Greater Sydney 2016

Greater Sydney Sculpture by Matthew Picton

Greater Sydney 49” x 61” 2016
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The Greater Sydney sculpture encompasses a landscape that includes Botany Bay and The Sydney Harbor up to Manly Beach. The sculpture juxtaposes the modern city with the early settlements and the further past of it’s indigenous history. In Sydney itself that ancient past is said to only exist in the spirit world today, something that the film chosen for the surface of this sculpture references.

The street network of the major thoroughfares of Sydney has been cut from posters of the film “The Last Wave” by Peter Weir. In a film that pits modern day law with the ancient and immutable laws of the aboriginal world. A lawyer, acted by Richard Chamberlain, takes on a case involving a murder amongst a group of Aboriginal people and finds that the case and the contact with them starts to lead to him to access another layer in his own life. He comes into contact with the Dreamtime, his own dreams connecting him to this parallel world of existence, a world where past present and future happen simultaneously. The character finds himself having a direct relationship with the other, older deeper layer underlying the modern Australian culture, his own apocalyptic premonitions and fears finally playing out in the form of a gigantic wave towering over him and the civilization that is modern day Sydney.

The underlying landscape of the sculpture is created from torn up paintings by Sophia Campbell, who documented the original flora and fauna of the Sydney area as well as the landscapes of the early 19th century Sydney settlement. The activity of Botanical painting was very typical of the era, as the Victorians sought to catalogue and quantify all the discoveries they found in the new world. Burnt through this botanical landscape are circular patterns taken from an aboriginal painting recounting the Tingari stories, a group of mythical characters of the Dreaming who travelled over vast stretches of the country performing rituals and shaping and creating sites.

The interior texts in the sculpture are taken from “The Colony” by Grace Karskens and from “The Fatal Shore” by Robert Hughes. Both books create a visceral and compelling tale of the settlers coming to grips with such an utterly unfamiliar terrain, people and climate. The text that winds it’s way around the shoreline and into the Harbor is from The Fatal Shore, it starts with the line “In 1787, the twenty-eighth year of the reign of King George 111, the British Government sent a fleet to colonize Australia. Never before had a colony been founded so far from its parent state, or in such ignorance of the land it occupied…” this quote and more is visible in fragments around the shore line. There are also texts from Ruth Park’s novel “The Harp in The South” which looks at the hardships of life in the Irish communities a century later in Sydney. The interior imagery are taken from 19th century paintings of Sydney.

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