Explore public art in Batman’s Hill

Explore public art in Batman’s Hill

By Tim Martin

Hello again from Batman’s Hill. It seems every time I put fingers to keyboard, we are at the height of lockdown.

For that reason, I thought yet again I’d give you something to do when you are out exercising. This time I will tell you about the public art you should be checking out in Batman’s Hill. There’s lots of it, so much in fact that I won’t be able to cover it all here, but I’ll provide a taste.

Before I start, you may not be aware that there is an app available on Google Play and the App Store which provides guided art and historical tours around Docklands. It’s called Docklands Walking Tours and, while not perfect, is still definitely worthwhile. Check it out.

I’ll start outside the World Trade Centre on the Siddley St roundabout opposite the newly opened Melbourne Quarter residential tower. There is a sculpture of what looks like an emaciated, distorted, panicked horse in the middle of the roundabout. I know nothing about it but feel it’s got a bit of a 1960s vibe. It’s a great piece but if you’re feeling happy, maybe give this one a miss!

From there, walking up Siddley St, away from the city there is a tiny laneway called Wharf Lane on the left where you will see a big strange kind of fish on a stick. Further down the laneway there are three more fish on sticks. If you don’t recognise them, these were some of the fish that floated down the Yarra during the opening ceremony of the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games. They were only ever designed to be temporary sculptures so they are looking a little worse for wear in parts but are still clever and interesting pieces of art.

After your fishy experience, keep walking away from the city to the end of Siddley St then cross Wurundjeri Way at the pedestrian lights in front of the multi-storey carpark. Just off to your right, past the Goods Shed you will see Aurora Lane. If you are there at night, look up past Bunjil the Eagle (the giant aboriginal creator and spiritual leader) and you will see a colourful and interesting piece of illuminated art/design on the edge of the Melbourne Quarter podium. It’s okay during the day but better at night.

Right near the entrance to Aurora Lane on the right-hand side there is a newly opened staircase which goes up to Collins St level (and a glass lift a bit further down the lane). Make your way up the stairs, past Bunjil the Eagle and have a look around. It’s all brand new and will be an interesting and vibrant area once people are around again. Again, thanks to the lights, this is better to see at night. Walk through onto Collins St and turn left. Down the hill a little way at Collins Square is a huge structure which looks like it’s made of giant yellow straws and is called Supersonic. It’s inspired by an F-18 fighter breaking the sound barrier and I can see why.

From there, if it’s during office hours take a few steps to the Tower 1 foyer, Collins Square. Directly opposite the entrance is a MASSIVE bright yellow painting called King Sun. It’s by famous Australian artist John Olsen. Because he’s old and not very mobile, he painted it by walking around on it with a paintbrush on the end of a stick. If you’ve got good eyes you might be able to make out some tiny frogs in the painting – obviously a pretty heat tolerant species. You can see a bit of the story on a two-minute video at fourdonkeyfilms.com/the-king-sun-dvd-sales/. If you feel like checking out the foyers of the other (interconnected) Collins Square buildings you will find more spectacular art, particularly some amazing oversized aboriginal artworks.

From there make your way down to Village St which is the street under the Collins St overpass. There’s a lift and stairs under Supersonic. Head towards the river and find Brentani Way on the right. At the end of the street on the left, built into the residential tower (and not very visible because of a tree) is a piece called Wave. It represents all the associations of the word “wave”, particularly those relevant to a former dockyard. Think waving goodbye and hello, the waves in the water, a ship figurehead etc. A few metres past Wave is a covered laneway with a wall filling mural which reminds me of faded old early 20th Century advertising.

At the end of the laneway turn right and walk up Batman’s Hill Drive (nothing to see here), cross Collins St and make your way up Waterview Walk. Two thirds of the way along is a giant black bunny (slightly Jeff Koons-ish) called Signature Work – a bit of fun. At the end of Waterview Walk, turn right at Continuum – the column of people and animals climbing over each other. Make your way up Bourke St back to the corner of Village St where you’ll see three upside down cones of crumpled metal. The piece is called Unfurling (which I guess is a suitable name) and there is a little plaque to read which really doesn’t leave you much the wiser. Meh.

Opposite Unfurling there is a bell tower built with brick from the section of the Goods Shed that was knocked down to build the Collins St overpass. It is supposed to chime at civil twilight every day (which is not sunset - look it up) as a reminder of Dockland’s maritime history. I suppose it chimes but I’ve never heard it. Maybe one day. If you walk back down Village St you’ll find periodic little white plaques on the wall of the Goods Shed with poems, stories and more; all bell related.

Docklands is full of art, some of it quite well hidden. Particularly in these cloistered times it’s worthwhile getting out to explore to see what you can find. I’ll almost guarantee there is something somewhere that will be a surprise.

Until next time, happy exploring •

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