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'Axis Matrix '- Public Sculpture

A Developer's Percent for Public Art Project

Artists Concept

Public Artwork: 137 Newcastle Street Perth WA




(The Tree of Life and Knowledge).


This concept has been designed in response to the brief. It strives to be a powerful artwork, ‘Strong, Bold and Definitive’. It has been designed specifically to respond to the themes of knowledge and education whilst also reflecting the different cultures that have influenced the development of the Museum Street precinct and which have contributed to its unique character. It particularly aims to:

engage with the public in a way that enhances and contributes to their understanding of the space they inhabit and yet inject into this place a quality of ‘soul, myth magic and imagination.’


 On a practical level, the design is particularly site specific having been developed in close co-operation with the architect. Essentially it visually bursts upward between the two halves of the building forming a powerful link and focus onto the entrance element. 




The design is based on a great “Tree of Life and Knowledge” into which is embedded the Binary code 101010 and combinations thereof, in random patterns, signifying the source of all life and the growth of the tree itself as symbolic of all nature and at the same time, the dynamic subterranean pattern of code that drives all technology today and thus the modern city within which the artwork is set.


The image was inspired by a huge, ancient White Gum tree weaving up through the building, twining and intertwining in a myriad of complex shapes, in a mesmerizing pattern of leaves and branches, whose integral matrix is explored and revealed through it’s fractal composition. Although at 15 meters high this enormous image is extremely powerful, it is ‘lightened’ as it were by it’s expression in glass as a medium, until it seems to float against the backdrop of the clear blue skies of WA.


It is firstly intended as a reminder of the past; an echo of the great Eucalyptus forest, that stood on the shore of the Swan River in this ancient landscape; the oldest exposed landform on earth. Transmuted in light into this modern context, it is symbolic of the dynamism and energy that characterizes our city in the 21st Century and particularly the area of Northbridge, so redolent of vibrant youthful vigour.


The trees of the ancient forest have given way to high-rise pillars of steel, concrete and glass, but their ghosts still stand in the shadows, a ‘Plank’s length’ away, as it were, from our reality and time. The roots of tree symbolism therefore, are buried deep in the subconscious mind and in the souls of all people from the complex synthesis of cultures that comprise the population of Northbridge. As a  major symbol of significance the tree represents the Axis Mundi growing from deep in the earth at the world centre, it’s branches rising up to the heavens in a powerful representation of growth and vigorous life. It is the Tree of Life, the Tree of Knowledge but also the Cosmic Tree providing an axis symbol that unites three planes: sky-branches; earth: trunk; and underworld: roots. The image expresses a point of connection between sky and earth where the four compass directions meet.


It also symbolizes the unique character of this particular district with its ‘strong educational and cultural environment as the precinct that contains most of the leading cultural institutions in WA’. Wise teachers have been depicted throughout time as disseminating their important revelations and knowledge from under the shade of great trees. This concept therefore, specifically reflects the themes of knowledge and education through the image of a tree while acknowledging the many cultures that have contributed to its unique character. The branches literally represent the ‘branches of knowledge’ and the various aspects of multiculturalism that play such an important role in our unique society.


Colour is of major importance in this design concept, which also influences the rendering of the building, ranging through subtle shades of light and darker hues which form a ’canvas’ backdrop to the artwork. As an expression of the tree itself the colour green dominates the image. Combining the blue of the intellect with the emotional warmth of the yellow sun, it signifies wisdom, hope and the continual renewal of life. 




Charles Smith & Joan Walsh-Smith

 March 2010








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