Tag Archives: Russell Street

Orphan Sculptures

In researching public sculpture in Melbourne I am a little surprised to find orphan pieces; ‘orphan’ are pieces left out of the catalogue or a catalogued items with very little information. It is surprising that something as large as a sculpture is forgotten or lost in the records. But I’m only a little surprised it is not as if there is a catalogue of all the buildings, sculptures, fountains and things that are in Melbourne or any in any other city.

unknown orphan sculpture, possibly Lyndon Dadswell, 118 Russell Street

Most of the statues owned by the City of Melbourne come with a brass plaque set into the pavement that states the sculptor, title and date. But this is not the case with privately owned sculpture on public display. Many of these sculptural works were commissioned for private commercial buildings in Melbourne, like or the base relief on 118 Russell Street. The art deco figure of Mercury could indicate that it might have something to do with communications and would help date the piece.

Likewise it is not known who made the many figures on the facades of Melbourne’s buildings, like the Atlas figure on the former Atlas Assurance Building on Collins Street, the Druid on the Druids Building on Swanston Street or the metal motif of a rather skeletal modern merman on the outside wall of the Port Phillip Arcade on Flinders Street.

The rust covered corten steel sculpture out the front of The Domain (1 Albert Street) has been identified as Robert Jacks but there are more works of unknown or unidentified sculptors. Who made the three masted sailing-ship atop the weather vane that was installed c. 1919 at the Mission to Seamen. And who made the “French Fountain” a bronze fountain with granite plinth, from the International Exhibition of 1880 at the east entrance of the Exhibition Buildings?

The stories of these pieces have been lost to history. These orphans need help – if anyone has any additional information on these sculptors could they please comment or contact me (melbourneartcritic at gmail dot com).

Russell Street Sculptures

On awkward location of the wide median strip in the middle of Russell St., between Bourke St. and Lt. Collins St., there are two mysterious sculptures. This wide median strip was originally the location of Melbourne’s first underground toilet (and first public toilet for women) opened 1902 and decommissioned in 1994. The median strip also incorporates the ventilation point for the decommissioned Telstra tunnels that run beneath Melbourne’s CBD.

The sculptures are Chris Reynolds, “A History apparatus – Vessel Craft & Beacon”, 1993 (installed 1994-5) a 24m. long series of aluminum and fiberglass forms, part of which is attached to some steel rails. And Maurie Hughes, “Ceremony and Vehicle for Conveying Spirit”, 1996, made from silicon, bronze, galvanized and mild steel. The two sculptures are separated by centre of the road car parking and some plane trees; so although Maurie Hughes’s sculpture was intended to refer to Reynolds’ sculpture the two do not appear connected. Both of the sculptures are composed of several parts as well as long titles. And they both have a strange functional appearance implied by their liner design along the median strip.

One reason for these odd sculptures can be explained in the process of commissioning the sculptures. Chris Reynolds “A History apparatus” was part of the National Metal Industry Sculpture Project, a sculpture-in-residency program. It was a collaborative effort between the artist and the Australian Metal Workers Union, Aerospace Technology of Australia and the City of Melbourne. Maurie Hughes’ sculpture was linked to the redevelopment of Telstra’s former Russell Street exchange and funded by Telstra and the City of Melbourne’s Urban & Public Art Program. It was commissioned with a brief to “incorporate the functional and visually meaningful elements of the vent”; the vent is part of a decommissioned Telstra tunnel.

Maurie Hughes, "Ceremony and Vehicle for Conveying Spirit", 1996

Maurie Hughes’s “Ceremony and Vehicle for Conveying Spirit” has three elements: totem pillars, the chimney and a gate each with their own plinth. The wheels on the chimney and the smaller wheels on the base of the gate suggest movement but this sculpture is going nowhere. The chimney flue form is presumably above the old Telstra tunnel’s vent.

Chris Reynolds, “A History apparatus - Vessel Craft & Beacon”, 1993

Chris Reynolds’s “A History apparatus – Vessel Craft & Beacon” feels disappointing as a sculpture; given the whole apparatus with the rails and vessels, you expect it to do more. The sculpture leaves me with a sense of disappointment and failure.

I have not been able to find anything more about these two artists. Like other artists who received commissions for public sculptures from the City of Melbourne their careers have not been notable.

The sculptures in the middle of Russell St. do not attract much close examination; their eccentric meanings appear impenetrable. Looking awkward and out of place they fail to give a sense of place, or excite the imagination. The problems with these sculpture stem from their location and commission before the two artists even started work.

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