural rejuvenation of Melbourne’s CBD. There are currently several statues: Loretta Quinn’s “Beyond the Ocean of Existence”, Charles Summers’ Burke and Wills Memorial, Pamela Irving’s “Larry LaTrobe” and a wooden wombat without the usual City of Melbourne brass plaque to identify the sculpture or artist along with the Mockridge Fountain in the square.
The missing statue from the city square has to be noted – “Vault” by Ron Roberson-Swann was only in the city square for less than a year but it left a permanent psychic mark on Melbourne. Melbourne City Council had to change the direction of their public sculpture in response to the controversy over “Vault” and so the quirky and the historic have replaced the formal modernist. Whimsy and idiosyncrasy are not part of the collective consciousness; they are about a personal mix of elements. They are the opposite of any kind of political statement.
Keeping with the quirky mood of sculpture in the City Square are the two animal sculptures: Pamela Irving’s “Larry LaTrobe” 1992 and the wooden wombat, ”Warin” 2002, by Des McKenna.
On the Flinders Lane corner there is Loretta Quinn “Beyond the Ocean of Existence”, 1993, a bronze sculpture. This generative sculpture stands on the opposite corner to the 19th memorial sculpture to Burke and Wills, standing on the corner of Burke and Swanston Street. Created by English born and trained sculptor, Charles Summers in Melbourne in 1865; Summers had previously created the Fitzroy Gardens, River God Fountain in 1862. The sculpture of Burke and Wills has been relocated many times as the city has changed and the corner is its 5th location.
“Beyond the Ocean of Existence” follows the traditional sculptural form of a god or hero on top of a column. But the tradition has been twisted, a large bulbous form and tendrils support an angelic version of her little girl figure with her hair swept back. The figure of the little child is central to Quinn’s sculpture. The figure minus the wings is repeated in “Within Three Worlds” (see my entry on Loretta Quinn’s sculpture “Within Three Worlds” at Princess Park). Other works by Loretta Quinn include the Artist’s Seat at Linden House, St. Kilda and “The Crossing of the First Threshold” in Southgate Melbourne Victoria.
When “Beyond the Ocean of Existence” was installed it did not have a café behind it and the area of the city square had more trees. Near the statue there is a painted pole by indigenous artists, Maree Clarke and Sonja Hodge. The poles have been there a long time even though the city of Melbourne does not consider it permanent.
“The Mockridge Fountain” by Ron Jones, Simon Perry (who also crested the Public Purse in the Burke St. Mall) and Darryl Cowie c.2000 is a concrete fountain that makes a little bit of water go a long way. However even its water conservation features did not prevent it from being turned off during the drought between 2007 and 2010.