Friday, 13 May 2005

Statuary Friday #8

Ok, here's my project: or perhaps it's a meme: though I doubt anything qualifies as a meme if only one person is onto it. Well, anyway, every Friday I do a different piece of sculpture selected from the vast numbers littered around lovely Melbourne. My only criteria are: it must be outdoors, it must be more or less permanent, and it must be in a publically accessible location. (Suggestions, especially for sculpture in the 'burbs, are very welcome.)

#8 Eagle

Wurundjeri Way, Docklands (near Colonial Stadium)

This beautiful and awe-inspiring object stands 25 metres or about seven storeys high. The pediment is painted jarrah fixed on a steel frame, and the bird itself is cast aluminium which has been painted to resemble polychromed hardwood. It is by Bruce Armstrong, unquestionably one of the most important sculptors currently working in Australia, and it was erected in May 2002.
The sculpture is also known as Bunjil, which is the name the Wurundjeri people use for the creator figure, who is an eagle.

I don't think these pictures capture much of how great this sculpture is in reality. It's so solid and calm, and so big. The scale is what makes it so amazing; you can see it from several different roads that go past the site, and from the train line, but it's not meant to be seen or approached from ground level. If you do park the car somewhere precarious and walk up to the base, this is what you'll see:

Eagle more than holds its own against the revolving, panoramic backdrop of city skyscrapers. The effects of distance and proportion make it look much larger than some buildings - the two-step building to the left in this photo is the tallest office block in the Southern hemisphere.

The way the statue's pediment echoes the shape of the towers makes it almost look like the bird is perched atop another skyscraper. A sort of avian King Kong.

The Eagle plays with psychological scale as well; the increasingly fussy, toytown city skyline starts to look like the out-of-kilter element, not the bird. We begin to see the urban landscape as the bird does, peering through its small, bright, shiny black eye; a portal into the unimaginably different and pure reality of animals and of flight.

The bird looks like a wild thing from wordless nature; at the same time, it has a serene, poetic simplicity and force, an impeccable mass and authority, that reminds me of things like Pacific Northwest totem carvings and Tiwi figures from Melville Island; its massive, feathered feet also make me think of Maurice Sendak's picture books.

Eagle was commissioned for the Docklands precinct under the Docklands Authority's public art scheme, which requires all the half-dozen developers operating in the precinct to spend 1% of the capital cost of their projects on public art. The most recent estimate I saw was that sixty million dollars would eventually be spent this way - if the developers don't run out of sites first, which is looking like a distinct possibility.


Phantom Scribbler said...

Statuary Fridays are fast becoming a highlight of my week. I think this is my favorite yet.

Putting a trip to Melbourne on my list-of-things-to-do-with-husband's-money.

Anonymous said...

Nice choice. One of the few nice things to look at in the Docklands. I was quite startled to come across it one day.

I'm kinda surprised you haven't done the "Three Businessmen who Brought their Own Lunch" on Burke & Swanston. 'spose it's been done to death already, but I do love those statues. They always made me smile as I walked past.



Lucy Tartan said...

hey, Fyodor.

I'll get around to it one of these days.

For some reason I thought you were a Canberra dweller - not so, clearly!

Lucy Tartan said...

on the other hand, there is your past tense.

Zoe said...

I love this one!

random said...

Based on the photos, I don't find it awe-inspiring so much as adorably cute. Resisting... urge... to... hug... monitor...

Anonymous said...

I come from lots of different places, and the past tense was intentional. Cheers, Fyodor.

Scrivener said...

Seriously loving this Friday ritual, too. What a cool statue. And I love your description of the ways in which the Eagle recasts the scale of the skyline.

You'll be so disappointed with my paltry set of statuary, if I can manage to actually find the time in the middle of the day tomorrow to snap the pictures.

Lucy Tartan said...

Cheers to you too, Fyodor. Sorry if I seemed like a stickybeak.

fluffy said...

I'm amazed to see only positive response to the eagle as its possible I've never heard more bitching and moaning about any other sculpture. Main complaint being that the Docklands Authority (a brand new invention when they commissioned this sculture) took on the work on the basis of a tiny maquette (scale model). As a result many feel that the finished work has a "supersize me" feel when compared to Bruce's original model. I'm not sure what changes would be made in a perfect world, but there you go. I'm sure the complaints have more to do with the exclusivity of the commissioning process at Docklands rather than any real problem with the work.

R H said...

It's bloody awful. Horrible.

anna said...

Hello! I followed a link to your blog from Kate's, and I realise this comment comes about 8 months late, but anyway: I've only ever seen this sculpture from behind, passing it on the train on that little stretch between Spencer St and Flinders St stations. I was quite surprised to see what the front looks like. It's a lot more 'cartoon-y' than I expected. I always thought it was going to be more austere and angry, for some reason. It looks beautiful (well, the backside of it does) in the early morning.

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