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, April 14, 2014

Under the Hammer

Before the Navy finally booted me off Garden Island, I made sure that I tackled some large scale drawings
Since 2007, due to real or perceived safety issues, temporary catch platforms have been suspended from the long arm and short arm jibs. They spoil the line, but apparently provide access to allow condition inspections to be performed safely.
 At first glance, it looks as though the Hammerhead Crane has 5 legs.
However, one of these "legs" is a lift to give access from the wharf to the slew ring level (seen in the centre at the top of my drawing). As the crane is 61m high, this wasn't an idle luxury.
Unfortunately this lift has been out of operation since 1998.
While drawing this, I met probably the last person to have ever used the lift. He was escorting a group of photographers to the top, and had pressed the lift button when he heard a muffled explosion, and then found his hands were black with graphite. He said that he was lucky and got off lightly. I think he was right.
plein air charcoal and ink drawng of the Hammerhead Crane, Garden Island by industrial heritage artist Jane Bennett
'Under the Hammerhead Crane' 2014
ink, pastel, charcoal,graphite on paper 140 x 110cm
WINNER : 2014 DRAWING PRIZE ROYAL EASTER SHOW


My hands were also black with graphite after creating this enormous drawing.
I stood directly underneath and looked up into the top of the soaring structure.
By looking up I sought to capture the Burke and Longinus concept of the "sublime", with its overtones of awe, terror and vertigo, rather than the picturesque aspect of the typical "hammerhead" profile, a view familiar from Mrs Macquarie's Chair opposite.
The girders were silhouetted against the open sky; the safety nets resembling fan vaulting in a ruined Gothic abbey.
While creating this enormous drawing, I also remembered Piranesi's devastating images of Roman ruins, dangerously broken and overgrown amid the wreckage of a dead civilisation.
I am an artist and historian, born into a time and place where only sport and business are valued. Drawing on the ruins of the industrial past , walking under rusty girders in the shadow of toppled giants.
Every ruin is implicitly a reminder that all things are destined for oblivion.
The Hammerhead Crane was built to demonstrate  industrial might  and the march of progress. Even as a victim of the slow death of de-industrialisation, it retains a poignant grandeur.
This was exhibited in my solo show "Under the Hammer" at the Frances Keevil Gallery from November 18th - December 7th 2014.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Another one bites the dust

Starting a large panorama on Sunday 30th March about 10am
"Harbour Control Tower and Barangaroo from High Street, Millers Point
2014 oil on canvas 61 x 183cm
$11,000
Enquiries about this painting :

I have spent most of the past week painting a large panoramic canvas to show the Harbour Control Tower from High Street in Millers Point.

On the far left hand side is a view of the Barangaroo construction site, with giant chunks of recently excavated yellowblock sandstone forming a pseudo-naturalistic cove. 
On the far right hand side, the workers cottages of High Street stare down disapprovingly onto their brash new neighbour. 
In the centre of the picture is the last bastion of the Hungry Mile, the mushroom topped column of the Harbour Control Tower.
plein air oil painting of heritage terraces in Millers Point by Jane Bennett, industrial heritage artist
 Monday 31st March about 1pm
"Harbour Control Tower and Barangaroo from High Street, Millers Point" 
2014 oil on canvas 61 x 183cm
$11,000
Enquiries about this painting :


The Harbour Tower was also jokingly known as ''the Pill" because it "controlled all the berths" in the harbour. According to the National Trust, it should be conserved and reused as it symbolises more than 200 years of shipping in Sydney.

However, this is an unlikely fate, as the Barangaroo Delivery Authority then bought the concrete, steel and glass structure from Sydney Ports for $2.6 million. 
Despite its unequalled 360 degree harbour views, the Harbour Control Tower quite obviously doesn't fit into their vision for Barangaroo, so its days are numbered.
plein air oil painting of heritage terraces in Millers Point by Jane Bennett, industrial heritage artist
Tuesday 1st April about 11am
"Harbour Control Tower and Barangaroo from High Street, Millers Point" 2014 oil on canvas 61 x 183cm
$11,000
Enquiries about this painting :

Sydney Ports once manned it 24/7, but it has not been operational since April 11th 2011, when vessel control services for Sydney Harbour finally moved to Port Botany.


plein air oil painting of heritage terraces in Millers Point by Jane Bennett, industrial heritage artist
 Wednesday 2nd April about 11am
"Harbour Control Tower and Barangaroo from High Street, Millers Point" 2014 oil on canvas 61 x 183cm
$11,000
Enquiries about this painting :



The tower opened in 1974 to give Harbour Control the best possible views of the harbour to ensure safe passage for thousands of ships each year. The architectural drawings and plans for its construction used to be hung in the foyer of the amenities level, just in front of the lift.


plein air oil painting of the Sydney Harbour Control Tower in Millers Point by Jane Bennett, industrial heritage artist
'Evening Harbour Control Tower from Moore's Wharf' 2013
oil on canvas 178 x 122cm 

$13,500
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This is my huge canvas painted from my Moore's Wharf studio, showing the last time that the gorgeous sandstone escarpment was completely visible.
It has by now totally disappeared under a layer of scaffolding and the retaining wall for the North Barangaroo Headland Park.
The park will slope from its soi disant naturalistic 1788 coastline up to Clyne Reserve and Merriman street. Obviously the Tower will get short shrift. It is an emblem of another era and different values.
It looks as though Precision Demolition will be getting more work!
I last caught their act at Port Kembla, where they lived up to their name, neatly and precisely dropping the Port Kembla Copper Stack onto the grounds of Port Kembla Copper. Previously I had met them during the saga of the sinking of ex-HMAS Adelaide.
I am surprised, and more than a little concerned, that as the demolition of the Harbour Control Tower was virtually a foregone conclusion, that it wasn't demolished before construction of the headland was so far advanced. However neatly they drop it, it would make a bit of a dent in the painstakingly arranged faux natural headland. Unless they are planning to leave the pieces there as a giant water feature or a Brutalist concrete novelty sundial in the centre of the park. 
It would certainly be a conversation piece.
Or perhaps the charming terraces of Merriman Street are also superfluous to their requirements?
There's no accounting for taste.
oil painting of the interior of Sydney Harbour Control Tower in Millers Point by Jane Bennett, industrial heritage artist
'The Shipping News - Last  view of interior of Harbour Control Tower '
 2011 oil on canvas 25 x 51cm

$1,400
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I had been "Artist in Residence" in the Harbour Control Tower by Sydney Ports Corporation for nearly a decade.
This is the final view of the interior of the top floor. The whiteboard has a list of the very last shipping movements on April the last operational day of the Harbour Control Tower.
The clock has stopped at 10.44am, Tuesday 24th May, and has been left that way.
After the last operational use of the Tower, maintenance staff had to still have access to be able to remove furniture, cables and other equipment. If I arrived early enough, I would be allowed to tag along and do a bit more painting. 
My very last visit was in late 2011, just before Sydney Ports handed the keys over to the Barangaroo Delivery Authority.
See more  at 
My Facebook Album : Painting ex-HMAS Adelaide