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

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
Enquiries about this painting:
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 
Enquiries about this painting:
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


 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

Enquiries :

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.