Yr 11 Visual Art Excursion

09 February 2023

On Friday 10th February, the Year 11 Art Visual Art Students attended Cockatoo Island, situated in Sydney Harbour, adjacent to Woolwich and Birchgrove, for an artist led plein air drawing workshop by Michael Herron, tying in with our term’s theme of Transience.

Cockatoo Island is known by the First Nations Peoples as Wareamah. It has had a layered past, since the arrival of the British, where it was used from 1839 as a convict jail. From 1871 to 1880 it was the site of an industrial school and reformatory for girls. It took on the pivotal role in Australia’s industrial and maritime history from1857. The growth of trade unions in Australia was largely due to the workers at Cockatoo Island. These workers fought for improved working conditions that led to reforms across the country. Although the island was shut and the workers left in 1991, their fighting spirit was maintained by activists, whose efforts were key in ensuring the site remained public.

The island is imbued with the rich fabric of the past, the rusted tin and voluminous halls, the sandstone walls with convict markings, geographically undulated with flats and a steep hill to traverse. The Sydney views are expansive and the harbour breeze sweeps along the east with a force.

The people who inhabited this island, who toiled, who tried to escape, the natural island that was overtaken with the built environment, all form to create a sense of transience.

The students were taken through a series of mark making discoveries with charcoal, pastel and ink exploring the solitary cranes towering and rusted. This gave the students a challenge to take in visually, feel the presence and create representations in broad expressive gestures.

The students will take these works back into the school studio and begin a discussion and reflect on their understanding and further unpack the theme. The looseness of the drawings will assist in the additional engagement with mark making to create their own interpretation of transience, through the observation and reinterpretation of the in situ still life arrangement in the classroom.

We look forward to sharing the completed still life works later in the term.