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

URBAN LANDSCAPE PAINTINGS

Modern Ruins
I explore and paint modern ruins like a cross between an archaeologist, classicist, historian and a good old-fashioned explorer, as much as an artist. Most of these places were off limits to the general public, and tragically, many were destroyed without adequate documentation.

The K.E.N.S. Site 2003
Ruins of  terrace houses KENS site with Archaeology at Barangaroo painted by Jane Bennett artist
'K.E.N.S. Site-the archaeologists" 2003 oil on board 32 x 67cm

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Before Barangaroo, there was the K.E.N.S. Site.
"K.E.N.S." , the acronym for "Kent, Erskine, Napoleon and Sussex streets", was next to "Morton's Hotel". This historic wharfie pub, formerly known as the "Big House" by local dockies, has now been renovated and reinvented as the "Sussex Hotel" in an attempt to curry favour as a watering hole for the new upmarket residents expected when the Barangaroo development kicks in.
This painting shows a troupe of archaeologists in a frenzy to complete their digging and notetaking before the excavators remove all the ruins.
Archaeologists remind me of seagulls. On ruins and rubbish tips they settle in vast flocks, squabbling over unpromising bits of debris until chased away by the developers.
Plein air oil painting of the demolition of the Kent Erskine, Napoleon & Sussex street site opposite Barangaroo (now Westpac Bank headquarters) by industrial heritage artist Jane Bennett
"K.E.N.S Site-the Mack truck" 2003 oil on board  32 x 65cm

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 Here the convict-cut sandstone blocks are mashed up and put into the back of a Mack truck before being dumped into the sea as part of the Port Botany expansion.
Some of these ruins dated from before the 1820s- so this painting commemorates one of the great crimes against Sydney's built environment.
Sadly, just one of so many.
Ruins of  terrace houses KENS site with Archaeology at Barangaroo painted by Jane Bennett artist
"K.E.N.S. Site-the Erskine st. terraces" 2003
oil on board 20 x 40cm
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At first I had thought that these attractive terraces would be swallowed up in the demolition frenzy, but they were retained and renovated.
Ruins of  terrace houses KENS site with Archaeology at Barangaroo painted by Jane Bennett artist
" K.E.N.S.Site-Excavation by the terraces" 2003
oil on board 40 x 20cm
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They are now only able to be viewed from the Erskine Street side now, as the space to the back is now covered by the new Westpac headquarters.
Ruins of  terrace houses KENS site with Archaeology at Barangaroo painted by Jane Bennett artist
"Erskine St terraces, K.E.N.S. Site" 2003
oil on paper 56 x 76cm




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  Another view of the Erskine St terraces.
Ruins of KENS site with Archaeology at Barangaroo painted by Jane Bennett artist
"Archaeologists at K.E.N.S. Site" 
2003 acrylic on paper 64 x 67cm
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 The older the stonework, the better the quality of the carving. This was one of the few sources of the rare yellowblock outside Pyrmont.

Sandstone Striptease
 

Ruins of KENS site with Archaeology at Barangaroo ink drawing painted by Jane Bennett artist
"K.E.N.S. Site-the Archaeologists " 
2003 ink on paper 76 x 110cm

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Before its excavation, this block of land was the site of a 1940s service station. Under this layer was a late 19th century brick building. Below this was a labyrinth of beautifully quarried sandstone blocks, which mostly marked the drainage system. There were also a series of stone steps, which can be seen clearly at the far left hand side of this drawing, that were remnants of one of the first fingerwharves of this historic precinct. These could have dated from as early as 1805. 
These steps must have roughly coincided with the original shoreline. They were halfway between Kent and Sussex Street - so anything west of Sussex Street is fill.


Ruins of KENS site with Archaeology at Barangaroo painted by Jane Bennett artist
"K.E.N.S. Site panorama" 2003 
oil on canvas 91 x 183cm

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A grand panorama showing the whole site's development from my makeshift studio on the Sussex St hoardings.
Below me the Leighton's project managers get their shiny new metal capped boots dirty as they inspect the excavations.
In the background is the complete collection of boy's toys. Diggers, munchers and pulverizers jostle for position as they are hosed to keep the dust down.
Soon after I painted this epic canvas Bob Carr made his historic announcement that "Sydney will always be a Working Harbour".
So naturally I knew it was doomed. 
I then begged, coaxed and pleaded my way into becoming the Hungry Mile's "Artist in Residence".
The rest as they say is history. 
 AGL site
Mortlake 2004 to Breakfast Point 2007
Ruins of Mortlake AGL Gasworks at Breakfast Point ink drawing painted by Jane Bennett artist
 "Industrial Cathedral, Mortlake" 2004
ink,gouache and charcoal drawing on paper 112 x 140 cm
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Winner: 2011 Cliftons Sydney Art Prize 
Collection : Cliftons
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A Classical note

Instead of a simple record of appearances, I wanted to convey the feeling of being inside a vast and ancient monument that dwarfs the normal human scale. In common with the ruins favoured by the 18th century artist Piranesi, the CWG site of Mortlake is a decayed and vandalized relic of an earlier civilization. All that remains is a skeletal roof and more props holding the crumbling walls up than there are actual walls. The crazy zig-zag of the diagonal buttresses adds to the apparent instability of the structure, which no sane architect would dare restore.
I was influenced by Piranesi’s etchings which used every trick of perspective to transform prosaic renditions of Roman ruins into hallucinatory visions of frustration and oppression. I have exploited chiaroscuro by using dramatic contrasts of light and shade to destroy the rationality of Classical architecture and intensify the power of the forms until they become a source of dread and melancholy.

A Short History of the A.G.L. Gasworks

Opened in 1886, the A.G.L. Gasworks boasted grandiose structures and a huge workforce. When coal gas technology became obsolete 100 years later the sprawling 58 hectare site became a bizarre and derelict wasteland. Where once 6 retort houses had continually burnt coal from Newcastle to light Sydney’s streets all that remained was a skeletal roof and more buttresses holding the crumbling walls up than there were actual walls.
As the coal tar waste was removed from the site, 40 metre chasms were dug into the glowing sandstone escarpment surrounding the C.W.G. Building.
The initials C.W.G. stand for Carburetted Water Gas- not Carbonated water and gas as I had previously thought, which sounded like something to do with "Coca-cola".
  
Painting in the Ruins

I had to attach notes to my easel reminding me not to walk backwards to admire my work or my stay would be short and painful.
After rain some of these channels would fill with water, becoming a network of lakes reflecting the ruins.

A suburb is reborn - 'Breakfast Point'

The AGL site was redeveloped into the controversial new gated suburb of Breakfast Point by Rosecorp. To coincide with the opening of their new suburb, Rosecorp and the CFMEU jointly invited me to hold a solo exhibition in their freshly built Community Hall. My paintings consisted almost entirely of renditions of the C.W.G. Building, which had recently been demolished.
Soon it will be impossible for the current residents of the recently christened suburb of Breakfast Point to imagine this chapter of Australian history.
The ‘lost’ civilization of the Industrial age is only a paltry century or so ago, instead of a couple of millennia, yet the history and purposes of its buildings are already almost incomprehensible to most of the new inhabitants.
Ruins of Mortlake AGL Gasworks at Breakfast Point ink drawing painted by Jane Bennett artist

Demolition of the CWG Building, AGL Site, Mortlake 2003
ink on paper 57 x 77 cm

 

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I was lucky enough to witness the demolition of the CWG building.

The developers laughed at me for drawing instead of taking photos. Digital cameras weren't reliable or easy to use then, and their brand new digital camera didn't work. I completed 8 detailed ink drawings that day, one of which I later had the pleasure of selling to them.

Later I was asked to hold a solo exhibition in the newly built Community Hall to open Breakfast Point. The road had only been named the week before and my clients got hopelessly lost trying to find it .

I'd like to thank Ray Cummings, John Byrnes and Dr Allen W. Hatheway for helping me to correct my inevitable mistakes. The trouble with the type of subject matter that I paint is that usually by the time I am allowed to paint it, the developers are champing at the bit and anyone who actually used the original equipment has long since departed.

Any information and feedback about the former uses of the sites I paint will be greatly appreciated.

Carleton United Brewery 2009
A pub with no beer (or walls, or roof)

Carleton United Brewery Chippendale  painted by Jane Bennett artist
"Pub with no beer, Carleton United Brewery" 
2009 oil painting on canvas 75 x 100cm 



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Carleton United Brewery Chippendale  painted by Jane Bennett artist
 "Pub with no beer, Carleton United Brewery" 
2009 oil painting on canvas 100 x 75cm



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Dig this : A little amateur  archaeology

Still life of bottles from Carleton United Brewery Chippendale  painted by Jane Bennett artist
 "Archaeological relics of the dig" 
2009 oil painting on canvas 61 x 61cm


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This site is very boggy in wet weather and bits of twisted reo wires lurk hidden in chunks of concrete half submerged in the clay slurry, making it very dangerous to walk through burdened with easels and canvases. One wet day, the onsite archaeologists left some of their finds for me to paint,and later they let the construction workers take home souvenirs of the less important finds.
The Brewery site certainly didn't suffer from a lack of empty beer bottles.
I met one of the drill rig team later at Barangaroo.

See My September post :
  Red Square, the Drill Rig and a little archaeology
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Chippendale- Mortuary Station

Mortuary Railway Station on Regent Street, Chippendale was designed by James Barnet in the Victorian Free Gothic architectural style and opened on 29 June 1869.


Mortuary Station Chippendale at night  painted by Jane Bennett artist
CH8 "Mortuary Station, evening from Regent st" 
2009 oil on canvas 41 x 51cm

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Originally funeral trains bound for Rookwood Cemetery departed from Mortuary station.
There are still vestiges of its sister station remaining at Rookwood.
 
Mortuary Station Chippendale at night  painted by Jane Bennett artist
CH6 "Mortuary Station, evening" 
2009 oil on canvas 20 x 25cm 

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 By 1938 it was used as platform for horses and from 1950 onwards it was just used for parcels.
Mortuary Station Chippendale at night  painted by Jane Bennett artist
CH7 "Mortuary Station, evening" 
2009 oil on canvas 20 x 25cm

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 This handsome heritage sandstone building was restored by the State Rail Authority in 1981 and is now only used as a venue to launch special train services , informative displays and as a hired function centre.

Ballast Point
Goat Island & Ballast Point painted by Jane Bennett artist
"Rowers passing Goat Island, Ballast Point in the background" 2006 oil on canvas 15 x 30cm
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A view of Ballast Point from the knuckle of the East Darling Harbour Wharves, now called Barangaroo.
The original Tank 101, built in the 1930s, was the largest industrial storage vessel at this site, used to store crude oil for processing into lubrication oil. It was the largest tank in Australia to use rivet technology.
Transformation of the site started after the state government bought the land in 2002, announcing it would become a public headland park.
It was then placed in the hands of the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority, but there was a lengthy and bitterly fought battle by residents to stop development on the site and an equally bitter battle by Lang Walker’s Walker Corporation for compensation after he bought an option to develop the site.
Now, at the newly created Ballast Point Park, the complex of tanks have been replaced by the cylindrical skeleton of a former giant oil tank standing sentinel on the headland. 
"Tank 101", a sculpture created as both artwork and renewable energy generator containing eight wind turbines, symbolises the past working history of the site as the Caltex oil refinery. 
Panels of curved sheet steel from the old tank have been rescued from the old tank and incorporated in the structure, which has been punctured with holes forming the words of poet Les Murray: "Stone statues of ancient waves, tongue like dingoes on shore.".

Debris leftover from the demolition of the tanks at the new park has been stored behind the White Bay Power Station.

Hopetoun Hotel, Surry Hills 2009

"Save the Hoey!"
Urban decay -plein air oil painting of the Hopetoun Hotel by artist Jane Bennett
"The Hopetoun Hotel, Surry Hills"
2009 oil painting on canvas 56 x 76cm
 


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The Hopetoun, a well-loved old warhorse of the live music scene, was abruptly closed down in 2009 after a few stoushes with the council about fire and noise regulations. And a few plumbing problems.


Urban decay -plein air ink and charcoal drawing of the Hopetoun Hotel by artist Jane Bennett
"The Hopetoun Hotel, Surry Hills"
2009 ink & charcoal painting on paper 100 x 132cm

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I worry about the old Hoey becoming another "Terminus".

Urban decay -plein air oil painting of the Hopetoun Hotel, Surry Hills by artist Jane Bennett
 "The Hopetoun Hotel, Surry Hills" 
2009 oil painting on canvas 56 x 76cm

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New life has been breathed into the old pub. In early August 2012 it was used for a film shoot in a new Hugh Jackman movie. Hopefully it will be the start of a whole new career for the Hopetoun, rather than the end of an era.
Wolverine shoots at Sydney's Hopetoun Hotel "Pedestrian TV"  by Jacquie Lennon
Summer Hill
Mungo Scott Flour mills with truck Summer Hill painted by Jane Bennett, industrial heritage artist
Summer Hill Mungo Scott Flour Mills Last Flour truck 
2004  oil painting on canvas 41 x 61cm
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Urban decay -plein air oil painting of the Mungo Scott Four Mills in Summer Hill by artist Jane Bennett
"Summer Hill  Mungo Scott Flour Mills Evening"  
2009 oil painting on canvas 31 x 31cm
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A view from the top
Urban decay -plein air oil painting of the  Sydney panorama from top of Mungo Scott Four Mills in Summer Hill by artist Jane Bennett
'Summer Hill: Mungo Scott Flour Mills Panorama'  
2009  oil painting on canvas 91 x 122cm
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Victoria Street Terraces

In December 2009 I was asked by some of the people working at St Vincent's if I could record the terrace houses next to the Garvan Institute close to St Vincent's before they were demolished in early 2010.  St Vincent's wanted to extend its empire, and almost an entire block was destined to bite the dust to be replaced by buildings that would physically resemble the Victor Chang Centre that loomed behind it.
A breakthrough 11-storey medical centre is now being built on the Darlinghurst site, which will customize patient treatment instead of the one-drug-fits-all approach which doesn't always work. The new Kinghorn Centre, which opens in June 2012 is a joint Garvan Institute and St Vincent's Hospital project.
The buildings to be demolished were a motley collection, ranging from the charming, to the quirky, to the downright hideous. Some of them had heritage value, but all had been compromised to a greater or lesser extent by tasteless modern extensions. But put together, they expressed the character of a very colourful area of Sydney street-life, in a way that will be lost when the new medical monolith has replaced them.
Victoria st Darlinghurst painted by Jane Bennett artist
'Victoria st terraces Nos.372-4 - The Diabetes Centre and the R.M.O. Headquarters' 
2009 oil painting on canvas 51 x 41cm
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The initials "R.M.O." stand for Resident Medical Officer, and this building was used for accommodation.
Victoria st Darlinghurst painted by Jane Bennett artist
Victoria st terraces-The RMO HQ 
2009-10 oil painting on canvas 46 x 36cm

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This building reminded me of some early 20th century Jugendstijl architecture that I saw in Vienna and Berlin, with its strangely curved architraves that gave the barred windows an over-emphatic, top-heavy look.


Victoria st Darlinghurst painted by Jane Bennett artist
'Victoria st terraces-Diabetes Australia' 
2009 oil on canvas 31 x 31cm
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The buttercup yellow Diabetes Centre next door, appropriately enough, had a chocolate box sweetness in comparison to its heavy-browed neighbour. It was the least badly renovated of the row of terraces, and most resembled how the original buildings looked. The balcony had been enclosed, but the frilly wrought ironwork had been retained. This painting depicts a close-up view of the lacy wrought ironwork railings that gave the Diabetes Centre its charm. 
Next door to the Diabetes Centre was an building with a strange mismatch between the terrace above and the unsympathetic 1960's concrete bunker below. A needle exchange unit discreetly stood against the wall beside the glass doors. Beside it was the Langton Clinic, the drug and alcohol treatment centre.
Victoria st Darlinghurst painted by Jane Bennett artist
Victoria st terraces - Mural and clinic 
2010 oil painting on canvas 31 x 41 cm



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The silver grey steel and glass blocks of the Victor Chang Centre loom behind the mural - a harbinger of the future.
Victoria st Darlinghurst mural ink drawing painted by Jane Bennett artist
Victoria st terraces-The Mural 
2009-10 Ink,gouache on paper 43 x 61cm

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Between the clinic and the Green Park Hotel at the end of the block was a naively painted yet heart-felt lime green mural, a tribute to World Aids Day. I have seen scaffolding around this area recently, and at first I thought that there was a possibility that this mural would be retained. This turned out not to be the case, so I'm glad that I painted this in several works.
I was originally commissioned to paint just the R.M.O building, but as I set up over the road and started to paint, a steady trickle of people from the clinic, the Diabetes Centre and other workers and residents of the area started to beg and coax me into painting more and more of the surrounding area.
Victoria st Darlinghurst painted by Jane Bennett artist
'Victoria st terraces' 
2009 oil painting on canvas 75 x 100 cm 

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This canvas shows the entire block, from the R.M.O. on the extreme right, to the Green Park Hotel on the left.
I had set up my easel across the road, sheltering under the awning of a Japanese restaurant. The other side of the road was far too close to get a good view of the buildings, and far too close to the needle exchange for a peaceful day's painting. There was very little legal parking nearby - only 4 spaces on the side of the street where I wanted to paint, and these were next to well-patronised restaurants, so I had to be very patient and circle the block many times before snapping up one of the coveted spaces. I didn't like parking too far away as I had a lot of painting paraphernalia and I didn't want to leave my things lying around unsupervised in front of a methadone clinic for longer than I could help it. Although I must say that I did actually end up leaving my paint, canvases and even handbag lying around unattended quite often, and although my paintings did end up attracting a few admirers, none of my belongings were ever touched. One of the clinic's clients even did me a favour by scaring off a parking ranger who had been complaining about the irregularity of me sitting at my easel and painting the view.
In early December 2011, cancer survivor Delta Goodrem, who is the patron of the Kinghorn Centre spoke to assembled staff and construction workers at the launch of the revolutionary new medical treatment centre.
Now several of my paintings from this series have been acquired by medical staff and will find a home in various clinics in the new Centre.
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Dunlop-Slazenger factory in Alexandria 

The  Dunlop-Slazenger Factory has been abandoned since at least 1989 and has been a magnet for graffiti artists.
plein air painting of graffiti in the abandoned Dunlop-Slazenger factory by industrial heritage artist Jane Bennett
 "Fibro Yeha! panorama" 2015 oil on canvas 91 x 183cm

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plein air painting of graffiti in the abandoned Dunlop-Slazenger factory by industrial heritage artist Jane Bennett
 "Soda panorama" 2015 oil on canvas 91 x 183cm

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    Both sides of the street 
    'Palimpsest - Dunlop - Slazenger factory'   

       



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