Monday, August 15, 2011

Bacon and Eggs in Miller's Point

After hearing disturbing rumours about the future of the Harbour Control Tower, I arrived at the crack of dawn  to check that my easels on the top floor and the Tower itself were still standing.
By 8am I was tempted by the delicious aroma of a breakfast fryup of bacon and eggs wafting from the Argyle Cafe on the corner of Argyle and High Streets.
A good old fashioned breakfast in a good old fashioned suburb.
After breakfast I decided to look for a spot to paint and wandered only a couple of metres away from the doorstep.
The giant mushroom head of the Harbour Control Tower loomed over Munn's Reserve, the odd little park I had so often noticed without bothering to find out its name. It perches on top of the land bridge above Hickson's Road and consists of a couple of trees, a patch of lawn, a seat or two in the middle of heritage cobblestones and railings.
On the western edge of Munn's Reserve, is the Palisade Hotel, which has recently been renovated with a charmless canopy that sits like a badly fitting cap over its crenallated roof. Now it lies dormant, its future as uncertain as the rest of the suburb.
Yet another "pub with no beer". I have just completed a painting of the "Terminus Hotel", a derelict hotel in Pyrmont, another former working class suburb which has been gentrified beyond belief.
If the Tower is demolished for access to the Barangaroo Headland Park, it would be difficult to predict the effect on the surrounding streets.It wouldn't make economic sense to start trading amidst all the confusion and noise of demolition and construction.
I thought that I should take the opportunity to paint the area in what might be some of its final moments of peace and quiet.

Painting 'Munn's reserve Millers Point'2011 oil on canvas 31 x 31cm

Some of the patrons of the Argyle are watching me paint while they polish off their breakfast. I can hear fragments of muttering "Wonder when she'll stick the trees in...not she going to put the old Palisade in? And then a few familiar voices - a couple of people who bought some of my paintings at the "Trains, Cranes and Ships" exhibition on Observatory Hill, which is just a couple of hundred metres up the road. This show was in December 2007, just after the wharfies left the East Darling Harbour Wharves for Port Kembla and Port Botany, not really that long ago, but already it seems like a bygone era.
More familiar faces - some of the Sydney Ports  workers from Moores Wharf just down the hill have also been raising their cholesterol with a bacon and egg breakfast. Apparently they had also bought some of my paintings from the same show.
I must really take up the kind invitation to paint Moore's Wharf as soon as possible.
If the Harbour Tower goes, there could be increased pressure to vacate Moore's Wharf. After all, it has been moved once already, so the precedent has been set.
Starting the Painting 'Munn's reserve Millers Point'2011 oil on canvas 31 x 31cm

A calm winter morning. Sunny, but clear, crisp and cold. I think that you can tell this with the colour palette of this canvas. Unfortunately I have chosen a shaded spot which makes it even colder. I rush to finish and choose another position for the afternoon painting, but the chill is making my fingers slow and clumsy.

Painting 'Munn's reserve Millers Point'2011 oil on canvas 31 x 31cm
I use the cold as an excuse to drink some more of the Argyle's delicious coffee. It warms up my fingers and I finally get my act together and finish my canvas.
'Munn's reserve Millers Point' 2011 oil on canvas 31 x 31cm
Enquiries about similar paintings

I've just sold this little painting at my exhibition "May close without warning" in the Frances Keevil Gallery.
To the far left is a sliver of the Palisade Hotel, but in this work I wanted to dwell on the unexpected aspects of Miller's Point rather than the more obviously famous landmarks.Behind the gnarled trees and sandstone pavers, the workers terraces of Merriman Street are bathed in the cool winter morning light.
At the moment Miller's Point still possesses the raffish charm that its more famous and uglier sister suburb, The Rocks, has now totally lost. It is still quiet and quaint, and the people in the streets are mostly residents and local workers rather than tourists. What a difference a couple of hundred metres can make.
But for how long?
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