Tuesday, July 13, 2021



It has been said that everyone has a view on Sydney's public art, that no matter how hard you try to make everyone happy, every work will have its detractors.


The time residents threatened to dismantle Ken Unsworth’s ‘poo on sticks’ sculpture in Darlinghurst (it still stands):

It’s official title is “Stones Against the Sky”

The time NSW Parliamentarian Helen Sham-Ho said Lin Li’s ‘Golden Water Mouth’ sculpture in Chinatown "looks like a penis" (she needs to get out mire if she thinks that).

The sculpture comprises of the trunk of a yellow-box eucalyptus tree partly covered with 23-carat gold leaf applied over fibreglass, mounted on a terra-cotta tile base set into the pavement. It is meant to represent positive energy and good fortune, the sculpture incorporating the feng shui five natural elements of wood, water, earth, fire and gold to harmonise the natural environment with the urban environment. Standing 10.7 metres high, the sculpture is located on the corner of Hay & Sussex Street in Haymarket, the symbolic entry point to Chinatown.

Also, when then-Oz editor Richard Neville ran a cover photo in the magazine Oz in 964 of himself and two others peeing into Tom Bass’s P&O Wall Fountain:

The sculpture:

The comment:

The upshot:

They captioned the photograph “Pictured is a trio of Sydney natives P. & O’ing in the Bass urinal” but ended up being charged with obscenity. The magistrate had no sense of humour. Despite sculptor Tom Bass testifying on their behalf, Locke found them guilty. Deciding to make an example of them, he sentenced them to 3-6 months imprisonment with hard labour “for obscenity and encouraging public urination”. The defendants were released on appeal where the convictions were overturned, mainly because the appeal judge found that the magistrate had misdirected the jury and made remarks that were found to have been prejudicial to the defence's case.

Some of the current Sydney public art installations . . .

Weaving Thru the World
World Square, Sydney
Artist: Gabrielle Filtz

“The recycled materials used in the artwork consist of discarded fabrics, ribbons, and rope from old City of Sydney street banners, festivals, and flags – including Mardi Gras festivals. Collected from Reverse Garbage in Marrickville, I loved using discarded materials to create public art, rather than seeing it end up in a landfill.” - Gabrielle Filtz.


Secret World of a Starlight Ember
Museum of Contemporary Art forecourt, Sydney
Artist: Linda Lee

“Inspired by the milky silver marvels of the spiralling cosmos on high, the shimmering, polished steel work is punctuated by thousands of tiny holes. Casting intriguing shadows by day, a signature of artist Lee’s sculptural works, when it’s lit up at night, ‘Secret World of a Starlight Ember’ creates its own burning constellation.”

(Looks a bit risque, if you ask me.)

Interchange Pavilion
Carriageworks, South Everleigh
Artist: Chris Fox

Artist Chris: ‘Interchange Pavilion is inspired by the iconic geometries of the meeting point between two train tracks. It began with the rail tracks of the area around Redfern Station, Carriageworks and The Locomotive Workshops, where I noticed the distinctive switch geometry: in particular a point where the rail lines diverge off into many different tracks. The switch became a way to follow all these different stories, routes and paths that have occurred on this site. The artwork is also an opportunity for visitors to reflect on these histories but also to come together before diverging into their own future journeys.’


I Stay (Ngaya Ngalawa)
8 Chifley Square, Sydney
Artist: Jenny Holzer

Projected onto one of the 19-metre-tall steel columns at 8 Chifley Square in Sydney is ‘I stay (Ngaya Ngalawa)’ by American artist Jenny Holzer. The artwork features songs, poems, stories and other texts by Aboriginal Australians and Torres Strait Islanders. \

Jenny Holzer: “The text I chose was influenced by a people’s history, but the themes, such as love and survival, are universal. The first person voice in much of the writing makes the artwork alive and immediate, accessible to many. Writing by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander authors was most compelling; it illustrates that what happens to individuals and groups, happens to society. The human themes here make this public space integrate and honour the personal.”


The Youngsters
Barrack Street, Sydney
Artist: Caroline Rothwell

Two figures in the tradition of monumental bronzes but in the size of children wearing contemporary street clothes. One child is doing a handstand.

“The figures undermine expectations and subvert stereotypes. They represent small children dressed in hoodies and baggy jeans; one standing, the other hand-standing. They are purposefully diminutive; vulnerable, yet powerful.”

Youngsters was first shown as part of the Laneways Temporary Art Program 5 on view from October 2012- January 2013. This popular work was subsequently acquired into the City of Sydney collection.


Yininmadyemi, thou didst let fall
Hyde Park, Sydney
Artist: Tony Albert

Aboriginal artist Tony Albert whose family has over 80-years of combined military service has created a public artwork in Hyde Park to honour the sacrifices and bravery of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander service men and women.

Tony’s dramatic sculpture work is inspired by his grandfather’s story about himself and 6 soldiers who escaped from a prisoner of war camp in Germany, only to be caught by Italian soldiers who lined them up to be executed.

The Italians shot 3 of the men before realising their mistake – the men were POWs and should have been returned to Germany. Tony’s artwork is a reminder of how his grandfather and fellow service people were treated differently to their white comrades after the war.

“When service men and women returned to Australia, they were given land for their service. However, not only was Eddie and his fellow Aboriginal soldiers not given any land, their land was still being taken away.

“Eddie and fellow Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men and women defended our country, they were prepared to fall but upon returning to our country, they were left to fall again – ‘yininmadyemi,’ thou didst let fall,” Tony said.

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