|Starting a new canvas on the site of the now demolished Boiler House 2, White Bay Power Station, Rozelle, Sydney, N.S.W.|
Back in the 1980's, I painted the White Bay Power Station while it was still operational.
In the 1990's, while the Pyrmont Power Station and Balmain Power Station were in the process of being demolished, I returned to the area to paint the Unilever site, the White Bay Hotel and the Goods Yard. While the Anzac Bridge was being constructed, I painted birds-eye views of the site from the summit of the western pylon. In 2000, the ownership of the site passed from Pacific Power to the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority (SHFA). From 2002 - 2004 I painted exterior views of the Boiler House and monumental interiors of the Turbine Hall, one of which was acquired by the Mitchell Library, State Library of N.S.W. for their collection.
From 2008 I have been painting this magnificent relic from the wharves of Glebe Island and White Bay. Now I've returned to the site itself as 'Artist in Residence'.
The back of the Boiler House
This massive brick and reinforced concrete structure seen at the backdrop of my painting was built in 2 stages - 1953 and 1958. Its interior is cavernous and cathedral - like. The lower steel and concrete tower next to the Boiler house was built to handle ash waste.
There were originally 4 boilers, but 3 of these have been since removed, leaving large voids. One lone boiler remains at the northern end, along with pulverizing mills and other machinery, including the coal hopper stretching high up along the western wall. The steel-faced asbestos cladding which once contained the intense heat of the fire, has fortunately been stripped off the boiler during the decontamination of this site.
The addition to the left is the administration building.
The bright red belongs to some containers which are full of debris from some of SHFA's other sites. Bizarrely, one of these containers has been decorated with paintings of butterflies.
Every half baked photographer and his dog has an image or two of the iconic chimney stacks from the northern Balmain side. This is scarcely a challenge - far too easy. I know this building very well, inside and out, and have painted it and the surrounding area over the past 3 decades. My paintings show the White Bay Power Station's subtler charms.
In the foreground is the space where the 2nd Boiler House, built on the southern side in 1927, and demolished from 1975-1976. Now this space is used for leftover debris from the clearing of Ballast Point, a former Caltex fuel depot, now a public park. I remember painting some of these relics on location at Ballast Point before its transformation in 2004-5.
The imposing facade, even from the back has a stern grandeur and dignity found in castles and forts. The dramatic shadow cast by this monolith is occasionally broken by glints of sunlight that touch weeds now infesting the vacant upper south yard, once home to the White Bay Hotel which finally succumbed to a mysterious fire in 2009.