Two new iconic Parramatta Eels public artworks that celebrate the past will take pride of place in the heart of Sydney’s Central City following a competitive worldwide selection process.
City of Parramatta Council has commissioned Western Sydney-based artists Claire Healy and Sean Cordeiro, and Indigenous Australian artist Reko Rennie, to create the uniquely Parramatta artworks for the $2.7 billion Parramatta Square precinct.
“These striking pieces tell the story of Parramatta – from our Indigenous foundations to our sporting culture – and will become iconic landmarks of this great City,” City of Parramatta Lord Mayor Cr Bob Dwyer said.
“Parramatta has been a gathering place for thousands of years, and soon these phenomenal artworks by Australian artists will become new meeting spots in the heart of the CBD.”
Claire Healy and Sean Cordeiro’s A Place of Eels is an eight-metre, vertical highly reflective chrome vintage bus, representing the 1960s Leyland Worldmaster bus that legendary Parramatta Eels coach Jack Gibson bought his rugby league team in 1981. The bus was used by the first-grade side for team meetings after their home base at Cumberland Oval was demolished. The team then went on to win back-to-back premierships in 1982 and 1983.
The Healy/Cordeiro artwork also pays homage to other interesting aspects of Parramatta’s past, including the story of The Flying Pieman – a 19th century entrepreneur – as well as reflections on North Parramatta’s Industrial School for Girls, and Parramatta’s early stories of Lebanese migration.
“We are very excited to be given the opportunity to create a monument to Parramatta that celebrates Parramatta’s unique past and reignites local stories for all to experience,” Claire Healy said.
“The aspirational tale of an imaginative gathering space of humble origins leading to incredible success is the central inspiration for our artwork Place of the Eels. The celebration of the brilliant ‘can-do’ vision of Jack Gibson, manifest within the vertical bus, reinforces the idea that Parramatta is a successful, creative gathering space,” Sean Cordeiro said.
Reko Rennie’s Where Eels Lie Down honours the history of the eel in Parramatta through a large-scale work representative of two eels rising from the ground and crossing each other as they play – with the sculptural form taking cues from childhood toys. Visitors will be able to walk under, around and through sections of the painted aluminium and granite artwork, which will reach approximately eight metres high.
“This project provides an opportunity to create a public artwork that speaks to the significant history of Aboriginal culture and identity of the Parramatta region in a contemporary context,” Reko Rennie said.
“Much like it was over thousands of years, the eel sculpture will again make the site a place for gathering, where people from near and far come to share stories, knowledge and time.”
The works were selected from more than 110 submissions – including international artists from the USA, Japan and Spain – by an independent panel comprising representatives from the arts, design, and local government sectors, and were endorsed by Council this week.
Councillors Steven Issa and Dr Patricia Prociv, who were on the selection panel, thanked all those who made submissions and congratulated the winning artists on their proposals.
“There is no doubt these works will provide a ‘wow’ factor to Parramatta Square and become a local attraction,” Cr Issa said.
“They are as vibrant and unique as Parramatta, and I’m excited to see these come to life in the beating heart of our CBD.”
Cr Prociv said: “Both of these artworks will give a voice to our local communities and create a sense of pride in place.
“Their connection to the local Dharug community and Parramatta’s Indigenous history is particularly important, given the cultural significance of Parramatta Square, and will work seamlessly with the surrounding area.”
It is anticipated that the public artworks will be installed by 2022, upon completion of the Parramatta Square public domain.