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

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Let there be rock

plein air oil painting of excavation of sandstone between Harris and Mount Streets Pyrmont by industrial heritage artist Jane Bennett
Starting my painting of the 'Excavation between Harris and Mount Streets, Pyrmont'  2017 oil on canvas 51 x 61cm

  $3,500

Not far south of the Terminus Hotel, another formerly ignored and derelict site is being gentrified.
There was a 'no man's land' between Harris and Mount streets which was an overgrown wasteland, with the southern end used as a carpark for the past 3 decades.
plein air oil painting of  CSR Distillery, Harris and Mount Streets, Pyrmont from roof of Pyrmont Power Station by industrial heritage artist Jane Bennett
P241B 'Panorama from the roof of Pyrmont Power Station - from Harris St, Mount St to the CSR Distillery' 1991 oil on canvas 31 x 61cm
  $2,000

This is a small canvas I painted from the roof of the Chem-Lab of the Pyrmont Power Station in 1991, looking west towards the ethanol tanks of the CSR Distillery. In the centre is the handsome vine-covered Federation building that was once the house of the CSR Manager. The carpark can be seen to the right of the Manager's house.

Clumps of pampas grass used to poke through the badly laid bitumen, which was  covered with weeds and strewn with discarded bongs.
Only a brick pier wall facing Mount st and a tumbledown grafittied sandstone block wall remained above ground level as relics of the row of terraces once occupying that site. The terraces had been pulled down long before I started to paint in Pyrmont.
plein air oil painting of excavation of sandstone between Harris and Mount Streets Pyrmont by industrial heritage artist Jane Bennett
Starting my painting of the 'Excavation between Harris and Mount Streets, Pyrmont'  2017 oil on canvas 51 x 61cm
  $3,500
The carpark has now been excavated, revealing the golden sandstone beneath. This is one of the few remaining still undeveloped sites in Pyrmont, and I took the rare opportunity to paint the honey coloured tones of the yellowblock sandstone before it is removed and construction starts.
It isn't far from the McCaffery's stables, which had been built over the legendary 'Paradise Quarry', where the best quality sandstone in Sydney had been extracted.

plein air oil painting of excavation of sandstone between Harris and Mount Streets Pyrmont by industrial heritage artist Jane Bennett
Starting my painting of the 'Excavation between Harris and Mount Streets, Pyrmont'  2017 oil on canvas 51 x 61cm
  $3,500
Under the bitumen, an archaeologist's dig had revealed a cobbled sandstone path, a neatly finished sandstone cesspit, carved sandstone steps and mysterious carvings. One of the carved images resembled a child-like version of a church or chapel.  Paul Gye aka 'Pyrmonstrosity Pyrmontosis', who has dedicated many hours into painstakingly and expertly researching Pyrmont's hidden history, has concluded that these carvings might have dated from as early as 1840 and could refer to Dr JD Lang’s Presbyterian ‘Long Lost Chapel of Pyrmont’. The full album of photos of 'Pyrmonstrosity Pyrmontosis' site visit with photos of the carvings can be seen at Facebook album : Archaeological Site Visit - Mount & Harris Streets - 10 May 2017   
The chapel was later relocated to Ultimo, and its current location is the 'Mustard Seed' ministry in Bulwara Street (ironically opposite the Lord Wolseley Hotel).
Unfortunately despite their unique heritage value, the carvings have by now been completely destroyed by the excavation.

plein air oil painting of excavation of sandstone between Harris and Mount Streets Pyrmont by industrial heritage artist Jane Bennett
Starting my painting of the 'Excavation between Harris and Mount Streets, Pyrmont' 2017 oil on canvas 51 x 61cm
  $3,500
During my site visit, I tried to persuade the archaeologists to let me paint on site before the demolition started, but they gave me the brush off, no pun intended.
Frustratingly I had to peer through the hoardings and shadecloth.
plein air oil painting of excavation of sandstone between Harris and Mount Streets Pyrmont by industrial heritage artist Jane Bennett
Starting my painting of the 'Excavation between Harris and Mount Streets, Pyrmont'  2017 oil on canvas 51 x 61cm
  $3,500
The 2,300sq metre site on the south-western side of the Terminus Hotel, will be soon transformed into a collection of 15 low-rise terrace houses, known as the 'New Life Pyrmont' project. 


plein air oil painting of excavation of sandstone between Harris and Mount Streets Pyrmont by industrial heritage artist Jane Bennett
My painting of the 'Excavation between Harris and Mount Streets, Pyrmont' 2017 oil on canvas 51 x 61cm
  $3,500

I persuaded a kind passer-by to hold up my painting so I could take a good photo of it against the demolition. 
The top half of the stairs once leading from Harris Street to the carpark have already been demolished, and the Harris Street frontage has been completely excavated and removed to allow trucks to enter and remove the sandstone. 
I've heard that the terraces have been designed to incorporate some of the excavated sandstone from the site.
More paintings of Pyrmont can be seen on my Pyrmont page in this blog.

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