“I want people to feel visible”: 9 artists discuss seeing their work on a construction site

Learn the stories behind the artworks on Sydney’s inner city hoardings.

Australian artists have been getting creative with our city’s construction sites since 2016, turning dull hoardings into fabulous artworks.

Artists and designers are invited to apply for our next Site Works creative hoardings program. It's a paid opportunity and applications close on Thursday 9 June.

We thought it was perfect timing to ask recent artists what it’s like to see their work on a construction site.

Unvanished by Kent Morris__

Unvanished reveals the continued presence and patterns of Aboriginal history, knowledge and culture in the contemporary Australian landscape.

Unvanished by Kent Morris. Photo: Chris Southwood / City of Sydney

"Through my artworks, shapes in our environment are being re-imagined and reconstructed to reflect the long history of First Nations people in this country and to reaffirm continuity, identity and connectivity," artist Kent Morris said.

Unvanished in Pitt Street mall in the city centre. Photo: Chris Southwood / City of Sydney

The artwork shows native birds interacting with the built environment, portraying how birds have adapted to technology and colonialism.

"Unvanished reflects the ways in which Indigenous cultures survive and adapt, both while still at great risk."

Suspended Figures by Prudence Stent and Honey Long

Suspended Figures is a series of fluid shapes created by bodies, fabric and wind. The photographs were taken over several years and are usually displayed as individual artworks. This is the first time the shapes have been combined.

Suspended Figures by Prudence Stent and Honey Long. Photo: Anna Kucera
Suspended Figures on the corner of Barrack and York Streets, Sydney. Photo: Anna Kucera

“We hope our work provides an interesting break in the cityscape and sparks people’s thoughts and feelings about their own bodily experiences,” artists Prudence Stent and Honey Long said.

The artists said the City of Sydney’s creative hoardings program has been a great opportunity to reach a wider audience and display artwork outside the gallery context.

“It’s also been fun seeing our works produced on such a large scale!”

Magic Circles by Kieran Butler

Magic Circles by Kieran Butler. Photo: Anna Kucera
208-218 Riley Street, Surry Hills. Photo: Anna Kucera

Magic Circles is a dedication of love and devotion to the LGBTIQ communities.

“I want people to feel visible when they see my work, even if it’s just for a second,” artist Kieran Butler said. 

“I hope it also makes spaces that are often typically very macho feel a little more welcoming.”

Kieran said they loved that construction sites are transformed into something engaging for the public.

“Someone emailed me directly to let me know that my work had made them feel seen while passing one of the hoardings. This helped them to express their truth to the friend they were with. It’s probably the most validating piece of feedback for me to receive as an artist.”

Midnight Zoo by Studio A

Midnight Zoo by Studio A artists: Emily Crockford, Lauren Kerjan, Thom Roberts and Phillip Sidney. Photo: Anna Kucera.
161 Kent Street, Sydney. Photo: Anna Kucera
Social enterprise Studio A tackles the barriers that artists living with intellectual disability face. The Sydney-based studio supports artists to access professional development pathways to achieve their creative aspirations. Midnight Zoo is a collaboration by 4 Studio A artists.

“People can see the animals like they’re at the zoo. There's an elephant, giraffe, zebra, swan and a bear. Maybe the animals are dancing in the zoo!” artsit Emily Crockford said. Emily was the recipient of the Australia Council's prestigious National Arts and Disability Award for an Emerging Artist.

“The fact my art is out in the community, adds a different feel to the neighbourhood and streets. My family was proud of me, seeing my work outside the studio. My partner thinks we need to see more of it, to liven up the city a bit!” artist Phillip Sidney said.

Giant Bonsai by Gary Trinh

Giant Bonsai by Garry Trinh. Photo: Chris Southwood / City of Sydney
400 George Street, Sydney. Photo: Chris Southwood / City of Sydney

Sydney-based artist Gary Trinh’s work shows the magic in the mundane. The collection of giant bonsai were photographed all over Sydney.

“When I see the trees, I inevitably think about climate change and our partnership with nature. In a construction context these thoughts get magnified,” said Gary.

“What excites me is the opportunity to show work outside of a white cube, in a public space, to an audience other than an art-educated one.”

In the future… I want to be a unicorn by Alphabet Studio and students from Crown Street Public School

In the future… I want to be a unicorn by Alphabet Studio and students from Crown Street Public School. Photo: Anna Kucera.
40-46 Wentworth Park Road, Glebe. Photo: Anna Kucera.

What do you get when you ask a group of 5 and 6 year olds to share their future aspirations? An overwhelmingly honest, whimsical and funny piece of art.

Local design collective, Alphabet Studio, worked on this project with students at Crown Street Primary in Surry Hills.

Asked what they want to be in the future, the young artists said:

“… a superhero

“… a scientist so I can do experiments

“… a power ranger

“… a lion dancer”.

“We hope our hoarding gives people reason to smile, think about their own aspirations, memories and future, even if just for a moment,” Paul Clark and Tim Kliendienst of Alphabet Studio said.


BADABABABABBAT-DA by Tegan Wotton. Photo: Anna Kucera.
Pitt St behind World Square, Sydney. Photo: Anna Kucera.

Artist Tegan Wotton was inspired by a simpler time for this nostalgic piece: the 90s, when Super Mario reigned, and you fought your siblings for a prized Nintendo controller.

Ngaarr by Lucy Simpson

Ngaarr by Lucy Simpson. Photo: Anna Kucera.
570 George Street (opposite Town Hall), Sydney. Photo: Anna Kucera.

Derived from the patterning of the inner bark of a gulabaa (eucalypt tree), this artwork was designed to start conversation about care of Country and the contemporary Aboriginal experience. Lucy Simpson wanted to highlight the importance of First Nations placemaking in the built environment.

"I think the impact visual presence has on everyday understanding of contemporary Indigenous culture is just immense," Lucy said.

Time Forms by Lisa Sammut

Time Forms by Lisa Sammut. Photo: Anna Kucera.
7/1 Castlereagh Street, Sydney. Photo: Anna Kucera.

An exploration into how lunar, solar, geological, astronomical and cosmic time unfolds. The artist hopes that when you see this on your daily routine, it will change your perspective, even if for just a moment in time.

“It’s exciting the creative hoardings program is finding unique ways to support artists, recognise diverse and important voices, and disrupt everyday expectations as people walk through the city,” artist Lisa Sammut said.

Make your mark on a site in our city

Your artwork could be up next. We're calling for expressions of interest for art and design concepts for our creative hoardings program.

This is a paid opportunity. We will license 10 original artworks for installation on eligible hoardings across the city.

We invite artworks that respond to the themes of Eora Journey and LGBTIQA+ pride, and encourage applications from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists and designers

Applications close 9 June.

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