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Sculptures Across Sydney

Home > Sydney > Art | Outdoor
by Irenke Forsyth (subscribe)
A writer sharing travels, experiences, a love of festivals & events. Life is a journey and I hope to inspire others. Visit my blog at
Published October 24th 2014
Magnificent pieces of work abound to discover and enjoy
Sculptors historically used stone, wood, metal, clay and bone to carve and model their subjects and output came in the form of statues, monuments and fountains, of which there are many in Sydney city and its suburbs. These days we see a lot more variety with glass and fibreglass, plastics, wax, plaster, bicycle parts and junk, and temporary forms that use ice and compacted snow, sand and even light.

Horses at West Ryde Marketplace
West Ryde Marketplace

Our suburbs abound with singular and multiple sculptures and one of my favourites is the prancing metal horses that popped up outside the West Ryde Marketplace a while back. These were designed by Milne and Stonehouse, who consulted with local school children that were inspired by paper origami animals. The 3 horses feature colour plates and patterns and look good by day but even better at night. I happened to be driving by one night and saw them all lit up by LED lighting. Spectacular.

Animals, along with humans, have been the subjects of our earliest sculptures. With humans, sculptures have been about political leaders, religion, sporting heroes and musical legends. With animals there are less boundaries and some interesting meanings behind them. One I came across includes 3 fish that rotate, with the wind, atop a pole in Bennelong Park at Putney and signify the importance of fish as a food source in Parramatta River.

Bennelong Park
Bennelong Park, Putney

There also seems to be something about 3's and Darvall Park at Denistone has 3 large stone frog sculptures set amongst children's play equipment. Playgrounds these days are becoming more than just the swings and slippery dips of yesteryear. A great place to see some wood sculptures is at Livvi's Place in Yamble Reserve at Ryde. It combines carved and metal poles with metal figures around them and on top of them as well as stone sculptures all set amongst some amazing play equipment that includes a flying fox, a swing style hammock, huge sandpit and climbing equipment.

Livvi's Place
Livvi's Place within Yamble Reserve, Ryde

Another place that has lots of unique sculptures is Sydney Olympic Park and the parks and sporting centres within it. Bicentennial Park has a sundial sculpture, where you can test your time telling, and the Peace Monument, a series of 3 metal sculptures commissioned to celebrate the 1996 International Year of Peace that illustrate what it might be like to look out from space to earth and remember our fragile existence. Bells (representing peace throughout history) are part of these sculptures along with the words - moon, earth and space. Very symbolic that there should be peace everywhere.

Peace Monument, Bicentennial Park
Peace Monument, Bicentennial Park

Cathy Freeman Park, across from ANZ Stadium, has the Olympic Cauldron with the names of all the medallists from the 2000 Sydney Olympics and Paralympics Games on it. Nearby is a blue sculpture called Eight Women representing some of our best female athletes that carried the torch to light the Cauldron for the Games.

Eight Women, Cathy Freeman Park
Eight Women, Cathy Freeman Park

Other good sculptures in this precinct include Chiron (a centaur half man, half horse) in front of Presidents Plaza, Discobolus in Stockroute Park, The Sprinter in front of the Athletic Centre, sculptured sheep seats set amongst a rose garden and An Eventful Path made up of blocks of cast coloured glass, a steel channel, fluorescent lights and concrete panel.

Sheep seat
Sheep seat in rose garden, Dawn Fraser Ave

Sydney Olympic Park
Chiron & The Sprinter, Sydney Olympic Park

Heading into the city, museums and galleries are good places to see sculptures and our historical buildings, such as Sydney Town Hall, the Queen Victoria Building and Customs House, have some great carvings on them and stories behind them. Take a good look next time you're walking by Town Hall and you'll see the carving of a lion's head on the George St side with one eye shut. A stonemason did this as a back-handed salute to a supervisor, that whilst checking the stonework was laid correctly, used to close one eye.

Fountains are creatively carved and usually provide relaxation in parks with the sounds of flowing water. The Archibald Fountain in Hyde Park North is well-known and a favourite of the lunchtime office crowd during the week. It was erected in 1932 and commemorates the association between France and Australia during World War I. A bronze Apollo is surrounded by mythical horses' heads, dolphins and tortoises spouting water through jets.

Archibald Fountain, Hyde Park
Archibald Fountain, Hyde Park North

Another favourite fountain of mine is the Dancing Brolgas in Darling Harbour. Made of bronze in 1998, 12 birds surround a spiral of water and are illuminated at night. They can now change colour and be colour-themed for different events.

Dancing Brolgas, Darling Harbour
Dancing Brolgas, Darling Harbour

Speaking of Darling Harbour, it has its fair share of the sculpted form. The Chinese Garden of Friendship has 12 hidden sculptures depicting the animals of the Chinese Lunar calendar and they have The Emperor's Quest where you are given a map and become a detective to go and find these legends and discover which animal represents your birth sign. A bit of fun for kids and like-minded adults. Then there's wax sculptures at Madame Tussaud's, situated on Aquarium Wharf and showcasing movie stars, sporting stars, and more.

Madame Tussaud's Sydney
Madame Tussaud's, Darling Harbour

Other sculptures around the area include The Diver at Palm Grove, the yellow Jay Flowers outside the entrance to the IMAX Theatre, and Tidal Cascades circular water feature outside Bayside Lounge that spirals down to a centre ball sculpture.

I've mostly spoken about our permanent sculptures but the temporary ones are equally interesting and are usually part of a festival. Vivid Sydney has the light sculpture walk around Circular Quay from the Opera House to The Rocks and Walsh Bay in May/June each year and Sculpture by the Sea in October/November each year takes place from Bondi to Tamarama with the coastal walk and Marks Park in the middle atop the jutting headland. I've been to both festivals twice now and each year is different with unique sculptures. Great events not to be missed.

Vivid Sydney 2014
Vivid Sydney 2014

Vivid Sydney 2014
Vivid Light 2014


Sculpture by the Sea 2011
Sculpture by the Sea 2011

Sculpture by the Sea 2013
Sculpture by the Sea 2013

Ice sculpting and snow festivals with sculptures are now popular events to attend in winter months. Darling Harbour has Cool Yule and 2014 had the Cool Iceberg in Cockle Bay and the magical Frozen Forest with icicles, white fir trees, snow bursts and spectacular lighting. Parramatta Westfields had an ice sculptor for a couple of nights before he took off a bit further afield to the Hunter Valley Gardens for the Snow Festival to do some ice carving demonstrations there.

Ice penguins
Penguins carved from ice during the Snow Festival at HVG

Lastly, sand sculptures and the Hawkesbury International Sand Sculpting Championships is an event on from Boxing Day to Australia Day this year. Held at McQuade Park in Windsor, the theme is still to be announced but previous themes have been 'Fairytales' and 'The Lost World'. Always a good event with children catered for with various activities.

The Lost World sand sculptures
One of the Lost World sand sculptures

I'm sure there's a lot of other suburbs and great sculptures in Sydney that I haven't discovered. If you know of any good ones then please leave a message in the comments box below.
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Your Comment
The Dancing Brolgas is my favourite.
by Bastion Harrison (score: 4|12626) 2848 days ago
This is a very comprehensive article on many sculptures around greater Sydney and over a number of years. Thanks for all the research you put into this!
by ecook0 (score: 1|28) 573 days ago
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