A writer sharing travels, experiences, a love of festivals & events. Life is a journey and I hope to inspire others. Visit my blog at https://www.travelwithirenke.blogspot.com
Published April 22nd 2020
In recent years, I have found a love of different forms of art that I previously didn't have and one of those forms is mosaics. A decorative art form that has existed for thousands of years, mosaics are becoming more popular and pieces of work have sprung up in the last few years across Sydney and its suburbs in many a public place.
Images are generally made of small pieces or tiles of glass or stone, including marble and pebbles. Shell and ivory are other materials that have been historically used but really mosaics can be made from anything, even buttons, colourful bottle screw tops and beads, to create wonderful art.
Often found in parks and children's playgrounds, on pathways and around community centres, mosaic art can also be seen on fountains, bench seats, tables, walls and sculptures. Travelling around the suburbs of Sydney in recent times, I've found a wealth of this art form.
Below is an alphabetical list by suburb, where I've discovered some interesting and colourful works:-
Henry Lawson Park is in a picturesque setting at Abbotsford along the water's edge. It's great for a walk, kicking a ball around and having a picnic, with plenty of open green space. A children's playground features slides, swings and monkey bars, but it was the unique mosaic armchair sculpture in the shape of a fish (with a bubbler in its mouth) and 'Grandma's Map' down one end of the park that caught my eye.
Auburn Botanic Gardens are known for the beautiful Japanese garden around the lake and the annual cherry blossom festival, but hidden in the depths of the grounds is a mosaic box I stumbled upon in the maze.
It is a memorial to mothers everywhere that give so much in the raising of their children, as well as an appreciation of the endless hours given through juggling multiple tasks and helping out in the community. The box features children's drawings transformed into colourful mosaic tiles showing love through hearts, photos, stars and life as seen through their eyes.
It's not the only mosaic in the area. The gardens are also known for the roaming peacocks and across the road is the Peacock Gallery, where many an exhibition has taken place. Out the front of the gallery is a large circular floral bed with a central disk featuring a peacock spread around it.
The Bankstown Arts Centre on Olympic Parade is home to artists' studios, workshops, exhibitions and projects. They delve into all art forms, from music to painting and sculpture. There's some street art around the site, including some pretty floral mosaic walls.
Bondi is a very arty suburb with plenty of street art along the beach wall. It also has quite a lot of mosaics. On Campbell Parade, the main drag at the beach, there are a number of benches outside the shops covered in colourful mosaics that depict images of sea creatures. All are very appropriate for the area, as is the bikini-clad lady.
Up in Biddigal Reserve on the north side of Bondi Beach is a little oasis of mosaic sculptures that include a turtle, a dragon, an octopus, a crocodile and a fish. They're very impressive and the children love them.
For more of the beauties in this park, click here.
Overlooking the beach, take a walk down to the pool below. It has a wall of mosaic marine art.
Burwood Park is a large historical park with a war memorial, pavilion, rotunda, pond, playground, cricket pitch, tennis courts, a giant outdoor chessboard and a community centre. It's a great place for a walk, one that led me unbeknownst to a mosaic picture on the centre's wall.
The mosaic is titled 'Women & Education 2009' and was created as part of the Council's International Women's Day celebrations. Its main features are a memorial and a tree of life.
Anzac Mall has a couple of important mosaics. The first one is 'Respect Unity Peace' and is a tribute to our soldiers that have fought for our country Lest We Forget, whilst the second is the 'Garden of Hope' which was produced by women's groups to represent hope for healthy non-abusive relationships.
Close to the city, Chippendale's Peace Park in Myrtle Street has two beautiful mosaics, aptly named 'Birds of Peace', on the pavement. The park was born in 1985 and got its name in recognition of strong public sentiment favouring nuclear disarmament at the time.
On Pine Street, one of the bordering streets of the park, some different mosaics can be found in the pathway. They include the name of a school and a sweets brand but the one I like the most is the street map of the suburb. This is very cool and reminds me of the old Gregory's street directory we used before Google Maps and GPS were a thing. It's great for lost pedestrians and those without the latest technology in their hands.
Over at Crows Nest in front of the Community Centre in Ernest Place is the Aqua Marine Mosaic Fountain, with a myriad of sea creatures on it that include various fish, seahorses, turtles, octopuses, dolphins and stingrays.
Adorning the pathways surrounding the fountain are 11 panels that have all sorts of images on them, from trams to a Chinese dragon and a bird, a ferry and the Sydney Harbour Bridge, a waratah and a church.
As per Campsie, Earlwood is part of Canterbury-Bankstown Council and here Gough Whitlam Park has its own 'Respect Unity Peace' mosaic. Located on a wall, it is another tribute to our history, this time our Aboriginal ancestors.
It is a bit hard to find this one but take a walk through the park, past the cafe and over a small bridge and then veer to the left on the track and you'll see the mosaic. It's an easy and short stroll.
Enfield Aquatic Centre in Henley Park has a couple of mosaics. The 'Neighbour Day' mosaic incorporates symbols representing the Burwood community and recognises diversity, connectivity and harmony. It encourages people to build better relationships in their communities.
The 'Our Community' mosaic is the coming together of the community to celebrate International Women's Day and Neighbour Day 2013. It recognises the achievements of women undertaking acts of courage in the fight toward greater economic and social rights. It's an artistic interpretation of champion diver Beverly Tickle, who trained at the aquatic centre, and represents strength, determination and skill.
From bugs to butterflies and flowers, Fairfield Heights Park has these in mosaic form. A large rectangular box and colourful panels adorn the ground inside the park, whilst outside a stone bench seat next to a bus stop is covered in tiles.
The suburb with dock in its name actually has no docks. No wharves, not even a jetty, but it gets its name from the shape of the shoreline along Parramatta River. It was said to have featured five inlets that resembled docks.
Predominantly Italian, Five Dock has plenty of surrounding water and Fred Kelly Place is the place where locals catch up and mosaic concrete sculptures of fish and an abstract fishing boat are a nod to the journey to Australia made by the Aeolian community.
There's also plenty of colourful art in this plaza that is a nod to family and gatherings.
The Hawthorne Canal rail tunnel at the end of Darley Road leads into a grassy reserve that's good for exercise and good for dogs but it is the footpath tunnel itself that gets my interest. The outside entrance is covered in street art, whilst the tunnel walls inside are covered in mosaic tiles depicting images of fish, dolphins and other sea creatures.
It's large scale, consisting of 44 panels, came about from an arts program involving Leichhardt Council working in partnership with Railcorp, local schools and the community. It's aimed at enhancing the personal security of those that use the tunnel.
Another spot in Leichhardt with mosaic art is Pioneers Memorial Park. This green space is a quieter space on Norton Street, away from the busyness of all the shops, cafes and restaurants.
Surrounding the sandpit play area within the park are walls of coloured tiles made from children's drawings. It's a lovely way to include their work in an area they play in.
At the end of Bathurst Street (near Cnr Macquarie St) in Liverpool, there's a couple of unusual mosaics. Looking at them from one side, they just look like large pots with large plants but move to the other side and you see funky seats.
They're colourful and I'm not sure of the back story on these but perhaps they are there so that you can sit and admire the street art on the walls across the road. In any case, they're something a bit different.
Over at Liverpool Public School in Railway Street, a great school project has seen children's drawings transformed into mosaic tiles that have been embedded into a larger mural. There's also some squares of mosaic art along the sidewalk, some images and some messages.
We've all heard of writer and bush poet Henry Lawson, but have you heard of his mother Louisa Lawson. She was a writer herself and an activist. Her publication of The Dawn: A Journal for Australian Women was a mouthpiece for women. It led her to found The Dawn Club in 1889, which became the hub of the suffrage movement (the right of women to vote in elections) in Sydney.
A small park named after her, Louisa Lawson Reserve, contains a large colourful mosaic depicting the front cover of The Dawn, which became a journal for the whole household with tips on running a home without servants, as well as poetry and short stories, articles, columns, material for children and fashion. This content was interwoven with political messages. She was a social reformer, a trumpet through which the voice of womankind could air their opinions and grievances.
Marrickville Park, on the other hand, is a large green space that's used mainly for sports, with a field where rugby league is often played, a croquet club, a cricket turf area, tennis courts, an outdoor gym and a playground. Not a place you usually find art but, in one corner of the park, you'll find 5 black and white mosaic magpie sculptures created by artist Jane Cavanough that make a lovely addition to an area known for a variety of birds.
Walking up stairs is better when they provide some interest and not far from Meadowbank train station on the corner of Railway & Constitution Roads is a set of stairs covered in mosaic tiles. Leading to a pathway at the top and a back lane, this colourful stairway focuses on nature in this suburb on the northern bank of the Parramatta River.
May Gibbs Place is a tribute to the author and illustrator who gave us The Adventures of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie. A huge wall mural (non-mosaic) titled Nutcote, depicts Australian bushland characters from her books. Allowing you to sit and reflect on the mural and the characters, are some mosaic seats in unique shapes.
Hip Newtown is known for its street art and whilst checking some of it out I stumbled upon a few mosaics. Looking down, on the corner of King and Church Streets, there are some appropriately tiled pieces for the area that provide awareness of the nearby St Stephens Church and Christ. Amidst these, you'll also find some other subjects.
Just up from the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital on Missenden Road, you'll find a gorgeous floral mosaic at the entry of the Chancellory, an apartment building that also houses medical suites. It's amazing what you find when stopped in traffic and you take a look at what you might otherwise miss in your hurry to get somewhere.
There's plenty of art in the inner west of Sydney and Petersham is another suburb where I found some mosaic art. Opposite The Tiny Giant cafe in Audley Street where I was dining, there was a giant wall of coloured tiles on what I discovered was the side of the local post office.
The tiles were laid by Dr Antonio Braga and the Mayor of Marrickville, Clr Sam Iskandar, during the Bairro Portugues-Petersham Food and Wine Festival in 2010. It features some unusual images, like the kangaroo man, and certainly warrants a good look at it.
At the end of Audley St, down the railway station end, is a continuation of similar designs and unusual images, including a fish man this time.
Sydney Park is a huge park bordering both St Peters and Alexandria, and it's home to the annual Big Adventure event celebrating all things on wheels. Apart from this event and bike riding being popular here, there's lots of open spaces to enjoy as well as a bite to eat in the cafe, children's play areas, gardens and walks. Take a close look as you'll also discover sculptures and mosaic art.
Cute wooden wombat sculptures can be found near the playground, whilst the sides of the sandpit are where you'll find mosaic marine animals, from an octopus to a shark, a fish and even an alligator.
Take a look back at history in Wimbo Park (Cnr Bourke & Devonshire Sts) at Surry Hills with the 'Wimbo Paddock' mural. Made of opaque glass in various colours, embedded into a concrete wall, this mosaic piece keeps the memories alive from over 70years ago when recreational activities were somewhat different to nowadays.
People participated in playing marbles, hot air balloon launching and practised their performing skills. It was the place for a local carnival and visiting circuses. The mosaic features all of these, including a carousel. With the park being fairly small, it's hard to believe that a carnival and circus would fit in it.
Made by local residents and coordinated by artist Peter Day, the mural is dedicated to the long term residents of Surry Hills.
Being directly under the flight path of Sydney Airport, the suburb of Sydenham suffers from aircraft noise. To alleviate resident noise complaints, many of the residential properties between the Princes Highway and Unwins Bridge Road were bought by the government. They converted the area into a recreational park that became Sydenham Green.
This large public park boasts a state-of-the-art skate park, a playground, basketball court, outdoor exercise equipment, picnic areas and an artist studio. Paying homage to the houses that formerly occupied the site is a series of oversized living room sculptures that include a lounge with a mosaic tapestry flung over it, a teapot, a lamp, fireplace and chairs.
The heart of the city has seen a lot of art pop up in recent years in the streets and at our train stations, some of which is mosaic art.
On the concourse leading into Town Hall station, look down and you'll see some fish that look like they're in a whirlpool. I can't find the back story on this but it is most likely a nod to our natural heritage.
Down at Circular Quay, the railway platforms have been adorned with images, some of which are hard to decipher. The forefront of the one below looks like a cockatoo to me, however, I'm not sure about the rest of it though.
Redeveloped for the 2000 Olympics, Sydney Olympic Park is not just a park but is multiple parks and officially became a suburb in 2009. It has a whole lot more than sport going for it today. From the stadium to the music arena (where the names change with sponsors), you'll also find hotels, bars, restaurants, cafes, shops and real estate.
The area is also home to festivals, cultural events and art. Many sculptures abound and a few mosaics. Diagonally across from ANZ Stadium on Dawn Fraser Avenue, some roses in bloom caught my eye. This raised and hedged rose garden was not something I had ever noticed before so I took a walk through the garden and found a few surprises. First of all, amongst the roses were a couple of timber bench seats with carvings of bull and sheep heads. As I moved around the garden, I saw in the distance some tiled art on the ground in the shape of Australia. The significance of the animals made sense as I got closer. The mosaic was emblazoned with images of a sheep, a pig and a cow with a banner that read 'Metropolitan Meat Industry Board State Abattoir Homebush Bay 1915-1988'.
This mosaic is just one of the links here to the site's industrial past. Moving past the garden and following a paved pathway surrounded by heather, I came across Playfair Courtyard and a central bulls head on the ground surrounded by a circular pattern of interlocked 6's and 9's. These numbers refer to the Playfair Cattle which were branded in purple dye with the number 69.
Both of these mosaics, created by artist Cynthia Turner and tiler Tony Virtu, provide an interesting education on some of the history of this suburb.
The 'Seeds of the Future' wall mural is a large mosaic in Kelly Street on the front of the International Grammar School at Ultimo. It is comprised of ceramic tiles of various sizes, shapes and textures placed together to make geometric patterns that represent the development of technology from the evolution of a seed bursting open as it falls through space over a piece of computer panel.
View it from a distance as well as up close, where you'll see the yellow lines running across the mosaic contain a mix of 3D ceramic characters on top of the tiles. They include animals, people and items related to the local area. There's also elements and influences from Aboriginal designs across the mural.
Apart from ceramic tiles, other materials used include steel, plumbing pipes and pieces of wiring. Created by artists Jenny Crooke and Lloyd Keleman, it's quite a unique piece which also saw participants of the school making some of the ceramic pieces.
A historic sandstone gate marks the entrance to Brennan Park on King Street, where you'll also find historic rockery gardens, wide-open spaces and a children's playground under a sprawling giant fig tree.
Under this tree, there's a number of mosaics, including a mosaic hopscotch, and daisies on the pathway. The play equipment also has daisy motifs.
Many of the mosaics have a story behind them which makes them even more interesting. I've learnt a lot from chasing mosaics and there's probably a lot more around that I have yet to discover. If you know of any good mosaic pieces that I haven't mentioned above, then I'd be interested to know of them and their location. Please leave a comment in the box below.