Art, concrete and a spot of bother

Orange Path is touted as the first cross-council public art in WA. Photo provided.

A NEW public artwork touted as possibly WA’s first cross-council collaboration has been installed along the Swan River foreshore – but not without ruffling the waters a little.

Part of the Fremantle Biennale, Orange Path is a series of designs by 13 artists from the Australian Centre for Concrete Art (AC4CA) which stretch along the footpath between the old traffic bridge in Fremantle and Stirling Bridge in East Fremantle.

AC4CA founding member Trevor Richards said the designs were site specific.

“Each artist got a 40-metre section of the walk and a brief to generate a design that categorises their practice,” Richards told the Herald.

“One is related to the size of the concrete panels, others use a geometric design; mine is like a slinky chain.”

Colour

While the collective didn’t want to be too prescriptive about their section, Richards said they chose a colour rather than shape to link the work.

“Orange is a really interesting colour, which has a feeling of optimism, energy and joy; and it’s also a colour that an artist friend of ours who passed away recently used as his emblematic colour.

“John Nixon was a very highly respected international artist, and while he’s not all that well known in WA, over east he’s regarded as one of Australia’s seminal abstract artists.

“But it’s not a memorial work.”

Richards said there were project was designed around two ideas: “If you are on the bridge you can see the whole massive linking design, and when you are walking you become a participant in the artwork,” he said.

AC4CA, which turns 20 this year, was one of the forerunners of Fremantle’s street art scene. It’s biggest head-turner was 2003’s somewhat controversial Queensgate carpark makeover, which survived until it got new FOMO colours last year.

And the group’s work is still a bit confronting for some; the invective the artists and Biennale artistic director Tom Muller have endured prompted East Fremantle mayor Jim O’Neill to call for “tolerance and artistic appreciation”.

“I really like the Orange Path … a walkable pathway, tracing the shoreline of the Derbarl Yerrigan and may well be the longest artwork in WA,” Mr O’Neill said.

“The Biennale is a great concept and art in its many forms is what defines us and I encourage everyone in Perth and especially the Fremantle area to get down and see the site-responsive contemporary art.

“Art which is openly accessible to all.

“This is art on an international scale and I am proud that East Fremantle is playing a major part.”

Mr Muller said East Fremantle had contributed $20,000 for the Biennale, but little of that had gone into Orange Path, which had been funded mostly by benefactors and through a series of artworks based on the designs which were auctioned.

He said there was an element of people trying to take ownership of the foreshore in the criticism, but pointed out it was a community asset and the artwork was a way of bringing people together.

Richards says public art often does confront people’s notion of their neighbourhood.

“I think there is an element of shock when something is new, and people go through – like when someone dies – a grieving process.”

But he expects after the artwork has been in situ for a couple of months it would start to become a part of their new landscape.

Mr Muller said the artwork was made permanent after the state’s environmental watchdog expressed concern about any toxins leaching into the river from temporary paint.

by STEVE GRANT

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