My work is about the relationship between the city
of Canberra and the people who live here.
I wanted to show that Canberra is a busy, lively,
happy city, full of ordinary people working and living and bringing up
their families. The myths of this city - that it is cold and
unfriendly, and blamed for decisions made by Parliament - are not the
realities of this special place.
I wanted my work to feel as if the viewer was
flicking through my sketchbook, with occasional colour and text. I
hoped Canberrans would feel connected to the work as they recognised
the locations, and for people beyond Canberra to recognise the familiar
in the things we do.
As I stitched the lines that created my people I
was aware that one unbroken thread connected the buildings to the
landscape – and the people to the buildings – as one continuous,
flowing, living, active city.
Walter Burley Griffin wrote a report to accompany
his design for the new Federal Capital. He noted that the peculiar
advantages of Canberra lay principally in five site characteristics:
the mountain ranges for background; local mounts for aspect and
prospect; hills and spurs as the termini of avenues and for the most
important structures; valleys for habitation and industry; and the
Molonglo River and flood basin for architectural effect, recreation and
for the improvement of the climate.
My artwork focuses on these five site
characteristics. I have referenced the contribution of surveyor,
architect and landscape architect through the use of their three main
methods of graphic representation: the perspective, the section and the
plan. Each site characteristic has been explored in terms of these
three modes of representation. The horizontal arrangement of the five
sections to create a panorama has been informed by the way Marion
Mahoney Griffin used sections to illustrate the city plan.
The selection of materials is also symbolic. Felt
was chosen to symbolise solidness of earth and the opaqueness of cloud,
while net was chosen to symbolise the transparency of air and water.
The colours of orange, grey and black reference earth, air and water.
Finally, in five framed works, the Molonglo River
system has been dissected into five key parts; river, tributary, lake,
basin, and wetland.
Architect Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony
Griffin planned the ideal city with a lake as its heart.
A photo of a family home, a dairy, on the banks of
the Molonglo River where Lake Burley Griffin is now situated, hangs on
the wall of a friend’s home. ‘Riverview’, one of a dozen
dairies along the river described as ‘not much more than a creek’.
Conversations produced a wealth of stories about
the making of Canberra, the city planned from vast open
plains. Stories of a time before the damning of the river, of
distant hills and big skies, of a golf course and a race track, of
sports fields and more. And then of carting the silt ‘like there was no
tomorrow’ to make the nature strips of our suburbs.
March 2013 and the centenary of the city is
celebrated around the lake. Robyn Archer got it right. The lake
sparkled with activity, became a stage surrounded by fun and festivity,
as an eclectic fleet of water craft entertained with music and colour.
Canberrans came to hear the music, see the acts, watch the light
displays, enjoy the food and each others company; no fuss, picnic
basket and rug, dogs on leash, bicycles and strollers, all around the
central basin of the lake in the heart of this spacious, elegant city.
It would have made Walter and Marions’ hearts sing.
Cyclone Tracey, which devastated Darwin in 1974,
was the catalyst for many Territorian families to relocate to the
southern states. Our young family was no exception and we moved to
Canberra in August 1975.
For this exhibition I decided to have a
combination of pieces that represented the work of the Griffin legacy
but also have a more modern approach to how Canberra has grown since my
arrival in 1975. I found that most of my work has been done
in sections to showcase this theme.
The Bush Capital section represents the Indigenous
trees that are local to the area and also the introduced trees that
have been planted in abundance to create a natural harmony.
The trees that I have chosen are the Blakely’s Red Gum and the Crab
Apple. For each tree I have chosen to represent the bark, the
leaf, the flower and also the fruit in the case of the Crab Apple.
The floral and faunal emblems, the Royal Bluebell,
and the Gang-gang Cockatoo represent the A.C.T. government, whereas,
the festivals are part of the many that are celebrated throughout the
year and are enjoyed by the locals and tourist alike.
The choice of the location had to be represented
as Canberra is surrounded by the beautiful Brindabella Mountains, the
wide open plains and easy access to the snow, sea and Sydney. The
landmark, Telstra Tower has become a symbol for most travelling
Canberrians where upon sighting the tower we know we are almost home.
I am hoping that as the public view my work they
will realize that not only is Canberra the Capital of Australia, the
political seat, but a rich and vibrant city to live in.
Beth and Trevor
There are many reasons to love Canberra, two that
come to mind immediately are the design of the city and its suburbs,
the avenues, boulevards and roundabouts that make the city
unique. The proximity of the bush, the fact that the city is
married to the natural environment, hence the reference ‘Bush Capital’.
It is this marriage of bush and city, the design
for four seasons, the heat of summer, the colour of autumn, the chill
of winter (prompting an extra quilt on the bed) and the joy of spring
that make this city our home. Coming to Canberra in the early
80’s we were struck by the way the suburbs disappeared into the bush,
the corridors of green that came right into the city centre and the
feeling that Canberra was one big country town.
One of the first exhibitions we saw in coming to
Canberra was an exhibition of Walter Burley Griffins plans and the
striking elevations drawn and painted by his wife, Marion
Mahony Griffin, these were displayed, along with Coulter’s panorama, at
Regatta Point and made a lasting impression. Although the
city is much changed from these first images, it remains a unique and
elegant place to live.