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By Sharne Wolff
To the complacent Sydneysider, Middle Head is just another of the Harbour’s seven headlands – a beautiful piece of natural bushland thousands sail past on the Manly ferry without even throwing a second glance. Dig a little deeper into its heritage and you’ll discover that Middle Head isn’t just a nice spot for a champagne picnic. Occupied by Indigenous Australians for thousands of years then farmed and later fortified as one of the Harbour’s three sentinels or “gatekeeper[s] to the Continent”, the rich history of this place has often been overlooked. The Middle Head Project is the culmination of eighteen months work by fifteen contemporary artists commissioned by Mosman Art Gallery to develop works that shine a 21st century light on a special landscape.
Giving consideration to the secrets of the natural environment are Geraldine Berkemeier’s delicate installation of aluminium lichen, Sophie Cape’s considered but raw etchings and canvases and Jumaadi’s cardboard Strange Fruit. Ben Quilty, known for his paintings of Captain Cook, has engaged with the area’s colonial past by creating an oversized bronze of Cook’s head covered in lichen. Jason Wing’s Duty Free and Fossil Fuel also consider the effect of colonial settlement on existing Indigenous populations. Amongst those works focusing on Middle Head’s extensive military stories are Sylvia Schwenk’s contemporary video filmed at HMAS Penguin Naval Base and Catherine O’Donnell’s detailed charcoal drawings of historic buildings and gun mountings in the area.
Other artists involved include Mark Brown, Tom Carment, Nicole Ellis, Peter Nelson, Abdullah M.I. Syed, Anne Zahalka, and Artists in Transit (Ro Murray & Susie Williams).
Until November 17
Pic: Catherine O’Donnell, Silent Sentinel 2013, Charcoal on paper, 150cm x 216cm Courtesy the artist and Mosman Art Gallery.
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