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Published May 17th 2012
It's amazing how often the small things in a big city can pass you by. When I'm downtown, I'm usually rushing to get somewhere or have a mission in mind and often don't notice what is really around me.
Next time you're in Brisbane CBD, take a minute to crane your neck upwards and sideways and you will be rewarded with some unusual and quirky public art. Brisbane City Council has integrated a number of public into the cityscape in recent years as part of a larger strategy to foster community ownership and pride with a particular emphasis in encouraging locals to be part of the process. Read more here
Some of the most notable public art in Brisbane CBD is in sculpture form. Here are some of the best - in my humble opinion - and also most accessible sculptures in downtown Brissie. It's quite easy to see them all and take in their abstract charm on a walking tour of the city.
'Big Sister' - J. Seward Johnson
Outside the Pig & Whistle on Eagle Street is the curious and randomly located form of a woman tying a youngster's shoe. Nothing overly strange about that. The trick however in this piece of public art is that from a distance, before you realise it is in fact a statue, you are thinking 'what's taking her so long to tie that bloody shoe.' Its only when you discover they are both frozen in time, you can appreciate the lifelike nature of this duo.
Just up from the Big Sister sculpture near the entrance of the CUA building is a relatively new addition to Brisbane City's public art portfolio. Commissioned in 2002, 'Chat' features a set of of shiny steel hands rising up from the pavement, evoking a desire to use your own hands to touch the cool smooth surface. Hands can convey a multitude of different meanings and one of the nicest things about this artwork is the different meanings one can interpret while experiencing it first 'hand.'
'Chat' - Sebastian De Mauro @ Cnr Eagle & Queen St
Up the hill, continuing the modern sleek steel look is the wolf-man statue finished in 2008 on the corner of Wharf and Ann streets. Decked out in boots and a jacket but with a square cutout where his organs should be, 'The Guardian' has a sinister and calculating character. Standing tall at over 6 feet, the imposing statue looks like its waiting to cross the street like everyone else and is hard to miss at the centre of the main intersection, where he appears to be watching everyone passing by.
'The Guardian' - Cezary Stulgis @ Cnr Wharf and Ann St
'Forme de Mito' - Arnaldo Pomodoro @ King George Park
One of the most ambitious (and expensive) makeovers of Brisbane city is the installation of imposing bronze works at the entrance of King George Park. As part of Brisbane City Council's vibrant laneways and small spaces program, these four bronze works of varying geometrical shapes frame a circular area to sit and relax for a bit while enjoying the artwork around you. The bronze sculptures are particularly striking as the sun hits their surface making them look like oversized treasures glued to the concrete.
Just up from the 'Forme de Mito' is Jacob's Ladder staircase painted fire engine red striking a happy contrast among the concrete. The stairs command pedestrians to take notice while enticing them to ascend into the parkland above.
'Forme de Mito' @ King George Park, Edward and Turbot St
From King George Park head down Turbot Street until you reach the Turbot and Roma Street underpass. What was previous an area of the city that was dull and slightly dirty has been given an overhaul into a urban oasis with the representation of a shimmery aqua body of water suspended from the cement overpass above. The subtropical landscaping in the garden beds under the bridge and turquoise colours pay homage to Queensland's tropical colours and waterways in a area which was for a long time a forgotten urban space.
'Freshwater Lens' - Judy Watson @ Turbot St Underpass
By now you are near the top of town and once you reach George Street take a left and head back towards the centre of town towards the casino. Just outside the 7/11 near the top of Queen St Mall are the much appreciated and photographed 'City Roos.' A favourite of tourists, you may have to wait a few minutes until you can get your own picture with them. There are three mechanical looking kangaroos in total and are all constructed out of raw metals. The roos have taken up residence on sidewalk and even on a nearby park bench. One thing is for sure these lazy marsupials won't be moving anytime soon.
'City Roos' - Christopher Trotter @ George & Queen St
There is an abundance of other statues and art to be found in Brisbane City, including the alien-like steam balls in the square outside the casino and not to be missed are the various traffic signal boxes at various city intersections. Tip of advice: Look up and down and you'll be sure to discover public art in the most unlikely of places. Next time you're downtown, stop and look around a second time or take a different route on your way somewhere. You might be surprised at what you stumble upon.
One of the colourfully painted traffic signal boxes found at many CBD intersections
Hi Lexa. Thanks very much and for reading! Its amazing what effort town planner actually go to to make public space more interesting and enjoyable. People often decry this to be a 'waste of tax dollars' but I think it couldn't be a more wise investment in making people proud of their communities. :)
Congratulations Julian! Awesome article. You are right, we are always rushed and don't spend the time to 'stop and smell the roses' rather appreciate the things surrounding us that gives joy and delight that someone has put in a great deal of effort for our own benefit.