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Herring Island Heritage Note


Herring Island Heritage Note

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									V I C TO RIA’S
       H ERITAGE
By Mary Ryllis Clark, circa 2000

They say in the Middle East that if you
drink the water from the River
Euphrates, you will always return.
Perhaps this act forms a memory
trace, a link to the past for the wistful

It is a long time since anyone
quenched their thirst from the waters
of the Yarra but the river does have a
presence - a pull - for Melburnians,
whether to walk quietly by its side, sit
noisily with friends by the barbecues
on its banks or contemplate its muddy
depths from Princes Bridge.

Herring Island, which has an
environmental sculpture park and art One of the many sculptures on display at Herring Island.
gallery, offers another perspective on                 taken from the tunnel under the Yarra that was
old mother Yarra: an adventure and an escape           being blasted out at the time, it works on a
only possible by taking a punt from Como               number of levels.
Landing on Alexandra Avenue. It only takes a
few minutes but is enough to convey a sense            From the road it looks like an interesting pile of
of journey.                                            rocks; from the landing place like a rough-
                                                                         hewn pathway in which subtle carving
                                                                         suggests the shapes of native birds and
                                                                         animals. "I wanted to work in bluestone
                                                                         because the site used to be part of a bluestone
                                                                         quarry," Collins says. "It was like giving
                                                                         something back to the island." The work
                                                                         introduces visitors to the idea that the island is
                                                                         rather more than a marooned patch of bush in
                                                                         the city.

                                                                         Herring Island is man-made. Once part of
                                                                         Richmond, it was a basalt quarry in the 1800s
                                                                         providing bluestone blocks for Melbourne.
                                                                         Later it became the repository for silt dredged
The Audience, created by Julie Collins.                                  from the river and was cut off from the land to
                                                                         reduce the likelihood of flooding.
Travellers alight in front of a sculpture built into                     The artificial island was named Como after the
the hollow of the island's levee bank by                                 grand mansion on the hill above it on the
Melbourne sculptor Julie Collins. Entitled                               South Yarra side of the river. Nearby
‘Audience’ and created in 1997 from bluestone                            residents, such as the artist Fred McCubbin,

                            For more information call the Parks Vi ctoria Information Centre
                            on 13 1963 or visit our website at w w w.parkw
       H ERITAGE
would walk down to the jetty opposite Como                           in 1994 which, in its new guise as Parks
Island to take the punt across the river to                          Victoria, decided to bring the all but forgotten
Richmond.                                                            island back to life.

                                                                     An imaginative concept was devised by Parks
                                                                     Victoria's Nigel Caswell involving curator
                                                                     Maudie Palmer and the then artistic director of
                                                                     the Melbourne Festival, Clifford Hocking.
                                                                     Palmer was invited to turn the island into a
                                                                     sculpture park. Hocking underwrote the project
                                                                     as part of the 1997 Melbourne Festival.

                                                                     Palmer invited a number of artists to create
                                                                     large-scale sculptures especially for Herring
                                                                     Island using only natural materials harmonious
                                                                     with the tranquil bush setting. The result is a
                                                                     magical mystery tour among the small hills,
                                                                     gullies and banks of the island's 2.8 hectares.

                                                                     Works include ‘Tanderrum’, a symbolic figure
                                                                     combining Mount William greenstone,
                                                                     Castlemaine slate, and red gum and native
                                                                     plants by Torres Strait Islander artist Ellen
                                                                     Jose and Wurundjeri Elder Joy Murphy, and
                                                                     the intriguing ‘A Hill, a River, Two Rocks’ and a
                                                                     Presence’ by Melbourne sculptor John Davis
                                                                     using water, timber, vegetation and limestone.

                                                                     Canberra sculptor Jill Peck has created a
Jill Peck’s Steerage.                                                large-scale boat form entitled ‘Steerage’ at the
                                                                     western end of the island. Made of Harcourt
                                                                     Granite, it is a metaphor for journeys, water
In November 1934, the biggest flood recorded                         and knowledge. On a different level it captures
on the Yarra River submerged the island,                             the mood of the Yarra itself.
sweeping away levee banks, trees and shrubs
put in only months before to protect against                         Other works include two sculptures by Any
flooding. The following year, levee banks were                       Goldsworthy in the only natural valley on the
rebuilt and trees replanted as the island                            island. One is a freestanding ‘Cairn’ of
continued to grow with the dumped dredged                            Castlemaine slate and the other, ‘Stone
silt.                                                                House’, sensitively constructed drystone cave
                                                                     of Dunkeld sandstone forming a resting place
During the 1950s and 1960s, the scouts                               for a large red boulder.
leased Como Island, renaming it after the then
president of the Australian Scout Association,                       In 1998 architect Greg Burgess transformed
Sir Edmund Herring.                                                  the semi-derelict Scout Hall on the far side of
                                                                     the island into a charming art gallery of light
In 1970, Friends of Herring Island together                          and colour. It is used for occasional
with government and local council                                    exhibitions.
representatives managed the island until
Melbourne Parks and Waterways took it over

                        For more information call the Parks Vi ctoria Information Centre
                        on 13 1963 or visit our website at w w w.parkw
       H ERITAGE
A trip to Herring Island in the summer with its
remnants of indigenous forest and grasses, its
sense of isolation, abundant birdlife, stylish
gallery and open-air sculptures, is a refreshing
blend of nature and the creative arts.

The Stone House sculpture, created by Andy Goldsworthy.

Access to Herring Island Environmental
Sculpture Park is by boat only. A punt service
operates at weekends in the summer months
during daylight saving time from Como
Landing on Alexandra Avenue.

                          For more information call the Parks Vi ctoria Information Centre
                          on 13 1963 or visit our website at w w w.parkw

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