Meet Jane Bennett, an artist whom you may see around the museum wharves from time to time. We invited Jane to contribute a guest blog post about her work and current exhibition at Frances Keevil Gallery.
Hi, Jane Bennett here.
I would like to invite you to the annual end-of-year show at the Frances Keevil Gallery where I will have three of my recent Pyrmont paintings on display.
I first started painting Pyrmont when I was in art school in the late 1970s, documenting Pyrmont’s original character that came from its industrial heritage – the workers’ cottages perched on the creamy sandstone escarpment above dark, decaying wharves and warehouses.
During the 1980s Pyrmont was discovered by developers and radically transformed from a once-neglected industrial suburb in a 19th-century time warp, to a sleek media and entertainment hub. Buildings were often demolished as fast as I could paint them. Almost everything that I have painted has either been demolished or has changed beyond all recognition – the pubs have been gentrified, working-class terraces are replaced by apartment blocks and old warehouses are converted into offices.
However some things never change. Sometimes I feel that my easel is like a TARDIS (a time machine for those who aren’t Doctor Who fans) – if you know where to look, you can revisit the past.
Recently I’ve been standing at my easel on the corner of John and Pyrmont streets, painting the Bond Store, an evocative relic. Standing at 12 Pyrmont Street, it started life as the Australian Thermite Company Pty Ltd just before the World War 1. Thermite is a compound of iron oxide and aluminium oxide used to fuse rails at high temperatures, so the contents of this bond store were used to help create and maintain the Darling Island Goods Line which dominated the waterfront of Pyrmont throughout the 20th century.
After World War 2 this building became the Darling Island Bond and Free Store and these faded letters can still be seen on one side of the building. It has now been empty and derelict for many decades, just like its more famous neighbour, the ‘Terminus Hotel’, a few blocks away on the corner of John and Harris streets. It has something else in common with the iconic Terminus Hotel – they are both owned by an eccentric couple whose hobby seems to be collecting derelict buildings.
This little canvas was painted as I stood in front of the Bond Store, looking over the road at 27 and 29 Pyrmont Street. The pair of semi-detached 1860s workers’ cottages started life as identical twins, but have had radically different fates over the years.
While number 27 Pyrmont Street has been lovingly renovated several times over the last 30 years, it is not so for number 29 Pyrmont Street (another property owned by the couple who own Darling Island Bond and Free Store and the Terminus Hotel). Number 27 has an exquisitely applied paint job in the latest fashionable neutral shades, a neatly rendered step and a pretty little white picket fence. In contrast, number 29 recently went under emergency repair and a bright red brick retaining wall was applied to stop the rest of the cottage from sliding down the hill. Number 29, which also once boasted a front wall and stoop made from glorious Pyrmont yellowblock sandstone, has been covered with a coat of plaster and bright blue paint which has now faded.
Every time I paint in Pyrmont Street I fantasise about what could be done with some TLC and vast quantities of time and money…
This year I painted a pair of canvases underneath the Anzac Bridge at dawn. One was painted during calm weather and showed rosy pink dawn clouds and mirror-like reflections on the water of Blackwattle Bay. However this canvas, also painted just after dawn, shows the drama of an approaching storm.
While painting these, I also had to make sure that I didn’t get accidentally locked in with all the dragon boats, as my painting site was hidden by the construction area and I couldn’t tell when everyone had left!