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, December 8, 2014

On location - A Short film of my paintings

This is the link to view a short film of me painting on location in Millers Point and talking about the paintings in my solo exhibition "Under the Hammer"

Short film of "Under the Hammer" 

 While I was painting some tiny quick studies of terrace houses in Argyle Place in October-November 2014, I was filmed by Lachlan Bennett (no relation!). In the film, I speak about industrial heritage, the de-industrialisation of the city and my latest solo exhibition, 'Under
the Hammer'.

It's impossible to convey the same sense of wonder and beauty that I experience while painting on location, but it's worth a try.

plein air oil painting of terrace house in Millers Point by artist jane Bennett
"36 Argyle Place"  2014 oil on canvas 15 x 10cm
$180
Enquiries : janecooperbennett@gmail.com
As well as capturing me at work, Lachlan also visited the Frances Keevil Gallery to film an interview with me, and to view the paintings of Millers Point in the context of my previous work. Just before my solo exhibition opened, Lachlan visited High Street, Millers Point to film me painting the finishing touches on the large panorama of the Harbour Tower from High St.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Patina- Beautiful decay

plein air painting of the now demolished Hammerhead Crane on Garden Island by industrial heritage artist Jane Bennett
 GIHC16 'Detail Hammerhead Crane'
 2014 oil on canvas 28 x 36cm
$950
SOLD
PRIVATE COLLECTION : SYDNEY
In my major solo exhibition "Under the Hammer" at the Frances Keevil Gallery there are several paintings of the Hammerhead Crane seen from various vantage points in the middle distance.
However, I also painted several canvases of close-up details that at first sight look like abstract works. I can assure you, they are completely realistic. They just focus on a tiny portion of the subject, unlike most of my work. These paintings have been wildly popular, but I wonder whether it is just because onlookers have become less capable of coping with the complexity of an entire scene, and are only able to appreciate a fragment.
plein air painting of the now demolished Hammerhead Crane on Garden Island by industrial heritage artist Jane Bennett
GIHC18 'Girder, Hammerhead Crane
2014 oil on canvas 61 x 91cm 

FINALIST : 2015 HORNSBY ART PRIZE
Enquiries
Now I can't overstate how much I hate the flat picture plane!
And "modern" art has been all about "the surface", flatness and shallowness, in more ways than one.
In my paintings, I want depth, perspective and layers; physically, emotionally and intellectually.
So even in my canvases of close-up details, there are hidden depths and a sense of space extending beyond the picture plane, especially in the drawings and paintings I created while looking up, standing directly underneath the centre of the crane. I feel that the painting with the greatest sense of space and depth is  "Under the Hammerhead Crane" seen below.
However these canvases of details of the Hammerhead Crane have given me the chance to reveal the transmutations, ambiguities and impermanence of form by the beauty of its decaying exterior.
plein air painting of the now demolished Hammerhead Crane on Garden Island by industrial heritage artist Jane Bennett
 GIHC20 'Under the Hammerhead Crane'
2014 oil on canvas 61 x 91cm
Enquiries
Patina is the visible sign of age on the surface of a material. It panders to our growing desire for the proof of authenticity; a backlash against the homogenized and generic corporate spaces that have taken over so much of our world. Materials are imbued with a history that speaks of ‘natural’ processes accrued over time, such as distressed wood, weather-beaten stone or brick, faded wallpaper, well-worn textiles, rusted ironwork, greening copper - the valued hallmarks of "shabby chic" in upmarket interior decor.
If you lose the texture, you lose your history.
The irony is that patina is seen as adding "authenticity", even though it has been caused by the degeneration and instability of the object.
I think of rust on a metal structure as though it is blood dripping from a wound.
Worship of patina can be seen as yet another symptom of the post-modern obsession with surface at the expense of ‘authentic’ depth.
Patina can be a by-product of the natural process of ageing, but it also functions as a memorial to disaster, natural or otherwise- the architectural equivalent of post-traumatic stress, showing the ‘wound’ inflicted by the trauma of the past as it reverberates down into the present.
Patina straddles the space and time between construction and ruin. The allure of patina lies in its instability; because any attempt to stabilise it affects the essential process.
The art critic Walter Benjamin said that the ‘real’ is only revealed in moments of ruination.
As with ruins, patina represents a fragment that suggests the meaning of the whole. Patina holds together contradictions, reveals historical depth, and yet ironically also remembrance and even healing.

Friday, November 28, 2014

There goes the neighbourhood

Plein air oil painting by Industrial Heritage Artist Jane Bennett of Millers Point Barangaroo and the Harbour Tower from High st
MP9 'Millers Point Barangaroo and the Harbour Tower from High st' oil on canvas 61 x 183cm 2014

Enquiries
In my new exhibition, "Under the Hammer"  at the Frances Keevil Gallery there is a large and pretty panoramic canvas of High Street.
At first sight, it looks peaceful. Charming enough to put on the cover of a chocolate box.
Does it remind you of the Impressionists perhaps? Pissaro, even early Monet?
To the right is a charming row of Federation houses in dappled shade.
But there are undercurrents. All is not well.
There is a sharp sudden drop to the street below. Behind a camouflaging line of trees there is turmoil. Machinery lurks in the background; inexplicable concrete structures and mounds of debris peek through.
A road carves through the centre to the horizon. It divides the past from the future.
Welcome to Barangaroo.

Plein air oil painting by Industrial Heritage Artist Jane Bennett of Millers Point Barangaroo and the Harbour Tower from High st
MP9 'Millers Point Barangaroo and the Harbour Tower from High st' oil on canvas 61 x 183cm 2014

Enquiries
Millers Point always had a raffish edge. It was a tough little quarter, the oldest suburb in Australia, and coincidentally its earliest slum. For over 200 years it was the heart of maritime Sydney, as ships loaded wheat, wool and coal at the Fingerwharves that fringed the Harbour from Woolloomooloo to Blackwattle Bay.
Plein air oil painting by Industrial Heritage Artist Jane Bennett of Millers Point Barangaroo and the Harbour Tower from High st
MP9 'Millers Point Barangaroo and the Harbour Tower from High st' oil on canvas 61 x 183cm 2014
Enquiries
Now it is undergoing a painful and cataclysmic metamorphosis. Every vestige of its colourful past will be swept away. 
 Including the people.
Plein air oil painting by Industrial Heritage Artist Jane Bennett of Millers Point Barangaroo and the Harbour Tower from High st
The artist painting MP9 'Millers Point Barangaroo and the Harbour Tower from High st' oil on canvas 61 x 183cm 2014
Enquiries
Social cleansing is not a new policy dating from our own era of economic rationalism. It’s been here before.

In January 1900, the bubonic plague first broke out in Sydney, carried by rats from the ships. Millers Point was popularly considered to be a festering slum, inhabited by social undesirables living in ignorance poverty and filth. This was all the excuse the government needed for a massive program of slum clearance that went well beyond simple health precautions. 
Plein air oil painting by Industrial Heritage Artist Jane Bennett of Millers Point Barangaroo and the Harbour Tower from High st
Painting MP9 'Millers Point Barangaroo and the Harbour Tower from High st' oil on canvas 61 x 183cm 2014
Enquiries
This attitude permitted those with political or commercial interests at heart to promote resumption of property in the name of morality and hygiene. To “purge” the city of perceived social ills, whole city blocks were cordoned off, many houses and even whole streets were demolished.The entire waterfront was put in lockdown until it resembled a quarantined war-zone.
The idea of a “tabula rasa” – a clean sheet, a blank canvas, has always been very seductive to planners. Development through decay, dereliction then destruction is the familiar theme running through Sydney’s history.
Throughout the plague and clearances, yellow ribbons were tied to the doors of houses with infected people inside, or on the doors of houses due for demolition, to mark danger.
Plein air oil painting by Industrial Heritage Artist Jane Bennett of Millers Point Barangaroo and the Harbour Tower from High st
Painting MP9 'Millers Point Barangaroo and the Harbour Tower from High st' oil on canvas 61 x 183cm 2014
Enquiries
One hundred years later, the area was yet again in danger. It only escaped complete demolition due to the heated campaign by activists, residents and the Green Bans imposed by Jack Mundey and the NSW Builders' Labourers Federation.
As the maritime industry declined and was forced to the periphery of Sydney, the wharves were given a makeover to become upmarket apartments and an entertainment precinct. In 1985 ownership of public housing was removed from the Maritime Services Board and taken over by the Department of Housing. Yet a tiny enclave of the old working-class Sydney community still exists. The phrase “spirit of place” is often overused, but how else can you describe it? People whose families had worked on the wharves, in some cases over 5 generations, are still clinging there precariously, in the houses they had lived in all their lives.
Plein air oil painting by Industrial Heritage Artist Jane Bennett of Millers Point Barangaroo and the Harbour Tower from High st
Sunset, Millers Point. 
 MP9 'Millers Point Barangaroo and the Harbour Tower from High st'
 oil on canvas 61 x 183cm 2014 
with another half finished panorama of the same size of High Street and Barangaroo on my easel.
Enquiries
There has been extraordinary pressure exerted to gentrify the area. A six-star hotel and high-rollers casino are planned for Barangaroo, only a stone’s throw away. 

The first auctions of 293 public housing properties at Millers Point and The Rocks have begun. Ironically this will even include the Sirius apartment complex, which had been specifically built to house residents displaced during the previous development push. There is no guarantee the proceeds will be quarantined from general revenue to build new public housing in the area or even close to the CBD.
Millers Point residents will have to go within two years, coincidentally when Barangaroo will open.
Plein air oil painting by Industrial Heritage Artist Jane Bennett of Millers Point Barangaroo and the Harbour Tower from High st
Close up detail of gate with yellow ribbon on house in High Street 
MP9 'Millers Point Barangaroo and the Harbour Tower from High st' 
oil on canvas 61 x 183cm 2014
Enquiries

The yellow ribbons are back, tied to the doors and gates, to warn of an old danger in a new form.
Plus ça change, plus ça meme chose.
Plein air oil painting by Industrial Heritage Artist Jane Bennett of Millers Point Barangaroo and the Harbour Tower from High st
Painting MP9 'Millers Point Barangaroo and the Harbour Tower from High st' oil on canvas 61 x 183cm 2014
Enquiries
Remember, when you admire the Impressionists, that they painted during the forced clearances of inner city Paris by the despotic town planner Baron Haussmann. If you look carefully, their paintings are full of clues. Those elegant Parisian boulevardes painted by Caillebotte, are wounds inflicted on the city when small laneways were bulldozed, and the residents evicted. Montmarte, too steep for easy access, escaped this homogenization, and was still full of crooked narrow lanes and cheap housing. Many fled there, including some impoverished artists who later became the world famous icons of Impressionist art.
Their paintings don’t look so “chocolate box” now, do they?

Plein air oil painting by Industrial Heritage Artist Jane Bennett of Millers Point Barangaroo and the Harbour Tower from High st
Close up detail showing the partly obscured "Barangaroo" sign 
MP9 'Millers Point Barangaroo and the Harbour Tower from High st' 
oil on canvas 61 x 183cm 2014

To return to my painting, behind the trees is the sign of the Barangaroo development. But the letters are partially obscured; all you can make out is “a n g ...r”.
Hidden anger? With a sugar coating.


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Monday, August 4, 2014

Fish and chips

Painting Windsor Seafoods and its neighbour Gloria Jean's Coffee from just outside the Macquarie Arms Hotel.
My favourite fast food shop in Windsor!

plein air oil painting of shops in George st from Thompson Square Windsor by artist Jane Bennett
 TSW11 'George st from Thompson Square '
 2013 oil on canvas 31 x 153cm


Enquiries
 I usually painted the trees, river and the graceful Georgian architecture on either side of the park. I found that I really enjoyed painting Windsor's George st shopping strip or "Eat St".
I've decided to paint a series of studies of individual shops.


plein air oil painting of Windsor Seafoods A.C.Stearn building in Thompson Square Windsor by artist Jane Bennett
Starting to paint a small canvas
 'Windsor Seafoods and Gloria Jean's Coffee '
2014 oil on canvas 28 x 36cm

Enquiries
 Windsor Seafoods at 74 George St Windsor is in the AC Stearn Building.built in 1907. The name "A. C. Stearn" and date is helpfully written in decorative maroon lettering on the top floor of the facade of this impressive heritage building.
One of the legendary attractions of Windsor Seafoods is their macaw. However "Snappa" is only in residence 3 or 4 days a week, and by the lack of raucous screeching, this must have been one of "Snappa"'s days off.


plein air oil painting of Windsor Seafoods A.C.Stearn building in Thompson Square Windsor by artist Jane Bennett
Starting to paint a small canvas
 'Windsor Seafoods and Gloria Jean's Coffee '
2014 oil on canvas 28 x 36cm


Enquiries

The original balcony of this handsome two story building  was unfortunately removed in the 1950's. However it was later restored to its former grandeur  in 1975, and then was updated again in 1988, in preparation for the Bicentenary celebrations. 



plein air oil painting of Windsor Seafoods A.C.Stearn building in Thompson Square Windsor by artist Jane Bennett
Halfway through painting a small canvas
 'Windsor Seafoods and Gloria Jean's Coffee '
2014 oil on canvas 28 x 36cm

Enquiries
 There is a little laneway between Gloria Jean's Coffee and Windsor Seafoods which is topped by a cream wall that I initially thought was a walkway from the top floor of one building to another. It isn't, or if it is, you'd need the skills of a tightrope walker.
On closer inspection it's just a few rows of bricks strangely attaching the two buildings, with no real function. It could be a leftover from a previously existing building, possibly even the Sir John Young Hotel which was built in 1865, then demolished in 1915 following a fire in 1913.


plein air oil painting of Windsor Seafoods A.C.Stearn building in Thompson Square Windsor by artist Jane Bennett
Halfway through painting a small canvas
 'Windsor Seafoods and Gloria Jean's Coffee '
2014 oil on canvas 28 x 36cm

Enquiries
 Gloria Jean's Coffee is one of 3 little eateries in what apparently used to be a single building. The other 2 are "Grill on George" and Stir Crazy" but aren't visible in these pictures.


plein air oil painting of Windsor Seafoods A.C.Stearn building in Thompson Square Windsor by artist Jane Bennett
Starting to paint 
TSW18 'Windsor Seafoods'
2014 oil on canvas 36 x 28cm

Enquiries

 I finished lunch and my first painting, then started another. This time I used the same size canvas, but turned it around to paint a vertical study of Windsor Seafoods.

plein air oil painting of Windsor Seafoods A.C.Stearn building in Thompson Square Windsor by artist Jane Bennett
TSW17 'Windsor Seafoods and Gloria Jean's Coffee '
2014 oil on canvas 28 x 36cm


Enquiries
One of the charming eccentricities of the architecture is that the levels of the crenellations of the roofline of the 2 outer buildings are lower than that of the centre building.


plein air oil painting of Windsor Seafoods A.C.Stearn building in Thompson Square Windsor by artist Jane Bennett
TSW18 'Windsor Seafoods'
2014 oil on canvas 36 x 28cm

Enquiries
All 3 buildings have blue and cream striped awnings, which with the white canvas marquee, fluttering yellow and orange flags and blue and cream umbrellas of Windsor Seafoods, give the whole streetscape a jaunty air.

Friday, July 25, 2014

North Barangaroo Headland Park - The thin blue line

My Studio on the top floor of the Sydney Ports Corporation's Moore's Wharf has given me a front row seat to paint the evolution of the former wharf 3 at East Darling Harbour Wharves into the North Barangaroo Headland Park.
North Barangaroo Headland Park - plein air oil painting of construction of North Barangaroo Headland Park from my studio at Moore's Wharf by marine and industrial heritage artist Jane Bennett
 MW16 'North Barangaroo Headland Park- The 'Blue Line' from Moore's Wharf ' 
2011 oil on canvas 31 x 61cm
$2,200
Enquiries about this painting: janecooperbennett@gmail.com
I painted this in September 2011 from the western window of my Moore's Wharf studio, which overlooks the construction site that will soon be the North Barangaroo Headland Park.
Apart from the recent Open day in June, Barangaroo would still probably be an unfamiliar location to most people,  unless they live or work locally.
In the background of these 2 paintings, Balmain is the headland on the left, Goat Island is on the right, and in the centre distance is Ballast Point in Birchgrove. Ballast Point, formerly a derelict refuelling depot, was refashioned into a park in 2008 by the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority.
There is a blue line painted in a series of stylized curves and zig-zags on the concrete of the former wharf, to divide land from sea.
On the southern side of the line the sign "Headland Park" has been painted on a green background. On the other side of the line "Sydney Harbour" has been painted in the now ubiquitous Barangaroo blue.
Soon after this was painted, excavation began.
The coastline is intended to follow the contours of the shore as it was before European settlement.
North Barangaroo Headland Park - plein air oil painting of construction of North Barangaroo Headland Park from my studio at Moore's Wharf by marine and industrial heritage artist Jane Bennett
 MW28 'North Barangaroo Headland Park -The caissons from Moore's Wharf '
2013 oil on canvas 36 x 46cm 
$2,000
Enquiries about this painting: janecooperbennett@gmail.com
This was painted in February 2013. By this stage, the skin of the concrete surface has been pierced. The caissons of the north end of the wharf are now exposed and full of water.
The geometric symmetry of the wharf still remains, but mounds of sand and gravel hint at the new shoreline yet to come.
Soon the straight edge of the wharf will be broken, the caissons removed and the yellowblock sandstone will be carefully positioned around the new shoreline.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Ozymandias

 Every ruin is a reminder that all things are destined for oblivion.
I am both artist  and historian; painting amidst the detritus of the industrial past, walking under rusty girders in the shadow of toppled giants.
 'Under the Hammerhead Crane'
2014 ink pastel charcoal on paper 115 x 80cm
 FINALIST : 2014 KOGARAH ART PRIZE
FINALIST : 2014 MOSMAN ART PRIZE
$8,000

Enquiries : janecooperbennett@gmail.com

This is a mixed media painting of the Hammerhead Crane, which unfortunately is now being demolished, despite its iconic heritage status and distinguished history.
By now the "hammerhead" of the crane has been almost completely dismantled.
Instead of painting from the more familiar viewpoint of Mrs Macquarie's Chair opposite, I tackled the daunting bureaucracy of the Navy for permission to paint 'en plein air' on Garden Island itself.
I stood directly underneath the Crane and looked up into the top of the soaring structure, to capture its sheer scale. It is the embodiment of the 18th century concept of the sublime.
This painting has now been chosen as a finalist in both the Kogarah Art Prize and the Mosman Art Prize.
People are absent in many of my paintings, even though I trained as a figure painter and for 2 decades spent several days a week drawing and painting figures from life. I find that leaving out figures or relegating them to the role of "staffage" enhances the sense of the powerlessness of the individual against the inexorable forces of destruction and change. The crane itself is the best homage to the absent and largely forgotten workers who created the industrial landscapes that are now being destroyed.
Spaces that have a sense of history, place and meaning, find an echo in art history. The safety nets resemble fan vaulting in a ruined Gothic abbey and the zig-zag tangle of girders and scaffolding recall Piranesi's  images of the 'Carceri'  or the wreckage of the dying Roman Empire.

The Hammerhead Crane was built during World War II,  and symbolized industrial might, the march of progress and confidence in the values of Western civilization.
The mood of past triumphalism is now tempered by the present reality of scuffed textures, rust and tarnished metal.
Even as a victim of the slow death of de-industrialisation, it had retained a poignant grandeur as industrial memento mori.
The last gasp of the Industrial Revolution, and of Sydney's Working Harbour.
In the words of  Shelley's ruin-poem Ozymandias  "Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Except that a future civilization would be extremely lucky to be able to find any trace of our heroic past.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Strike while the iron is hot

oil painting of anvil in blacksmith's forge, Eveleigh Railway Workshops by industrial heritage artist Jane Bennett
Starting a small painting of an anvil, 
which is one of the blacksmith's basic tools of the trade
" Anvil" 2014

31 x 31cm oil on canvas
$990
Enquiries:
janecooperbennett@gmail.com
At the ATP community heritage days on the 16th and 17th May, I had 2 exhibitions, one in Bay 1 and 2 of the Blacksmith's workshop and the other in the carriage displayed by the volunteers of 3801 limited,  as well as painting throughout the blacksmith's demonstrations .
I am still recovering from being seriously injured not long ago, so I had to be extremely careful. I was given a great deal of help by the volunteers and the management of the ATP, who gave me a room to store my paintings and easels, and a trolley to move them. I am truly grateful, as even just walking still causes me a great deal of pain.

oil painting of anvil in blacksmith's forge, Eveleigh Railway Workshops by industrial heritage artist Jane Bennett
" Anvil"  201431 x 31cm oil on canvasEnquiries:
janecooperbennett@gmail.com
This time I kept the paintings fairly small and simple, so as to not put too much pressure on myself, while I'm still recuperating. However, I have always meant to paint some of the heritage tools anyway. I have previously painted anvils as part of a larger, more complex painting, but it is a beautiful and evocative item in its own right.
oil painting of blacksmith's forge, Eveleigh Railway Workshops by industrial heritage artist Jane Bennett
Enquiries:
janecooperbennett@gmail.com

I had often painted Chris before in a variety of poses, but you have to be fast!
However, after I watch for a while I notice various stages of the process, and get a feeling for the timing and rhythym. It's hard to decide on which of the hundreds of potential poses to choose to paint. I leave the arms in an unfinished state, as I can't decide on whether to paint him wielding a hammer or a pair of tongs.
Decisions, decisions.

oil painting of blacksmith's forge, Eveleigh Railway Workshops by industrial heritage artist Jane Bennett
Starting a painting of the blacksmith Chris.Enquiries:
janecooperbennett@gmail.com
 The blacksmiths of "Wrought Artworks" move quickly. "Strike while the iron is hot" isn't just an old proverb - it's a way of life. They must strike quickly, decisively and with force, however their movements must be controlled and accurate as well. They also must work as a team and have awareness of who and what is around them.
oil painting of blacksmith's forge, Eveleigh Railway Workshops by industrial heritage artist Jane Bennett
 Chris quenching chisels
2011-12 oil on canvas 152 x 122cm
$13,000
Enquiries:
janecooperbennett@gmail.com
 I exhibited some of my paintings of the Blacksmiths in a corner of their workshop, so that onlookers could compare the paintings with the real thing.
oil painting of blacksmith's forge, Eveleigh Railway Workshops by industrial heritage artist Jane Bennett
"Blacksmith" 2009 oil on canvas 100 x 75cm
$7,700
Enquiries:
janecooperbennett@gmail.com
 It gave viewers an opportunity to see parts of the workshop not visible to the public due to safety concerns.
oil painting of blacksmith's forge, Eveleigh Railway Workshops by industrial heritage artist Jane Bennett
Enquiries:
janecooperbennett@gmail.com

 i displayed some of my smaller paintings and books of photos of paintings of other areas of industrial Sydney on a pair of old dusty workbenches.
oil painting of blacksmith's forge, Eveleigh Railway Workshops by industrial heritage artist Jane Bennett

Enquiries:
janecooperbennett@gmail.com
The ATP has been very sensitively redeveloped  and has largely retained the old industrial ambience of the Eveleigh Railway Workshops.
oil painting of blacksmith's forge, Eveleigh Railway Workshops by industrial heritage artist Jane Bennett
" All Fired up the Blacksmiths Eveleigh Railway Workshops"  2012 oil on canvas 91x 122cm
$11,000
Enquiries:
janecooperbennett@gmail.com


 Some more of my paintings of the blacksmiths were exhibited in front of an old signal box.
oil painting of blacksmith's forge, Eveleigh Railway Workshops by industrial heritage artist Jane Bennett
Enquiries:
janecooperbennett@gmail.com
 The visitors on the first day were mostly retired former Eveleigh workers.
oil painting of blacksmith's forge, Eveleigh Railway Workshops by industrial heritage artist Jane Bennett
Enquiries about my paintings of Eveleigh:
janecooperbennett@gmail.com
 However there was a much larger and more diverse group of people attending on the Saturday.
I hope there will be another heritage day next year.