UNSW Public Art on Campus

Curator's Introduction

Public art has been integral to UNSW since its inception. From its earliest days the University has engaged leading contemporary artists to work closely with architects on building projects and placed sculptures in its grounds.

In 1955 the first building to be opened on the Kensington campus included a major art commission. At over fourteen metres high, Tom Bass’s relief sculpture The Falconer at the entrance to the Old Main building was a public symbol of the values and aspirations of the fledgling university.

As the university grew, art was commissioned for more buildings: Douglas Annand’s abstract mosaic murals for the Dalton building (1958) complement its functionalist, modernist architecture; Herbert Flugelman’s large figurative sculpture was sited in the courtyard of the award-winning Phillip Goldstein Hall (1964), and Mona Hessing created a monumental weaving for the foyer of the Sir John Clancy Auditorium (1971).

All of these projects embodied the university’s commitment to integrate the latest contemporary art with the best of modern architecture on the Kensington campus.

The next phase of public art at UNSW came in 1992 as a result of the Campus Development Strategy which recommended the placement of sculpture in the University’s grounds. With the assistance of the U-Committee, philanthropic funds were raised to purchase five new works, followed by two site-specific commissions, awarded to Bronwyn Oliver in 2001 and Kate Cullity in 2006.

The ongoing care and management of the University’s public art is shared by Estate Management and the Art Unit. In 2019 a joint program to revitalise campus art began with the restoration of Douglas Annand’s Dalton building stairwell mosaics. While some sculptures have been relocated as the campus continues to be developed, the recent refurbishment of Clancy Auditorium has re-established Mona Hessing’s tapestry as the centrepiece of the foyer.

The University founders’ belief in the importance of public art to provide students and staff with everyday encounters with art and culture continues to inform the UNSW campus development with the establishment of a Public Art Advisory Committee in 2018. 

Elena Taylor

Senior Curator of Art, UNSW Art Collection 

UNSW Sculpture Walk

Bruce Armstrong (b. 1957)

It’s her time now 1992

River Red Gum 138 x 103 x 97cm

UNSW Art Collection. Purchased with funds from the U Committee, 1992

Location: Tigger's Place Early Learning Centre 22 Botany Street, Randwick

Melbourne artist Bruce Armstrong is well known for his roughly-hewn sculptures of animals and fantastical creatures which he began making after leaving art school in the mid-1980s. It’s her time now is characteristic of Armstrong’s works. The artist has used a chainsaw to carve the work from a single piece of River Red Gum, deliberately leaving the marks made by the chainsaw visible, believing this gives his work, ‘much greater feeling of being alive and vibrant, with not faults but features. Less can be more in finishing a sculpture or a painting’.

Armstrong’s monolithic works can have an imposing presence, and the artist has often spoken of his fascination with the monumental sculpture of ancient civilizations such as the Egyptians and Assyrians. However, they can also have a playfulness and child-like sensibility, appearing approachable and friendly. Placed at the entrance to Tigger's Place Early Learning Centre, It’s her time now acts as a kind of guardian figure, standing watch over the children as they arrive.

UNSW Sculpture Walk

James Rogers (b.1956)

The bath 1990

Mild Steel, Enamel Paint 215 x 91 x 46 cm

UNSW Art Collection. Purchased with funds from the U Committee, 1992

Location: Gate 11 Entrance, outside the AGSM Building

Throughout his career, Australian sculptor James Rogers has used the sculptural technique of assemblage to create his works. Working predominately with recycled materials including scrap metal, Rogers joins these together, allowing each piece to retain its unique identity and evidence of a past life. Their worn surfaces, peeling paint and rust, adding character and a tactile quality to the final work.

While The bath is primarily an abstract composition, its title gives a clue to how the work can also be regarded. The tall vertical form suggests a figure standing under a shower, with the curvilinear forms conveying the idea of spraying water. The work has a strong linear quality, the effect akin to a three-dimensional drawing in space.

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Credit: Lahznimmo Architects

Mona Hessing (1933- 2001)  

Banner  1971

Wool, Silk 245.0 x 2375.0 cm

UNSW Art Collection. Commissioned in 1970 with funds from the U Committee

Located: Clancy Auditorium, foyer 

In the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s Mona Hessing was at the forefront of a new generation of Australian women artists. She was highly regarded for her experimental tapestries which claimed a place for this traditionally female, craft-based practice within the male-dominated hierarchy of art.

In 1970 Hessing was commissioned to create a 24-metre-long site-specific work for the new Sir John Clancy Auditorium. Hessing’s tapestry Banner is integrated perfectly with the building’s Brutalist architecture. Installed on a long, low wall above the entrance to the auditorium, the rich colours and dynamic texture of the woven and knotted wool provides contrast and warmth to the foyer’s austere concrete walls, and the vertical tapestry panels echo the rectangular forms of the ceiling coffers. The choice of a contemporary female artist for a work of this scale and prominence was a bold and forward-thinking decision by the University. Hessing had previously made a small woven wall hanging for Goldstein Hall, however the size and architectural integration of Banner place it among the University’s most significant public art commissions. The work took almost a year to complete, with Hessing engaging weavers in Panipat, India to hand-loom the 126 individual panels.

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Credit: Lahznimmo Architects

Banner is one of the most important examples of modern textile art in Australia, and one of the few works by Hessing still in its original location.

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Patricia Lawrence (b.1930)

Torso turning 1993

Bronze 170 x 116 x 140 cm

UNSW Art Collection. Purchased 1993

Location: North Chancellery Lawn

For hundreds of years the study of the human figure has been central to the western tradition in art.  Patricia Lawrence’s Torso turning engages directly with this tradition. It employs the torso format, where only the trunk of a figure, without arms, head or legs is represented. Lawrence’s work is stylised and abstract, yet still strongly figurative: a sequence of fluid curves and undulating hollows suggests movement while convex surfaces suggest the outward pressure of internal forces.

Patricia Lawrence began making sculpture when in her fifties and studied both in the USA and Australia. In 1990 Lawrence spent three months in Stockholm, Sweden where she began her sculptural investigations of the torso and head. She considers that sculpting the human figure is an endless fascinating challenge, her works contemplating the shared experiences of human existence through the physical shape of the body.

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Augustine Dall’Ava (b. 1950)

Aspects from time 1981

Mild steel, stainless steel, enamel paint, river stones 210 x 503 x 60 cm

UNSW Art Collection. Commissioned with funds from the U Too Group and the Visual Arts Board of the Australia Council, 1981

Location: Vice Chancellor’s Garden

A visit to Japan in 1976 influenced Augustine Dall'Ava's work significantly, beginning a life-long appreciation of Japanese art and culture. Aspects of Time reflects this interest in Japanese aesthetics and belongs to a series of works that are based upon the structure of a folding screen. The work consists of six hinged panels, each containing a harmonious arrangement of suspended elements including an anvil, a clock weight and river stones, that embody references to the passing of time. A work of formal beauty and conceptual clarity, Dall’Ava’s intention was ‘to invoke a feeling of peace and tranquility.’

Aspects from time was Augustine Dall'Ava's first public commission and one of the first non-figurative sculptures acquired by the University. Dall'Ava selected the original location at the end of the Anzac Parade walkway in 1980, but due to the extension of the Mall in 1997 the work was moved to the Vice-Chancellor's Courtyard within a Japanese-style garden. From Italian heritage, Dall’Ava came to Australia as a child. He studied sculpture at RMIT, Melbourne and is one of Australia’s most highly regarded sculptors.

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Zenos Frudakis (b. 1951)

Martin Luther King Jr  2018

Bronze 71 x 53.5 x 30.5 cm

Commissioned with funds from the United States Government and UNSW alumni living in the US, 2018

Location: Library Lawn

Martin Luther King Jr (1929—68) was a Baptist minister who became the most visible spokesperson and leader in the modern American Civil Rights Movement. Drawing inspiration from his Christian faith and the peaceful teachings of Mahatma Gandhi, Dr King led a nonviolent movement to achieve legal equality for African Americans in the United States. 

American sculptor Zenos Frudakis is well-known for his commemorative sculpture and portraits. His most famous work is the monumental Freedom sculpture in Philadelphia which symbolises the universal human struggle to break free. In 2017 he was commissioned by UNSW to create a portrait bust of Martin Luther King Jr and decided to incorporate a small version of the Freedom sculpture in the base of the work.

Martin Luther King’s quote ‘Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that’, is inscribed on the sculpture’s plinth.

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Maureen Quin (b. 1934)

Nelson Mandela 2013

Bronze 80.9 x 36.2 x 72.4 cm

Commissioned 2012

Location: Library Lawn

Nelson Mandela (1918—2013) was a civil rights activist who led a campaign of nonviolent protest against the South African government’s racist apartheid policies. After spending 27 years in prison for his political activities, in 1994 Mandela was elected President of South Africa in its first fully democratic election, becoming the country’s first black head of state.

In 2012 South African sculptor Maureen Quin was selected to create a bust of Mandela for UNSW. Quin’s larger than life sculpture depicts Mandela in an informal pose, smiling and leaning forward as though engaged in conversation. His shirt is engraved with images of African animals to represent his deep love for his country.

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Ram V Sutar (b. 1925)

Mahatma Gandhi 1975 cast 2010

Bronze 78 x 97 x 50 cm

Gift of the people and Government of India to the people and Government of NSW and UNSW, 2010

Location: Library Lawn

Mahatma Gandhi (1869—1948) led the successful campaign for India's independence from British Rule and is considered the father of his country. Gandhi is esteemed for his doctrine of non-violent resistance and he continues to inspire human rights movements around the world. This work was presented by the Government of India to celebrate the close ties between India and UNSW and the people of NSW.

Delhi-based sculptor Ram V Sutar grew up in Dhulia, a village in northern Maharashtra, and studied art in Mumbai. He is well-known for his sculptures of Gandhi which have been installed in more than 200 cities across the world. Sutar is the designer of the Statue of Unity, the world's tallest statue with a height of 182 metres in the state of Gujarat, India. In 2016 Sutar was awarded the Padma Bhushan by the Government of India.

The base of the sculpture is engraved with Gandhi's quote ‘An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind’.

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Louise Zhang (b. 1991)

Waves of chrysanthemums 2019

Painted mural 250 x 1103.8 cm (variable): 250 x 1176.1 cm (variable)

UNSW Library Alumni Mural Program Commission, 2019

Location: Main Library, Level 2

Painted on both sides of the ground floor lift foyer, Louise Zhang’s mural Waves of chrysanthemums provides a vibrant entrance to the Main Library. Zhang’s work is rich in Chinese and Western symbolism; larger-than-life chrysanthemums overlay a fantastical imagined landscape of rising suns and raining liquid forms in rich and seductive colours. Many of these symbols are found throughout Zhang's work and embody a duality of meaning, such as the rising red sun.

Zhang first saw a red sun rising in the sky while visiting family in China in 2016, describing it as ‘apocalyptic … but in China, it is seen as beautiful and sublime’. Drawing from her experience as a ‘third culture kid’, Zhang reconciles her Chinese and Western identities through an interplay of colour, form and scale, asking us as viewers to question what we 'see' and how this is informed by our lived experiences, family background, education, friends and beliefs.

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Waves of chrysanthemums was the inaugural commission of the UNSW Library Alumni Mural Program. Zhang is a recent graduate of UNSW Art & Design. 

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Lisa Sammut (b. 1984)

Waiting room 2019

Painted mural 250 x 1103.8 cm (variable): 250 x 1176.1 cm (variable)

UNSW Library Alumni Mural Program Commission, 2019

Location: Main Library, Level 3

Lisa Sammut’s wall mural Waiting room embodies the curiosity and sense of possibility of the cosmos, echoing the spheres and stars, constellations and planetary bodies that make up the night sky. With an interest in celestial architecture, Sammut has sought to create a space where visitors can experience time, consider the mysteries of the universe and contemplate their next action. Sammut has used a subdued colour palette and found images, reminiscent of astronomical objects and phenomena, to depict forms and shapes in various states of change. Seemingly oscillating in space, these forms are imbued with a sense of energy on the precipice of movement.

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Waiting room is the second commission of the UNSW Library Alumni Mural Program. Sammut is a recent graduate of UNSW Art & Design.

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Tom Bass (1916—2010)

Joseph Ormand Aloysius Bourke 1967

Bronze 30 x 24 x 4 cm

UNSW Art Collection. Commissioned 1966

Location: Morven Brown Courtyard

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This plaque commemorates the contribution of Joseph Bourke, first bursar of the University, to the development of UNSW. Tom Bass sculpted the bronze relief portrait of Bourke, which is mounted on the central standing stone behind the pool. Located beneath a canopy of a mature jacaranda, the fountain offers a place of respite and reflection within the quiet garden courtyard.

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Sanggawâ (est. 1994)

Paloob Sa labas (Getting into the out) 1995

Painted mural

Commissioned by UNSW in 1995

Photography: UNSW Archives 

Location: Central Lecture Block

Formed in the Philippines in late 1994, the Sanggawâ art collective was well known for its activist art and mural painting projects. Translating as ‘to work as one’, their collaborative practice sought to interrogate and critique the socio-political conditions of the Philippines during the 1990s, highlighting issues such as injustice and corruption. Depicting political and religious personalities, their works juxtaposed images of power, privilege and greed with suffering and poverty in a highly expressive, figurative style.

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In 1995 five members of Sanggawâ; Elmer Borlongan, Karen Flores, Mark Justiniani, Joy Mallari and Federico Sievert came to Australia to accompany an exhibition of their work at the Ray Hughes Gallery in Sydney. Coinciding with the opening of the exhibition, the group was invited to paint a mural on the UNSW campus. The finished mural was the largest ever created by the group and one of only two works by Sanggawâ to remain in Australia. It reflects a moment of intense collaboration and belief in the power of art as a driver of social change.

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Bert Flugelman (1923—2013)

Six figure group 1964

Bronze 240 x 432 x 59 cm

UNSW Art Collection. Commissioned 1963

Location: Goldstein Courtyard

At the age of fifteen, Herbert ‘Bert’ Flugelman came to Australia from his native Vienna as a refugee from Nazism. After the Second World War Flugelman studied sculpture in Sydney before travelling in Europe and America for several years. On his return in the late 1950s, Flugelman worked in a highly expressive, semi-figurative style, of which his Six figure group is an important example. This work draws heavily upon the example of the great British sculptor Henry Moore whose sculptures were concerned with the interior and exterior space of the body, and similarly Flugelman has created openings in his figures which are revealed internal forms. In response to its intended placement, Flugelman’s sculpture is essentially frontal, the figures placed in a line, to create a rhythmical movement of mass and void. While Flugelman achieved success with works in this style, a few years later his work changed radically when he began creating large-scale, minimalist sculptures in stainless steel for which he became well-known.

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Phillip Goldstein Hall, 1965 (Photographer Max Dupain, UNSW Archives, CN122/113)

Six figure group was UNSW’s third major public art commission for a new building. Placed on a plinth in a shallow pool in the courtyard of Goldstein Hall, Six figure group is an integral part of the building’s design, the rough texture and organic shapes of the sculpture providing a contrast to the functional modernist architecture. In 1964 Goldstein Hall was awarded the prestigious Sir John Sulman Medal by the Royal Australian Institute of Architects.

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Bronwyn Oliver (1959–2006)

Globe 2002

Copper 300 cm (diam.)

UNSW Art Collection. Commissioned with the assistance of the U Committee, 2001

Location: International Square

With their suggestion of movement and growth, Bronywyn Oliver's sculptures evoke the vitality of living forms. In 2001 Oliver won the UNSW competition for a sculpture for the recently completed International Square. The artist drew inspiration from both the natural plantings and the architectural geometry of the surrounding buildings to propose a simple yet powerful statement for the site. Globe is one of Oliver’s most successful works, self-contained and in harmonious relationship with its setting. In the form of a sphere and made from welded copper wire, its intricate construction resembles the interlocking veins of a leaf and creates a spiralling motion across the surface of the work. While its size and simplicity give it a substantial presence, its open construction gives it transparency and a sense of lightness. Since it was installed in 2002, Globe has become an iconic landmark of the Kensington campus.

Oliver is regarded as one of Australia’s most significant sculptors who made a unique contribution to this art form. She had a long association with UNSW: from 1977 to 1980 she studied at Alexander Mackie College of Advanced Education, which later became UNSW Art & Design, and in 2006 received the Dean’s Award for Excellence.

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Jock Clutterbuck (b.1945)

Parousia  1992

Bronze 245 x 250 x 95 cm

UNSW Art Collection. Commissioned with funds from the U Committee, 1992

Location: Ainsworth Lawn

Jock Clutterbuck’s works convey an esoteric mysticism echoing the ancient Greek and Islamic worlds. He creates abstract patterns and sequences, often using linear forms to reference architecture whose titles are suggestive of ancient monarchs, religious and mythic figures. Parousia is an ancient Greek word meaning the physical presence of a person, and the prospect of the arrival of that person, especially an emperor or king. Clutterbuck’s title provides an insight into the imposing figurative character of his work which stands at almost two and a half metres high. An open, linear sculpture, it consists of a flat oval form raised on three legs, one in front of the others, giving an impression of forward movement.

To make the work the artist constructed a full-size model from blocks of polystyrene. This was used to create a mould into which molten bronze was poured. In this process the polystyrene was burnt out, leaving rough edges and a pockmarked texture on the bronze. The artist chose to leave these marks and coloured the sculpture with a blue/green patina to resemble the appearance of an ancient artefact. He has stated, ‘I am much more fascinated by things that are very old than by where we are currently. They are intensely human. I have great respect for these early cultures.’

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Tom Bass (1916—2010)

Fountain figure 1959

Electrolytic Copper 72 x 186 x 87 cm

UNSW Art Collection. Commissioned 1958

Location: Chancellor's Garden

Fountain figure was Tom Bass’s second commission for UNSW, coming only a few years after his success with The Falconer. Within the peaceful Chancellor’s Court adjacent to the Old Main Building, a single reclining figure, face turned to the sun, rests dreamily on one elbow beside a small pool, while water trickles from a shell in her outstretched hand into a bronze dish. The figure is gently simplified in the archaic style for which Bass was renowned, and this work was greatly admired during the early years of the University.

Bass’s early life was marked by poverty and hardship. He left school at the age of fifteen at the height of the Great Depression and served in the Australian Army during the Second World War. After his discharge he was able to attend art school aided by a scholarship for returned servicemen and women. Bass eventually became one of Australia’s most recognised and sought-after sculptors, creating over sixty public art works during his long career. 

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Tom Bass (1916–2010)

Falconer 1955

Copper 1400 x 550 x 20 cm

UNSW Art Collection. Commissioned 1953

Location:  Old Main Building

Falconer was the first work of art acquired by the University. It was commissioned in 1953 for the façade of the first building constructed on the new Kensington campus. At over 14 metres high, this monumental copper relief sculpture was intended to symbolise the aspirations of the fledgling institution.

In commissioning a large public sculpture in a modern style, Vice-Chancellor Philip Baxter signalled his vision for the University as a forward-thinking institution which aimed to educate the full human being. It was an extraordinary opportunity for the young sculptor Tom Bass, as in the years following World War II, public commissions on this scale were rare. Herbert Read's poem The Falcon and the Dove provided Bass with the starting inspiration for the complex symbolism of the work: the falcon for reason and the dove for beauty, the horse as the emblem of industry and the falconer for technology, while the constellation represents research and the arrow points to new directions of thought. All elements are connected by the rays of the sun, indicating that the aesthetic factor should be considered in all the activities of the University.

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First Graduation Ceremony on the Kensington campus and opening of the Main Building, UNSW, 16 April 1955

The sculpture took almost two years to complete and was installed in 1955 prior to the opening of the building.

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Andrew Rogers (b. 1947)

Screen 2002

Bronze 250 x 230 x 20 cm

UNSW Art Collection. Presented by the artist through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program, 2006

Location: Physics Lawn

Melbourne-based sculptor Andrew Rogers concerns himself with the land. His massive geoglyphs, created of local stone by teams of volunteers in vast desert spaces around the globe, attest to this preoccupation. According to Rogers ‘they form a unique set of drawings upon the Earth’.

In Screen he appears to have worked in reverse, seemingly reinterpreting topographic diagrams; rendering them as disconnected slabs then overlaying them, one upon the other, to create a bronze relief of abstracted contours and hollows. The geographic references continue in the sculpture's colouration: one side is patinated an intense turquoise as if suggesting the Earth's formation beneath the oceans, while the verso replicates the green and ochre of dry land.

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Ground Floor

Douglas Annand (1903-76)

Dalton building stairwell mosaic 1958

Glass tile mosaic mural

UNSW Art Collection. Commissioned 1957

Location: Dalton Chemistry Building

In 1955 just as construction began on the new Chemistry building (the second building on the Kensington Campus) Senior Government Architect Harry Rembert undertook an international study tour to Europe and America to investigate innovations in laboratory design and educational architecture. His subsequent report admired the ‘blending of architecture, sculpture, painted and glass mosaic murals’ and the creation of an ‘atmosphere of informal friendliness and fitness for purpose, both restrained and beautiful’.

As a result, Sydney artist and designer Douglas Annand was commissioned to create two large-scale glass mosaic murals for the Dalton Building. At that time, Annand was at the peak of his career. He had begun in the 1930s with commercial art, and later turned his energies towards large-scale architectural projects, receiving numerous commissions and awards. For the three levels of the stairwell, Annand designed four roundels, three of which are repeated with slight variations.

They are set into a white tiled background and appear to float on the walls of this light and airy modernist space. In muted tones of greens, greys and browns, Annand’s abstract designs resemble cell-like structures or naturally occurring forms. Annand created the roundels in his studio, with help from his daughter-in-law Suzanne Annand and assistant Mitzi McColl, which were transferred to the stairwell wall. The final work epitomises the integration of art and architecture that informed the early planning of the UNSW campus.

Annand is considered one of Australia’s most significant modernist designers. The Dalton Building mosaics are some of his most significant architectural commissions to remain in situ and are outstanding examples of post-war modernist design. In 2019, a major conservation treatment of the stairwell mosaic was undertaken.

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Douglas Annand in 1949
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Douglas Annand (1903—76)

Dalton building undercroft mosaics 1960

Glass tile mosaic mural Four panels: each 367.5 x 568 cm

UNSW Art Collection. Commissioned 1957

Location: JG’s Café

Douglas Annand’s second, and more spectacular, set of mosaics for the Dalton Chemistry Building - now JG's Cafe - features brightly coloured glass tiles from Florence, Italy. 

Annand’s mosaics were commissioned for both sides of the two large duct panels in the then-undercroft of the Dalton Building. In 1998, the undercroft was enclosed, and the mosaics are now a distinctive interior feature of JG’s café. 

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Annand's elaborate and colourful mosaics have an affinity with astronomy and explosive chemical reactions in space. Outer space had long fascinated Annand and he produced these works around the time of the launch in October 1957 of the first artificial Earth satellite into space, Sputnik 1.

One mosaic is signed and dated 1958 although the mosaic was not completed and installed until January 1960.

The original sketches for these mosaics are now held in the Museum of Applied Arts & Science, Sydney, and the NSW State Archives.

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West walls of Dalton undercroft, July 1964, (UNSW Archives CN130/156)
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Peter Sharp (b. 1964)

The things you pick up 2 2014

Metasedimentary rock, Eucalyptus, 100 x 600 x 150 cm

UNSW Art Collection. Presented by the artist through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program, 2016 with assistance from UNSW Faculty of Science

Location: Union Rd between the Chemistry and Business Schools

The arid desert landscape of UNSW’s 39,000-hectare Research Station at Fowlers Gap, 1200km west of Sydney and an hour’s drive north of Broken Hill, has been an enduring inspiration for Peter Sharp. His first visit was as a postgraduate student in 1991 and since this time he has returned many times as the course convenor of UNSW Art & Design’s annual field trips.

In The things you pick up 2 Sharp creates a unique dialogue between two elements: a 1.5 tonne, 1.4 billion-year-old metasedimentary rock from Fowlers Gap, and a simple forked structure, reminiscent of a tool used for some redundant or long-forgotten purpose, fashioned from recycled eucalyptus. Sharp describes the sculpture as a metaphor for how the Fowlers Gap landscape has been activated and studied for more than fifty years. ‘When you travel around the property you will often find manmade objects that are the remnants of experiments or scientific studies — I wanted the viewer to experience this visual conundrum with the natural and manmade.’ While there is a dry sense of humour in the title of the work, it also reminds us how we are compelled to keep objects that carry within them the memory of a place or experience.

In 2016 the artist donated the sculpture to UNSW with assistance from UNSW Faculty of Science, to mark the 50th anniversary of scientific research at Fowlers Gap. Enlarged versions of drawings made by Sharp where the rock was collected were applied to the windows of the Chemistry building behind the sculpture to create a link back to the Fowler’s Gap site.

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Ron Robertson-Swann (b. 1941)

North down 1982

Painted mild steel 92 x 277 x 84 cm

UNSW Art Collection. Purchased with funds from the U Committee, 1991

Location: Science & Engineering Building 

One of Australia’s most celebrated sculptors, Ron Robertson-Swann’s monumental sculpture Vault, installed in Melbourne’s City Square in 1980, was for a time Australia’s most controversial work of art. In the 1960s Robertson-Swann had studied in London at St Martin’s School of Art with highly influential British sculptor Anthony Caro who had developed a new approach to sculpture. On his return to Australia in 1968 Robertson-Swann shot to prominence for his own hard-edged abstract works painted in bright industrial colours, that continued Caro’s spatial investigations.

North-Down is characteristic of Robertson-Swann’s style. Constructed of curved, straight and circular shapes in an elongated horizontal arrangement, it is intended to be placed on the ground. The relationship of elements and their reduced points of contact creates linear movement and suggests improvisation and chance. The use of satin-finished automotive paint draws each of these shapes together, so as the eye does not rest on one section but traverses along the whole without distraction. North Down was made after a visit to Tasmania in 1982, partly inspired by the artist’s visit to an undulating seaside farm near Devonport.

In Her Hands, mural, Esme Timberey Creative Practice Lab

Carmen Glynn-Braun (Kaytetye/Ammatyerre), Dennis Golding (Kamilaroi/Gamilaraay), Kirra Weingarth (Biri/Juru)

In her hands 2019

Painted mural 800 x 1600 cm

Commissioned 2019

Location: Esme Timbery Creative Practice Lab

In her hands is a powerful reminder that the UNSW Kensington campus is located on the land of the Bidjigal people.

Designed by Indigenous UNSW Art & Design alumni Carmen Glynn-Braun, Dennis Golding, and Kirra Weingarth, it was commissioned to celebrate the naming of the new Creative Practice Lab building after respected Bidjigal Elder and shellwork artist Esme Timbery.

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The artists have said of their work:

In her hands celebrates the passing of Indigenous cultural practices from Bidjigal elder Esme Timbery to four living generations of her family. Through her hands, Esme shares the magic of shellwork with the women in her family, represented by the young hands of Esme’s great-granddaughter Jiyah-lee Bell. This continuation signifies the importance of transferring culture through physicaloral tradition to sustain intergenerational knowledge. 

An important aspect of this mural is the rhythmic topographical lines that reference the La Perouse headlands and sandstone. These canvass the location of the Timbery family's rich cultural traditions. Across the wall bold colours bring this mural to life, celebrating and echoing Esme’s signature colours. You can see hues of pink, yellow and pearlescence, which reflect Esme’s unique artistic expression.

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Artists Kirra Weingarth, Carmen Glynn-Braun and Dennis Golding, 2019
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Geoffrey Ireland (b.1948)

The bridge 1981 

Stainless steel 187 x 596 x 276 cm 

UNSW Art Collection. Presented by the Monomeeth Association upon the retirement of Prof. Sir Rupert Myers with assistance from the Visual Art Board of the Australia Council, 1981 

Location: Pool Lawn

In the 1960s British sculptor, Anthony Caro, introduced a radical new approach to sculpture which was hugely influential over the following decades. Welding together pieces of brightly painted, industrially produced steel, his works were arranged on a horizontal plane and considered the open spaces in-between and around the structure as equally important elements of the work. Caro rejected the traditional placement of sculpture on a pedestal, insisting that his work have a direct relationship to the ground.

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Geoffrey Ireland’s early work The bridge show the impact of Caro’s ideas, creating both ‘open’ and ‘closed’ forms in a complex spatial arrangement. Seen from different sides, the work changes remarkably, from a long horizontal shape, to a more condensed vertical. Ireland has used stainless steel which is left unpainted, and this material gives the work a strong industrial association.

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Traditionally sculpture has been placed on a single plane and generally on a flat surface, however The bridge is designed to be placed upon a sloping site, so that it emerges from the incline and appears to move downwards, thus involving itself with the landscape. The bridge was originally sited on a grassy embankment outside the Electrical Engineering Building and was relocated to the edge of Pool Lawn in 1997.

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Kate Cullity (b.1956)

Seeing the wood for the trees 2007

Weathering steel, concrete, granite, plantings 17 elements, approximate installed dimensions, 550 x 2500 x 1000 cm

UNSW Art Collection. Commissioned for the Sir Anthony Mason Garden, with assistance from the U Committee and UNSW Faculty of Law, 2007

Location: The Sir Anthony Mason Garden, adjacent to the Law Building

Kate Cullity’s Seeing the wood for the trees was the winner of a UNSW sculpture competition in 2006 for a site-specific work as part of The Sir Anthony Mason Garden. This garden honours the great contribution made by Sir Anthony to UNSW, who served as Chancellor between 1994 and 1999.

In her proposal, environmental artist and landscape architect Cullity wrote:

Sir Anthony Mason's career exemplifies a great capacity for lateral, clear, rationale; an ability to creatively reinterpret precedent and apply new meaning. Like the forest that is closed to the eye but open to movement, Mason has the ability to ‘see the wood for the trees’, to be able to navigate through what appears, at first, to be dense and opaque.

UNSW Public Art Walk

Cullity envisioned the garden installation as a ‘forest of vertical, tapered, rusted, mild-steel forms arranged to allow a multitude of experiences of opaqueness and transparency.’ The completed work includes seventeen of these forms in various heights, perforated in patterns derived from the microscopic cellular structure of tree trunks, amid climbing plants and ground cover.

UNSW Public Art Walk

Anne Ferguson (b. 1939)

Waterfall 1977

Granite 190 x 67 x 67 cm

UNSW Art Collection. Gift of the artist, 1977

Location: University Mall

For a period of six months beginning in October 1976 and continuing into 1977, sculptor Anne Ferguson carved Waterfall on the UNSW campus, allowing staff and students the opportunity to watch an artist at work and to witness the slow emergence of the sculpture from the stone.

UNSW Public Art Walk
Anne Ferguson sculpting Waterfall in 1976

Ferguson carved vertical lines around the two-tonne pink Tarana granite column for rainwater to flow, in the same way ‘the wind and the rain carves grooves into the rocks in the bush’. The work reveals Ferguson’s long-standing interest in the landscape and the lightness of her touch. She has aptly been described as ‘an artist of subtle suggestions rather than grand statements.’

Waterfall was initially situated at the northern side of the Anzac Parade Gate. It has been relocated several times and was installed in its current position on University Mall in 2012.