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

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Selfie at South Eveleigh (Watching the forge fires fade)

I don't usually paint self portraits, but this is the exception.
I've been asked to exhibit in "Selfie", an exhibition of self portraits by artists who don't normally specialize in portraiture.
Invitation to "Selfie" Exhibition at 1047 Gallery, 1047 Botany Road Mascot
Invitation to "Selfie" Exhibition at 1047 Gallery

"Selfie" is on display from 11th - 26th May at 1047 Gallery, 1047 Botany Road Mascot.
Opening Saturday 11th may 2-5pm, closing drinks 26th May 2-4pm.
 Open Saturday & Sunday 11 am - 4pm
0401 037 359

self portrait with blacksmith forging at Eveleigh Works, South Eveleigh by industrial Heritage artist Jane Bennett
 E158 'Watching the forge fires fade' 2019 acrylic on canvas 31 x 61cm

I have painted myself in front of the largest surviving forge remaining in Australia, the Eveleigh Locomotive Workshop.
From 1886 until the 1980s, the Blacksmith’s Workshop produced equipment and parts for manufacturing and maintaining steam locomotives.
The modern blacksmiths of Eveleigh Works still use traditional machinery in homage to this bygone era of steam trains and handmade tools.
However, despite their much-loved status as icons of industrial heritage, the blacksmiths face an uncertain fate as a Woolworths will be built next door. 
In the maelstorm of inner city gentrification, blacksmiths are anachronisms; living fossils from the 19th century.
Much like plein air painters, I suppose. 
The deep shadows and dramatic lighting of the forge evoke the evocative, melancholy poetry of nocturnal scenes painted by my heroes Caravaggio, Joseph Wright of Derby and Georges de la Tour. Their nocturnes are ‘memento mori’ paintings contemplating  transience and mortality. The flickering flame will soon be extinguished. 
 My canvas is cloaked in darkness, yet a flash of intense illumination throws eerie green highlights across my face. Behind me the blacksmith darts gracefully backwards and forwards in his dangerous dance with fire.
My face looms in the foreground towards the viewer, lost in thought. My gaze doesn’t meet the viewer directly, but peers intently at something just out of sight. Am I looking back in nostalgia to the past, or staring warily at an unknown future?

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Painting in the Paint Shop - The Green Room

I've had to take a lot of time out from painting to look after my mum, but I've finally resumed painting in the Paint Shop in North Eveleigh, next door to CarriageWorks.
The Paint Shop was one of the North Eveleigh precinct’s 4 main buildings, along with the Carriage Works, Stores and the Chief Mechanical Engineer’s Office on Wilson Street. It is next to the much better publicized CarriageWorks building in North Eveleigh.
plein air oil painting of North Eveleigh by industrial heritage artist Jane Bennett
Starting my painting of E136 'The Green Room - Heritage Store, North Eveleigh' 2017 oil on canvas 36 x 46cm


Even though Eveleigh Carriage Workshops closed during the 1980s, a section of the Paint Shop remains in railway use today.The Paint Shop is owned by RailCorp and used by the Office of Rail Heritage to store heritage rolling stock and moveable relic collections. 
plein air oil painting of North Eveleigh by industrial heritage artist Jane Bennett
Starting my painting of E136 'The Green Room - Heritage Store, North Eveleigh' 2017 oil on canvas 36 x 46cm

It is the storage site of the heritage suburban electric fleet which are being painstakingly restored by the dedicated volunteers of Historic Electric Traction.

plein air oil painting of North Eveleigh by industrial heritage artist Jane Bennett
Starting my painting of E136 'The Green Room - Heritage Store, North Eveleigh' 2017 oil on canvas 36 x 46cm

Many companies have tried to lay claim to the huge slice of no man's land west of Redfern Station, and it really does have a slightly besieged air. 
The University of Sydney made a spirited attempt to add it to its empire and it was even recently touted as a potential home for Google's new Sydney headquarters before the NSW State Government poured cold water on the idea. 
The latest candidate seems to be Atlassian, as the jewel in the crown of yet another proposed technology hub (don't governments love 'hubs'! I don't know exactly what the difference is between a 'hub' and the more lowly category of mere 'business park', but I imagine it would be several hundred million dollars at the very least).
I know that some sort of redevelopment is inevitable, but how much of the heritage would be retained is still unclear.

plein air oil painting of North Eveleigh by industrial heritage artist Jane Bennett
Starting my painting of E136 'The Green Room - Heritage Store, North Eveleigh' 2017 oil on canvas 36 x 46cm    
The doorway under the stairs once led to the Store itself, where an old storeman once doled out supplies.
This corner of the Paint Store is painted a brilliant and venomous shade of green. The colour green now has vague connotations of health and nature, but a hundred or so years ago, it had a very different reputation.
This colour looks suspiciously like the notorious arsenic based 'Paris green' which was invented just after the Napoleonic Wars in the early 19th century. It was so toxic that ballgowns dyed with this bright and deadly pigment were reputed to kill their wearers if they stayed too long at the dance. Wallpaper painted with Paris Green was even supposed to have contributed to the final illness and death of Oscar Wilde. 
As though the arsenic and copper ingredients of the original formula weren't sufficiently deadly, some warped genius later added lead arsenate to the cocktail.
As this building long predates any health and safety rules my suspicions could be well founded. If you could overlook its one lonely drawback of being horribly poisonous, 'Paris green' is a very useful paint - bright, fairly stable, very opaque and giving good coverage.  It has been used to colour fireworks, and also to kill rats in the Parisian sewers; hence its name. And it kills mosquitoes quickly and effectively. What's not to love about a paint like that......  
In the theatre, a 'green room' is a waiting room for performers before, during and after the performance.
I feel that this quiet and neglected corner of inner Sydney will soon be the venue for a spectacular drama starring government, developers, community groups, universities and fabulously wealthy and powerful international companies
There will probably be fireworks.
And it could well become toxic.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Terminus Redux

I have mixed feelings about the renovation of the Terminus. Although it has been restored,not demolished and replaced by apartment blocks as so often happens, yet to me, it has been stripped of some of its poetry.
plein air ink, charcoal and pastel drawing on paper of the Terminus Hotel Pyrmont by industrial heritage artist Jane Bennet
P286A 'Terminus Redux' 2017-8 ink, charcoal, pastel on paper 131 x 106cm

I painted a large mixed media work on paper, as well as an even larger oil on canvas, just before the iconic vines were removed. The awning had been stripped back to a fragile skeleton, but the bricks had yet to be sand-blasted.
However well a place is renovated, inevitably there must be compromises between keeping the original character and making it a viable business.
No expense was spared on the fitout.The designers and architects have done their best to  restore the old pub building while retaining quite a lot of the original pub from tiles to timber. The pressed metal ceiling upstairs is a sympathetic replacement not the original, which was too badly damaged.  
plein air oil painting on canvas of the Terminus Hotel Pyrmont by industrial heritage artist Jane Bennet
 P286 'Terminus Redux' 2017-8 oil on canvas 122 x 183cm

I miss the vines which once covered the facade. They had probably been planted early in the 20th century by a CSR employee, as the same species of Virginia creeper covered the manager's residence and the courtyard of the 'Rum Store'.
Recently I attended the launch of Shirley Fitzgerald's wonderful book on the history of the Terminus. I was honoured that Shirley had asked me to contribute a photo of one of my paintings of the Terminus facing opposite its longtime companion and rival, the Pyrmont Point Hotel (aka the Royal Pacific).
plein air oil painting on canvas of the Terminus Hotel, the Pyrmont Point Hotel and the Anzac Bridge in Pyrmont by industrial heritage artist Jane Bennet
P252 'The Terminus and the Point' 2011 oil on canvas 31 x 61cm
Private Collection : Sydney
Enquiries about similar paintings : 
When I went upstairs, I almost walked into one of the walls, not from one too many cocktails, but because I had expected the hall that once led through to the building next door. I believe that this passageway had to be closed off due to updated fire regulations.

There is a typical pub menu, priced rather steeply, to cash in on the hipster ambience from  the 32 years that the Terminus spent as an icon of urban decay. Ironically, the few times that I had visited the Terminus prior to its closure in the early 1980s, they were giving out free food. Possibly this had contributed to its original decline and fall. The new owners certainly aren't making that mistake, but have possibly erred in the opposite direction.
It's also ironic that despite having kept the ghost sign outside, no Resch's is on tap. 

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Ghost in the machine

I've been painting ghost signs in the Eveleigh Railway Workshops, as one by one, the relics of the past slowly vanish.
plein air oil painting of 'ghost sign' in the Large Erecting Shop of the Eveleigh Railway Workshops by industrial heritage artist Jane Bennett
E119 'Ghost sign in the Large' 2017 oil on canvas 31 x 15cm
There are faded sepia warning signs so old that they are handwritten.
Fire extinguishers have kept a quiet vigil, like forgotten sentries post battle.
plein air oil painting of 'ghost sign' in the Large Erecting Shop of the Eveleigh Railway Workshops by industrial heritage artist Jane Bennett
E119A 'Ghost sign in the Large 2' 2017 oil on canvas 31 x 15cm
So, what is the 'Ghost in the machine' ?
This phrase, so often used, yet little understood, was coined by the Oxford philosopher Gilbert Ryle to describe the Cartesian dualist account of the mind–body relationship. One of the underlying assumptions within the famous maxim of the French 17th century philosopher René Descartes, 'Cogito ergo sum' ('I think, therefore I am') is the notion that the mind is not only distinct, but actually separable from the body.

According to the philosopher John Locke (1632–1704), a person can be defined as ‘an intelligent being, having reason and reflection, which can consider itself in different times and places.’ By this definition, someone is defined as a person if they can think about themselves in the past, future, and conditional, and in a variety of different places. 
If a person has this quality of self-conscious recognition, what is the cause? Does consciousness reside in their body, their brain, or their ‘soul’? If that person has had a serious accident rendering them unconscious and without brain function -so that the body is still alive but the mind is no longer self-conscious nor could ever be again-Is the body still to be regarded as a person? If not, then how can the physical body alone be that which makes them a person?
If the Eveleigh Railway Workshops are emptied of most of their machines and other heritage items, how can they still be considered to be the Eveleigh Railway Workshops? How much can be removed, before it becomes an empty shell? When the contents of a container are removed, is it still a container?
What is a body without a mind or a soul?

More paintings of the Eveleigh Railway Workshops can be seen at my Eveleigh page on this blog.