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'Vermillion Vortex'- Public Sculpture

A Developer's Percent for Public Art Project

Artists Concept


The intention of this project is to design an artwork that can integrate into the proposed site and fulfill the requirements of the brief, thus communicating an enriching element to enhance the quality of life of the people who live here and engender a sense of place, to which they will want to belong.

This Concept has then its origin in the fundamental ethos of this area which is a microcosm of the city itself, whose original and living symbol is the Black Swan, first discovered in this State and after which the early Dutch and English settlers called Perth: de Swarte Swanne / The Swan River Colony.

The form of the sculpture is an energetic vortex of an abstracted bird motif based on the swan, with connotations of the Kangaroo Paw, energising the point of this intersection of Newcastle Street and Zempilas street. The artwork therefore responds to the proposed site, both symbolically and physically, creating a node point which connects this intersection to the surrounding district. Appearing to be just about to `take flight' from the building, it is visually dynamic, contemporary; with endlessly changing viewpoints appropriate to its three-dimensional contours. It is designed to act as a counterpoint to the strong linear graphics of the architecture, while picking up the red accent from the structure.

The Swan is the bird of life. In the context of the Lake Street district and as a theme in response to the brief, it has the capacity to metamorphosize conceptually into many themes. It is therefore reflective of the ethnic diversity of the area, particularly the indigenous inhabitants of the region, for whom the Black Swan was a powerful, elemental force as reflected in their myths and legends

Symbolically, birds represent `transcendence'; thought; imagination: a higher state of consciousness and above all: freedom, a quality of life that so many have come to this City to seek and have found here. Large birds, such as the Swan are an expression of powerful forces, manifesting a combination of the union of air and water and are associated with wind gods.The swan is a potent symbol of migration, reflective in this situation of migrant people who have come here from all parts of the globe.

As a vital symbol of good fortune and longevity, to Chinese and Asian people generally, bird motifs abound in art. Although essentially based on the swan, this concept has many connotations of the `Vermillion Bird' in this particular format, which is one of the 4 spiritually endowed or sacred creatures and of major significance to those of an Asian background.

In Hindu Culture, birds represent intelligence and are also a sacred symbol. Brahma rides a swan or goose, which is his emblem, having been born from the golden egg, which this divine bird laid on the waters of life.

To the Celts, birds were messengers of the gods and swan deities were solar and beneficial, bringing to mankind the therapeutic powers of the sun and waters, especially through the magic of their song.

In Greco- Roman mythology, the Swan is a form of Zeus/Jupiter as Leda's Swan and is sacred to Aphrodite/Venus and Apollo

In abstracting this triple- element bird form, the sculpture further evolves into a spiral motif which is an almost universal symbol as a manifestation of energy. It is the vortex, spinning and weaving the web of life: the wind, and the whirl of the air and waters, symbolizing life and the generative forces that are at the heart of this city, full of life and people, particularly the youthful dynamism of this district. As the centre of pulsating energy, and Perth's major entertainment and night life area, the spiral in itself, represents this hub of energy that is engendered by the dynamic vigor of Northbridge and the Lake Street Precinct, within which 255 Newcastle Street is situated.

This dynamic red whirling 'Vermillion Vortex', creates as its `raison d'etre', a current of energy which is redolent of the vibrancy of vigorous life forms rotating and pulsating all around it..

Charles Smith & Joan Walsh-Smith








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