Industrial Cathedral

Industrial Cathedral
"Industrial Cathedral" charcoal drawing on paper 131 x 131 cm Jane Bennett. This drawing was a finalist in the 1998 Dobell Prize for Drawing (Art Gallery of N.S.W.) ; Finalist in 1998 Blake Prize for Religious Art ; Winner of 1998 Hunter's Hill Open Art Prize

Monday, August 29, 2016

"The Mother Art is Architecture"

"The Mother Art is Architecture" is part of a quote by Frank Lloyd Wright The full quotation is  : "The Mother Art is Architecture. Without an Architecture of our own we have no soul of our own civilization".
I am one of 6 artists, John Waters, Isabelle Devos, Jane Bennett, Stephen Nova, Chris Brown, and Hadyn Wilson currently exhibiting in the group show"The Mother Art is Architecture" at Frances Keevil Gallery, 28-34 Cross Street Double Bay. Architecture is  the theme; yet each artist takes it in quite different directions.

Almost everything that I have ever painted has either been demolished or changed beyond all recognition: the pubs have been gentrified, working class terraces are now apartment blocks and Sydney is no longer a Working Harbour.
I have spent most of my career painting the loss of Sydney's "soul of civilization".
Without an architecture of our own we have no soul of our own civilization.
Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/f/franklloyd127711.html
Without an architecture of our own we have no soul of our own civilization.
Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/f/franklloyd127711.html


I was "Artist in Residence" at the "Hungry Mile", East Darling Harbour Wharves during its last years as a working port, courtesy of Patrick Stevedores and Sydney Ports Corporation. When I knew that port operations were ending, I used the wharf itself as a studio and gained unprecedented access to every aspect of the activities there. I painted on the wharves, from the bridge of the ships (courtesy of the ship’s captains) and wonderful bird’s eye views from the top of Harbour Control Tower. After the last ship had sailed, I continued my epic series of paintings of Barangaroo, the largest and most controversial Sydney Harbour construction project in living memory.
I had the run of the top floor and the amenities level of the 87 metre high Harbour Control Tower from the early 2000s until port operations finished there in April 2011, and afterwards occasionally had enough access to create paintings of various stages of the construction of Barangaroo. I spent many a New Year’s Eve on the top floor, painting 360 degrees of the fireworks exploding underneath against the unforgettable harbour view.
Two major works on paper which I painted from the top of the Harbour Control Tower a couple of years apart, will be featured in this exhibition.


These two large mixed media drawings show the maximum possible contrast between old and new; between heritage and development; between tradition and progress.
One shows views over Barangaroo and the waterfront. The other looks out over Millers Point towards the bridge. A nod to the past - and a look to the future.
The 2 works overlap slightly,  sharing the sweeping curve of the workers terraces of High Street as well as the quirky asymmetry of the old Palisade Hotel in common. They are on the far left hand side of the earlier work, and on the far right hand side of the later work.
ink charcoal gouache drawing on paper of Barangaroo and Millers Point from the Harbour Control Tower industrial heritage artist Jane Bennett by
HCT34  'Millers Point and Barangaroo from the top of Harbour Tower' 2010 ink acrylic gouache on paper 102 x 125cm 

By the time of painting the later work, the Palisade had nearly completed its transformation from a down at heel wharfies’ dive into a luxurious upmarket watering hole for the new residents of Barangaroo and Walsh Bay Wharves.
The earliest version of the Palisade was built in the late 1800s, but the Sydney Harbour Trust commissioned Henry Deane Walsh to build a hotel on top of the pub, which was completed in 1915. The Palisade Hotel was literally a landmark as it was the highest building in Sydney at the time. Many diggers sank their last beer at the hotel before they boarded ships bound for the First and Second World War. It was also used as a lodge for workers constructing the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Over the years, the hotel has been frequented by many “colourful characters”. There's almost too much history in the walls.
Atop Millers Point, high above the harbour, the old Palisade Hotel sat forlorn for 7 years from the end of World Youth Day in 2008 until its reopening in August 2015, just in time for its centenary.  It had been closed in 2008 for an renovation by the then owner and sold at auction in March 2015 for about $20 million. Now the new owners have given it a $5 million renovation and reopened the ground-floor public bar.
This large mixed media drawing shows the view looking south from the Harbour Tower. The wharf buildings have just been cleared, revealing a bare expanse of concrete with a few cryptic markings which could either be for vehicles or possibly guidelines for future construction. The white marquee in the centre right of the wharf is the temporary cruise ship terminal. Soon afterwards, it was removed when the new cruise ship terminal at White Bay was opened.
 The faint shadow of the Harbour Tower is cast over a section of the wharf which was soon to be excavated for the Barangaroo Headland Park, which opened a year ago in August 2015.
The left hand side shows the early 20th century Federation heritage architecture of Millers Point, still at this stage inhabited by the descendants of 5 generations of waterside workers. The staggered walls and gables that serrate the roofline of High Street are groupings of 4 individual flats, rather than individual houses.
Upper flats were divided from lower flats by an ingenious use of panels, to lessen noise and the risk of the spread of fire. Each flat had its own ventilated laundry, bathroom and scullery at the rear to maintain hygienic living conditions.
The lower flats had a courtyard to dry clothes and access to a rear lane for rubbish collection. The upper flats had rooftop drying platforms made of solid hardwood beams, packed tightly side by side and bonded by steel rods. The washing was launched into the air by nifty pulley mechanisms. Brick chutes and concrete tubes allowed rubbish to be dropped to the lane below.   
These humble dwellings were actually cutting edge design solutions to the problems of medium density urban living. They pioneered some of the earliest use of now ubiquitous technology in Sydney housing and incorporate some of the aesthetics and philosohical principles of Frank Lloyd Wright who believed buildings should be made from the land and benefit the environment. Another famous quote by Frank Lloyd Wright can be used to contrast the modest utility of the workers flats with the pomposity of recent development at Barangaroo : "A building should appear to grow easily from its site and be shaped to harmonize with its surroundings if Nature is manifest there.”
 
ink charcoal gouache drawing on paper of Barangaroo and Millers Point, Walsh Bay Wharves, Sydney Harbour Bridge and Hammerhead Crane from the Harbour Control Tower industrial heritage artist Jane Bennett by
HCT42 'Vale Millers Point' 2014  ink acrylic  gouache on paper 106 x 136cm

This mixed media drawing was amongst the last I was able to paint from the top of the Harbour Tower. I consider it to be the quintessential Sydney Harbour view, with a breathtaking panorama of Walsh Bay Wharves and Millers Point below my feet, and the Sydney Harbour Bridge in the background. At one time or another I have painted every single building in this canvas from ground level, often from several angles, and I have met most of the residents and workers, old and new.
ink charcoal gouache drawing on paper of Barangaroo and Millers Point, Walsh Bay Wharves, Sydney Harbour Bridge and Hammerhead Crane from the Harbour Control Tower industrial heritage artist Jane Bennett by
Close up detail of protest banners in High Street - HCT42 'Vale Millers Point' 2014  ink acrylic  gouache on paper 106 x 136cm
The old heritage architecture of Millers Point has been festooned with a few defiant banners protesting against the inevitable eviction of the residents of High Street, Windmill Street, Lower Fort Street and Dalgety Terrace.
Reg Mombassa designed a T-shirt with the logo of a skull smoking a cigar and wearing a top hat, symbolizing the real estate agents and developers now infesting the once sleepy backwater. A few hang from the rooftop drying platforms in Dalgety Terrace.
ink charcoal gouache drawing on paper of Barangaroo and Millers Point, Walsh Bay Wharves, Sydney Harbour Bridge and Hammerhead Crane from the Harbour Control Tower industrial heritage artist Jane Bennett by
Close up detail of protest T Shirts in Dalgety Terrace HCT42 'Vale Millers Point' 2014  ink acrylic  gouache on paper 106 x 136cm
 
At the time of painting, the Palisade Hotel was soon to be re- opened after 7 years of emptiness. In contrast, the city and Walsh Bay Wharves remain shrouded in darkness. 

In the background, cranes pick at the skeleton of the half demolished Hammerhead Crane on Garden Island. 
Earlier that year I had braved the daunting bureaucracy of the Navy to become the ‘Artist in Residence’ on Garden Island for several months so that I was able to paint the last days of this historic naval relic before it was demolished.
While painting this work, I was well aware that the Harbour Control Tower was under threat of demolition, despite being an iconic landmark of Sydney Harbour. 
The demolition process began in March 2016 and will continue until the end of the year.
Another appropriate quote from Frank Lloyd Wright :
“Architecture is life, or at least it is life itself taking form and therefore it is the truest record of life as it was lived in the world yesterday, as it is lived today or ever will be lived.”