Sydney 2018 Toxic Custard newsletter

The noise of art

Backdated. Posted 24/5/2018

Sydney getaway continued. First stop: a bakery in the Queen Victoria Building, the spectacular 19th century shopping arcade, where we grabbed some croissants for breakfast.

Then to Town Hall Station to hop on a train to inner-city Redfern.

A short walk from Redfern Station is Carriageworks, a former… well, railway carriage workshop, where there’s a farmers market on Saturdays, and art in the adjacent workshop buildings, which have been converted into gallery spaces.

Carriageworks market, Sydney

We browsed through the market — I bought a bottle of hot sauce to take home for my sons — then we took a look at the galleries: the Sydney Biennale was on.

The interactive work “Constellations involved a huge white wall and a baseball bat. You take the bat and hit the wall, then listen to the sounds reverberating through the space.

Unbeknownst to the audience, a concert-size public address system, including multiple subwoofers, microphones and related sound equipment, is hidden within the structure. The sound of the impact between bat and wall is amplified by a massive 120 decibels, reverberating throughout the gallery space and the building.

As you can see from the video, when I had a go, there was a bonus, unexpected sound: that of a scared toddler who had just come around the corner, overwhelmed by the noise. Poor kid.

Some of the other artworks were very cool as well, though nothing quite as interactive.

Biennale Sydney at Carriageworks

From there we had a walk around Redfern, to see if we could find any good street art.

Eventually we found a little, but not much. Ever tried Googling for “street art in Redfern”? No helpful results.

Some lovely terrace houses though.


Street art in Redfern

Redfern Municipal Electric Light Station

Redfern, looking towards UTS

We ducked back to the hotel to grab the present I’d brought up for my cousin’s daughter (that makes her my cousin once removed) and headed out to Marrickville.

It’s a pleasant walk from the station to the park where we were meeting. It’s a very hilly area, and the council has created small parks in a few spots by closing off streets. Probably too hilly for playing football.

Marrickville, Sydney. Fancy a game of kick to kick? 🏉

A post shared by Daniel Bowen (@danielfbowen) on

Further down towards the park and the river, I noted these height markers — I assume every so often the whole area floods, which explains why some houses were elevated above street level. (Zero was street level, not footpath level. I’m not actually two metres tall.)

Flood depth level at Marrickville, Sydney

A lovely park BBQ with my relatives, then we headed by train and bus to my friend K’s place in the inner-west suburb of Forest Lodge for some nibbles, wine, a home made stew and some entertaining conversation.

K showed us through the nearby TramSheds — you guessed it, a former… tram shed, part of the old Rozelle tram depot. They’ve got a restored traditional Sydney R-class tram in there. (Restored in Bendigo, in fact, the same place Melbourne’s W-class trams are restored.)

Restored tram at TramSheds (formerly Rozelle tram depot), Sydney

It never occurred to me before that the traditional Sydney tram colours are the same as the traditional Sydney ferry colours. (I’ll probably write a separate post about public transport modal branding in Sydney. I find it quite interesting.)

I mentioned yesterday the confusion of Sydney authorities as to whether light rail is tram or train. In Melbourne it’s definitely a tram. In Sydney it’s apparently a train, even though it’s branded “L” not “T”:

Sydney L1 light rail warning

We caught the “L1” Light Rail back into the city.

The train tram was quiet at the western end, but got packed when we reached the Casino.

Sydney L1 light rail

We hopped off at Capitol Square and walked back to the hotel. George Street was awash with young party animals, and relatively few civilians, making it somewhat noisy, and the quiet comfort of the hotel even more welcoming.

Sydney 2014 Toxic Custard newsletter

Sydney trip day 2: Friday

Posted 12/11/2014. Backdated to 7/11/2014.

On the morning of day two in Sydney, after a sleep-in, we breakfasted. I’d looked at UrbanSpoon and concluded that every venue reviewed has its share of whingers — it’s a matter of identifying who is complaining about Real Stuff and who is complaining about trivia or a freak bad experience. The Royal in Darlinghurst seemed to have fewer whingers than praisers, so we headed there. They served up some very nice eggs on toast, and a (I’m told) superlatively tasty mushroom dish.

Paddington, Sydney

Escape attempt? The old Darlinghurst Gaol

We then strolled the short distance through Darlinghurst (past the old gaol) to Paddington to have a look along Oxford Street. Although it’s something of a traffic sewer, it’s also got a lot of shopping. A specific shop was M’s aim, and it did not disappoint — though we were highly amused when a delivery bloke asked if she was Judith Lucy. Despite only a passing resemblance, this is in fact a semi-regular occurence.

Next we walked to the Art Gallery of NSW, which on the map isn’t very far from Kings Cross, but in practice involves cutting through numerous backstreets. Thank goodness for Google Maps and GPS on my phone.

Brougham Street, Woolloomooloo

Match sticks (Almost Once, by Brett Whitely), near Gallery of NSW, Sydney

Art Gallery of NSW

The Gallery is in a spectacular building set in the gardens. We’d aimed to do this on a weekday as we wanted to look at the new “blockbuster” exhibition: Pop to Populism — I figured it’d be packed out on weekends.

It had all the greats of the pop art world… Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, and many others including Australians like Brett Whiteley and the not-as-well-known-as-he-should-be Mike Brown. I found myself admiring Brown’s work “Hallelujah”, which scandalised the art world in the late 60s, and then I remembered that he is Age reporter Clay Lucas’s dad, so I couldn’t resist letting Clay know they had four of his works on display.

In a neat coincidence the exhibit shop had Robert Milliken’s book on rock music journalist Lilian Roxon on display, which has a section on the influence my dad played in her story.

Art Gallery of NSW: Roy Lichtenstein: In the car

Art Gallery of NSW: works by Mike Brown

We had lunch in the gallery cafe — delicious but a tad overpriced, as gallery lunches often are, but you can’t help but hope the profits go back into the institution.

From there, a quick walk around the eastern side of the CBD, then back to the hotel. (Have I mentioned how handy it is staying in a hotel that, if it’s not in the city centre, is at least close to a frequent fast train?)

Sydney Hospital

The plan (on local friend KW’s recommendation) was to see Sculpture By The Sea, an event on its final days, at Bondi Beach.

Given we were close to the station, the logical route seemed to be the train to the terminus at Bondi Junction, then the bus.

Bondi Junction wasn’t planned to be the train terminus — various plans had it contining on to North Bondi and Rose Bay, or Randwick, University of New South Wales and Kingsford. Later proposals have suggested extending closer to Bondi Beach, but it hasn’t happened.

While the terminus is well set up as a bus/train interchange (up the escalator from the platforms and you’ll find yourself in a bus interchange, making transfers theoretically easy, unlike say Melbourne’s Box Hill), there were so many people heading to Bondi Beach that the well-advertised route 333 bus connection had a queue of perhaps 150 people.

We joined the back of the queue, slowly shuffling along each time a bus turned up, which according to the timetable was every 10 minutes — on paper that’s frequent for an Australian bus route, but in practice completely inadequate for the passenger numbers.

After perhaps 15 minutes (im)patiently queuing, it was our turn. I watched a bloke come up and queue-jump, and growled at him: “mate, the queue starts over there“. He mumbled something back. He didn’t back off, but he certainly didn’t get aboard ahead of me.

The bus was one of the extended, articulated variety, and was packed to the gills. But at least I could overhear travel advice from that most reputable of sources — English tourists who knew their way around Bondi — so I knew which stop to get off at.

Bondi Junction: Queue for buses to the beach

Bus 333 to Bondi Beach

Bondi Beach: Queue for bus back to Bondi Junction and Sydney city

Bondi Beach: Queue for bus back to Bondi Junction and Sydney city

The queues for the bus back were just as crowded, as you can see from these pics. It seems to be a classic case of where the buses are inadequate for the loads — there’s obviously scope to increase bus services, but in the long term if the popularity of Bondi Beach continues to increase, extending rail might make more sense.

It might also be possible to re-organise bus routes so that they duplicate the trains less. Many Bondi routes go all the way into Sydney’s CBD. But the fare structure penalises bus/train transfers, so this is difficult. (I’ll have more on that in my post about Opal and Sydney public transport.)

Bondi Beach

At Sculpture By The Sea some terrific artists display sculptures, as the event name would suggest, by the sea. It was busy, but not as busy as was expected on the closing weekend. (For that, authorities actually recommended people walk three kilometres from Bondi Junction instead of wait for a bus.)

Unfortunately one work had been removed due to vandalism, but there were still dozens on display.

As in any great gallery, there were some terrific works to admire and reflect upon, and it was a very scenic walk from Bondi Beach to Tamarama Beach.

Sculpture by the sea, Bondi, Sydney

Sculpture by the sea, Bondi, Sydney

Sculpture by the sea, Bondi, Sydney

Rather than walk back and catch the packed 333 again, we caught a local bus from Tamarama back to Bondi Junction station. It too was packed, but the bus driver managed to squeeze everybody on, rather than turn people away. From there a train back to the hotel.

For dinner we stomped around Victoria Street in Darlinghurst looking for something to inspire us, and eventually settled on Sel & Poivre, a French restaurent. All the wait staff seemed to have authentic accents, and the food was utterly delicious.

From there we had a walk around Paddington, and a long exploratory detour via Rushcutters Bay to get “home”.

Culture transport

New sculpture: W-class tram

Speaking of sculpture, there’s a rather splendid new one at the corner of Spencer and Flinders Streets — a full-size replica of a W-class tram.

Tram 1040 sculpture, Melbourne

Officially titled “Raising the Rattler Pole – The Last of the Connies”, it was installed last week, and when I went by a day or two later, appeared to be getting a lot of interest from passers-by.

There’s a fair bit of (not necessarily accurate!) detail on the underside…

Tram 1040 sculpture, Melbourne

City of Melbourne has posted a video of them doing the installation:

Finally, here’s another W-class tram (not the real 1040; this is number 961) photobombing the sculpture:

Photobombing the Tram 1040 sculpture, Melbourne

The artist is David Bell — on his web site are some photos of the sculpture being built.

Apparently it lights up at night… must go past sometime after dark to take a look.


Sunday art: Dog poetry / Street art

Dog poetry

I wandered, lonely as a dog
With my peeps to Footscray Hill,
Amongst the grass, dirt and city views,
And just the occasional golden daffodil.

I wandered, lonely as a dog

Street art

Probably overlooked by most, this is inside a road sign on Centre Road.

Art inside a road sign

Culture transport

How to find the transport mural at Southern Cross Station

Before you go looking for it, be sure to read the updates at the bottom.

The gigantic transport mural was perhaps one of the best features of the old Spencer Street station. By Harold Freedman, it depicts the first century of Victoria’s transport — from 1835 to 1935. It was commissioned by the state government in 1973, and unveiled in 1978.

Transport mural in "Spencer Street" shopping centre at Southern Cross Station

Following the rebuilding and (pointless) renaming, it’s been hidden away in the shopping centre where it’s virtually invisible to most people. (But hey, at least it has been retained on public display.)

Here’s how to find it.

Firstly make your way to the Bourke Street end of the station, either via the platforms if you’re coming off a train, or via the escalators.
Southern Cross Station - Bourke St entrance

Go into the shopping centre formerly known as DFO, now called “Spencer Street”.
Entrance to "Spencer Street" shopping centre at Southern Cross Station

Ignore the shops (both open and vacant) and go all the way to the end. Yeah it’s a long way — more than a full city block. (If you’re coming from Lonsdale Street or further north, you can enter part the way along at an entrance at the Spencer/Lonsdale Street intersection.)
"Spencer Street" shopping centre at Southern Cross Station

Once you reach the end, look up, above the shops — there it is.
Transport mural in "Spencer Street" shopping centre at Southern Cross Station

Opposite the mural, in a spot where most wouldn’t notice it, is a stairway (with wheelchair lift) to a viewing area. Make your way up…

Behold, the mural in all its glory.
Transport mural in "Spencer Street" shopping centre at Southern Cross Station

Note the top section is private transport, in the middle public transport, and at the bottom is commercial. This, and the history of the mural, is detailed in the helpful explanatory panel.

The above photo, larger

Update: The mural is included in this Melbourne history app for iTunes and Android.

Update December 2013 — I’m told that changes in the shopping centre mean the mural is not currently able to be accessed and viewed.

Update March 2014This Age article from earlier this month notes the mural is still in place, but is now only viewable via one of the factory outlet stores, and is partially obscured. See also: photo from Marcus Wong.


A little experiment in visual art

When I visit the data centre for work, I get my photo taken for a visitor pass. It’s often on a Friday — casual clothes day. The camera (and/or the printer) is black & white, low-resolution, and slightly awkwardly placed.

For some reason, the visitor passes have been accumulating in my desk drawer. Here are the pictures from some of them, stuck together.


They were a little repetitive, so I’ve only included a dozen of them, and I’ve applied some colours to the second row, and on the third row I’ve tried a few visual effects in Paint.Net.

Not exactly Warhol, is it. The other thing it reminds me a little of is the cover of A Hard Day’s Night. Ah well, something different, anyway.

(The full set, unmodified)

Culture transport

Metro mosaic

The mural at Patterson station that I noted some time ago has now been completed and officially opened.

It includes a rather neat mosaic version of the Metro logo:

Metro logo: Mosaic mural, Patterson station

More faces contributed by (mostly) local community groups and schools have been added. Note Bender from Futurama in there.

Mosaic mural, Patterson station

Apparently they got sponsorship from Bostick for sticking everything to the walls!

Mosaic mural, Patterson station

It certainly brightens up what was a dreary old underpass. Well done to Pamela Irving, who organised the project.

Culture Melbourne

Hidden gems

There’s vandalism, and then there’s street art.

Some have trouble distinguishing them, but for me, it’s not hard to see that these hidden gems in Finlay Lane (off Little Lonsdale Street, near Queen Street) are clearly the latter.

Street art, Finlay Lane, Melbourne

Street art, Finlay Lane, Melbourne

Street art, Finlay Lane, Melbourne

Street art, Finlay Lane, Melbourne

Street art, Finlay Lane, Melbourne

Well worth a look, if you’re passing (and you can find it!)

Culture transport

The surrealist tram

Surrealist tram

(Probably my favourite lightbulb joke when they were all the rage was:

Q. How many surrealists does it take to change a light bulb?

A. Two. One to hold the giraffe and the other to fill the bathtub with brightly coloured machine tools.)

Culture Melbourne

Solar Equation

Solar Equation, by Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, part of Federation Square’s The Light In Winter, is a simulation of the sun, “100 million times smaller than the real thing”.

Here’s how it looks in daytime, when inactive:
Solar Equation (inactive)

At dusk it fires up:
Solar Equation