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, February 24, 2014

Stacking the Stackpot- Painting the Port Kembla Copper Stack Part 2

"Stack"
  • A smokestack or chimney.  
  • A fall or crash, a prang. noun or transitive verb e.g. he stacked his car on the weekend. (Australia, slang)
(Definitions of "Stack" courtesy of Wiktionary)

The slender 198 metre-high tower, built from 7,000 tonnes of concrete, bricks and steel dominated the skyline since its construction in 1965.
Port Kembla Copper first shut down in 2003, reopened under new owners and then finally closed in July 2008 after fierce campaigning by residents opposed to its sulphur dioxide emissions. Since the cessation of operations, the stack has been a decaying industrial anachronism standing defiant and abandoned.
Despite its chequered past, the stack became a treasured icon of Port Kembla's industrial past, a marine navigation tool and even a tourist attraction.
 Unfortunately a viable alternative use for the stack wasn't found, so the stack was stacked.
Nearly 1,000 explosive charges were placed around it. 
A 300-metre exclusion zone had been put in place for safety reasons before the sequenced detonation and over 250 residents were evacuated.
Most of the local residents, (as well as many ring-ins like me) lined up to watch the event just outside the exclusion zone.
plein air painting of the Port Kembla Copper Stack by industrial heritage artist Jane Bennett
Starting an oil painting of the Port Kembla Copper stack from Military Road at 6am Thursday morning 20th February 2014
 I had spent Tuesday and Wednesday searching for the best viewpoint to watch the demolition before finally deciding to set up my easel on the top of Military Road.
It had many advantages. It was at the top of a hill even higher than the site of the stack, so that I would be roughly at the same height as the base of the tower. As I would be able to find parking at the side of the road close to the top of the hill, the view down the road would be clear of cars and trees, and there was enough room for many people to get a good view without too much jostling. There were even toilets nearby on Hill 60, in case it would be a long wait.
I thought that there could be quite a long wait before demolition as the police had to make sure that a very large area, part bushland, part residential and part industrial was completely clear.
This canvas shows the first rays of morning light on the last day of the stack.
plein air painting of the Port Kembla Copper Stack by industrial heritage artist Jane Bennett
Plein air oil painting of the Port Kembla Copper stack from Military Road at 8am Thursday morning 20th February 2014
I had arrived at 5.30am, as I had heard that roadblocks would be set up by 6am, and I wanted to get some painting done before the spectators got too distracting.
plein air painting of the Port Kembla Copper Stack by industrial heritage artist Jane Bennett
Plein air oil painting of the Port Kembla Copper stack from Military Road at 9.30am Thursday morning 20th February 2014
By about 9.30 it had become too crowded to paint effectively, but I really enjoyed the festival atmosphere.
Industrial heritage artist Jane Bennett being interviewed with plein air painting of Port Kembla Copper Copper Stack
I'm being interviewed in front of the canvas I had started early Thursday morning
By the time that the chimney was felled, the local journalists must have interviewed everyone in Port Kembla.
I met some fascinating people who had worked at Port Kembla Copper or Steelworks, or had been born, attended school or lived nearby, and felt that I had been adopted as an honorary local. Their hospitality was amazing.

plein air painting of the Port Kembla Copper Stack by industrial heritage artist Jane Bennett
Plein air oil painting of the Port Kembla Copper stack from Military Road at 10am Thursday morning 20th February 2014, as the crowds gather
The day before, I had been painting on this spot, just outside the house of a very kind man called Steve, who brought me cups of coffee every hour or so, which was greatly appreciated. He invited me to his stack party on Thursday, so I brought along the yummiest cake I could find in the local shops and tried not to get paint on it.
After a few too many demolition drinks Steve's son decided to enliven the monotony of waiting by streaking while one of the journalists was giving an interview. There were lots of bad puns about "wrecking balls", and a few sore heads the next day.
He wasn't the only one to be a little the worse for wear. Apparently a homeless man had climbed a security fence and settled down in bushland near the stack. I don't know if he was protesting, or just oblivious. Quite a few people had spent the day drowning their sorrows.
I believe that there were record crowds at the Steelworks Hotel, just outside the exclusion zone.
waiting for demolition of the Port Kembla Copper Stack with plein air painting of the Port Kembla Copper Stack by industrial heritage artist Jane Bennett
A last view of the standing chimney from Military Road at about 11am Thursday morning 20th February 2014.
My canvas is on my easel in front of my car.
As more people gathered, I accepted the kind offer made by the owner of the ute parked behind my car to climb onto the tray for a better view. My half finished painting - the last painting of the standing stack- can still be seen in front of my car.
After a nerve-wracking wait after the first warning siren the chimney was finally brought down in a controlled explosion, about 11.15am.
The explosion wasn't as loud as I had expected; or maybe I'm just going deaf after years of painting on construction sites.
The little "cap" of the chimney flew off the top just before the pieces hit the ground.
Demolition of the Port Kembla Copper Stack with plein air painting of the Port Kembla Copper Stack by industrial heritage artist Jane Bennett
Clouds of dust hover over the site
After the explosion, a gigantic cloud of smoke and dust covered much more than the official exclusion zone for several minutes, before being blown out to sea.
This was another reason I had chosen this hill as a viewpoint, as it was close enough for a wonderful view, but out of the range of the dust cloud. I had studied the wind report for the day carefully before making my final choice of location.
plein air painting of the Port Kembla Copper Stack by industrial heritage artist Jane Bennett
I'm holding 2 small oil studies of before and after the explosion

Both paintings are 15 x 31cm oil on canvas and painted on Thursday 20th February 2014 

The one on the left was painted after the demolition.

The one on the right was painted before the demolition.
 

"View from Military Road, after demolition"


oil on canvas 15 x 31cm 
$330
Enquiries : janecooperbennett@gmail.com

                                           

"Port Kembla Copper stack from Military Road, before demolition" 
oil on canvas 15 x 31cm 
$330 

                                          
After the demolition, I knew that it would take several hours for the roads to be re-opened, so I kept painting. The people who jumped into their cars hoping for a quick getaway were sadly disappointed, as all they did was waste petrol while sitting fuming and stationary for over 3 hours. I've been told that it was the largest and longest traffic jam ever in the Illawarra.
I resumed painting, and in the photo above, I'm holding 2 small (15 x 31cm) horizontal canvases. They were painted close to the same spot; one painted before and the other after the stacking of the stackpot.
plein air painting of the Port Kembla Copper Stack by industrial heritage artist Jane Bennett
Both paintings are 61 x 31cm oil on canvas and painted  February 2014 


The one on the left was painted the day of the demolition.

The one on the right was painted the day before the demolition.
 
"Port Kembla Copper stack
 from Military Road, on demolition day"
oil on canvas 61 x 31cm 
$2,000
Enquiries : janecooperbennett@gmail.com

                                           

"Port Kembla Copper stack from Military Road, the day before demolition" 
oil on canvas 61 x 31cm 
$2,000 
After all the excitement, one of the local residents kindly took a photo of me holding my 2 vertical canvases of the Copperstack painted from the top of Military Road. The canvas on the right was completed on Wednesday, while the one on the left was at the time still unfinished. I had made sure to complete the painting of the chimney first, as I would be able to finish the houses, trees and the Steelworks in the background later.  

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Don't blow your stack- Painting the Port Kembla Copper Stack Part 1

I've been meaning to paint the Port Kembla copper stack ever since I heard about it being listed for demolition.
The 198m stack was built in 1965 on the Port Kembla Copper smelter site, off Electrolytic Road between Military Road and Darcy Road.
The Port Kembla Copper smelter finally closed down in 2003. Despite PKC’s efforts to keep the site open as a tourist attraction, an application was made to have it demolished in 2010.
This application then suffered a lengthy delay when asbestos was discovered at the site. There were a few false alarms - there was a rumour that it would be demolished in April 2013, then again in September. I realised that this time it would actually happen and I hurried down there 2 days before to try to paint the stack from as many vantage points as possible.
Better late than never!
I made sure that I packed a lot of long skinny canvases.
Urban decay - plein air oil painting of the Port Kembla Copper stack by industrial heritage artist Jane Bennett
Starting an oil painting of the 2 chimneys of Port Kembla Copper on Tuesday evening 18th February 2014
When I arrived on Tuesday afternoon, I started painting the stack from just outside the fence around the ruins of Port Kembla Copper on Darcy Road at the former Gate 18.
There was an earlier brick chimney, built probably in the early 1900s, which I believe might be retained. I wanted to capture the two together in my painting, although I wasn't able to include it in this photo.
I managed to complete a small canvas (31 x 15cm) of the copper stack from Darcy Road. I was rushing to paint as much as I could before the light faded, so I didn't stop to take a photo of this in situ, but you can see it in the photo below, in front of the blank canvas.
It is a poignant image of the stack behind the ruined tanks, furnaces and the old gatehouse of Port Kembla Copper against the luminous evening clouds.
Urban decay - plein air oil painting of the Port Kembla Copper stack by industrial heritage artist Jane Bennett
Starting an oil painting of the Port Kembla Copper stack from Military Road on Wednesday morning 19th February 2014

Early on Wednesday morning I set up my easel at the top of Military Road, next to Hill 60.
I put the small canvas of the stack from Darcy Road against my easel as inspiration.
 As a 300m exclusion zone around the area was to be set up on Thursday, I had spent most of the previous day wandering around Port Kembla looking for good vantage points to paint and to view the demolition. The dramatic perspective of the hill and road leading up to the stack made this spot the winner.
Urban decay - plein air oil painting of the Port Kembla Copper stack by industrial heritage artist Jane Bennett
Starting an oil painting of the Port Kembla Copper stack from Military Road on Wednesday morning 19th February 2014
"
Port Kembla Copper stack from Military Road, the last day before demolition"
oil on canvas 61 x 31cm

$2,000
Enquiries : janecooperbennett@gmail.com
                           
The sullen clouds overhead were joined by the smoke from the still operational Port Kembla Steelworks in the middle distance. Their chimneys were humbled by the overpowering height and bulk of the iconic Copper Stack. Rumours about the impending closure of the steelworks made this scene even more poignant.
I wasn't the only one to find this great view. As you can see by the camera on the tripod in the photo above, I had barely started to paint when tag teams of roaming journalists descended to interview the local residents.
Urban decay - plein air oil painting of the Port Kembla Copper stack by industrial heritage artist Jane Bennett
Starting an oil painting of the Port Kembla Copper stack from Military Road on Wednesday morning 19th February 2014
"
Port Kembla Copper stack from Military Road, the last day before demolition"
oil on canvas 61 x 31cm
$2,000
Enquiries : janecooperbennett@gmail.com
 I received a fair share of the media attention as well.
"Painting an iconic landscape before a looming monolith is felled" by Justin Huntsdale
19 February, 2014 3:00PM ABC Illawarra
Urban decay - plein air oil painting of the Port Kembla Copper stack by industrial heritage artist Jane Bennett
Painting of the Port Kembla Copper stack from Military Road on Wednesday morning 19th February 2014
"
Port Kembla Copper stack from Military Road, the last day before demolition"
oil on canvas 61 x 31cm
$2,000
Enquiries : janecooperbennett@gmail.com
 However, by noon it had started to cloud over and I was worried that the distractions would mean that I wouldn't be able to complete my canvas before the rain became too heavy to continue.
Urban decay - plein air oil painting of the Port Kembla Copper stack by industrial heritage artist Jane Bennett
Painting of the Port Kembla Copper stack from Military Road on Wednesday morning 19th February 2014
"
Port Kembla Copper stack from Military Road, the last day before demolition"
oil on canvas 61 x 31cm
$2,000
Enquiries : janecooperbennett@gmail.com
By 2pm I had to leave as I was drenched, however, I had managed to capture the last day of the Port Kembla Copper Stack.

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Thursday, February 6, 2014

The Phantom Toll House

Plein air oil painting of Windsor Tollhouse by artist Jane Bennett
Starting "Windsor Tollhouse" 2014 oil on canvas 25 x 51cm

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By noon I had finished the first small oil study and started a larger canvas to reveal the Tollhouse in the context of the surrounding landscape.
The exterior of the Tollhouse had been lovingly restored in 1997.
I had heard that a local historical society used to open it for tours, but it looks as though it has not been opened for several years at least.


Plein air oil painting of Windsor Tollhouse by artist Jane Bennett
Starting "Windsor Tollhouse" 2014 
oil on canvas 25 x 51cm
Enquiries 
The 1974 version of Fitzroy Bridge is the 5th incarnation of the bridge over South Creek.Plein air oil painting of Windsor Tollhouse by artist Jane Bennett
Painting "Windsor Tollhouse" 2014 oil on canvas 25 x 51cm

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In contrast to the current surroundings, this 1875 photo of the Tollhouse with the "Jolly Frog"  shows  the prominent place the Jolly Frog and Toll House once played as gate posts leading into Windsor.

Plein air oil painting of Windsor Tollhouse by artist Jane Bennett
Painting "Windsor Tollhouse" 2014 oil on canvas 25 x 51cm
Enquiries 
As you can see in this photo, the Tollhouse is invisible from the main road. Unfortunately despite its site as Windsor's heritage gateway it isn't able to function as a tourist drawcard.

The bridge definitely needs to be at this level or even higher, due to frequent  flooding, so there is no easy solution to the problem of the Tollhouse.
Plein air oil painting of Windsor Tollhouse by artist Jane Bennett
Painting "Windsor Tollhouse" 2014 oil on canvas 25 x 51cm
Enquiries 
 The land is close to the river, and even more prone to flooding than the other side of the road which is slightly more elevated. TheTollhouse is now buried deep in a hole.

Plein air oil painting of Windsor Tollhouse by artist Jane Bennett
"Windsor Tollhouse" 2014 oil on canvas 25 x 51cm
Enquiries 
In the shadow of the concrete wall, this little heritage gem stands no chance of becoming the tourist drawcard that it so richly deserves to be.
Plein air oil painting of Windsor Tollhouse by artist Jane Bennett
"Windsor Tollhouse" 2014 oil on canvas 25 x 51cm
Enquiries 
 I managed to complete  this painting by 5.30 pm.
Plein air oil painting of Windsor Tollhouse by artist Jane Bennett
"Windsor Tollhouse" 2014 oil on canvas 25 x 51cm

Enquiries 
What a contrast between the sensitivity of the texture of the convict cut sandstone blocks and the brutality of the concrete aggregate wall!
I think that my painting really expresses the feeling of claustrophobia given by the oppressive concrete wall looming over the Toll House. The wall has a threatening, almost malevolent appearance, and the building seems to be in danger of being buried by it.