The Blacktown City Art Walk is as good a reason as any to return to Blacktown. The art walk, created by Blacktown Arts encourages visitors and locals to “take a stroll around the CBD and discover our temporary and permanent public artworks”.
Starting the Blacktown City Art Walk
Map in hand I leave the station and head for the Blacktown Showgrounds. When I explored Blacktown previously, I found the route to the showgrounds confusing. Today is no different. I soon realise that I have to retrace my steps.
At the Showgrounds, people are out walking. Some alone, others with their dog and others walking with friends. Three men wearing brightly coloured turbans walk briskly in single file around the grassy field. A reminder that there’s a Sikh Temple near here.
Looking for Two Sculptures in the Blacktown Showgrounds
The map indicates that there are two sculptures near the basketball courts. I find one. A large metal wreath set into a little wetlands area, Wreath by Bronwyn Berman is a memorial to workers lost. I read that the wreath is an ancient symbol of life and death.
Contemplate by Yu Fang Chi should also be around here, but I can’t see it anywhere. I pull the photo up on my phone and show a woman who is out walking with her partner and dog.
Found one, but where’s the other?
“That’s not here” she says. “I’ve been doing this walk for three and a half years and it’s not here”. She suggests I ask the grounds keeper who “is usually riding around on his buggy”.
Not to be deterred (the map says the sculpture is here) I ask the proprietor of the Grounds Keeper Café . He confirms what the woman told me “It’s not here”.
I notice the grounds keeper driving towards me on a nearby path. Running towards him, I call out. He pulls up and looks at the photo. “It’s not here yet”, he confirms adding “I can show you where it will be but you’ll need a Tardis to get there”.
Across the road from the showground entry is Graham Chalcroft’s Kaleidoscope Velocity Wheel. This fun colourful sculpture references amusement rides and the ribbons awarded at agricultural shows.
It Helps to do Research
If I hadn’t done some research prior to this visit, I’d have walked right past Mackenzie Way and City Shift by Tina Barahanos and Alex Byrne. Panels made up of rhomboid shapes filled with bright tinted acrylic mirrors and figures in various poses line the brick wall. The clever artwork was inspired by the hip hop movement in Western Sydney.
What seems like a tagging over an orange panel disappoints me. The artwork was only installed in 2020, and already someone has defaced it. Then I realise that the ‘tagging’ isn’t tagging at all, but part of the artwork.
Temporary Works by Emily Johnson
Four of six temporary works by Emily Johnson decorate the windows of Blacktown Library. I love these larger-than-life female figures which explore “body positive imaging, feminism and First Nations identity”. Their personality really comes through. One in particular (why didn’t photograph it?) has real attitude.
Workers up ladders see to maintenance work at the Blacktown Arts Centre. I chat to an employee who gives me a hard copy of the Blacktown City Arts Walk. He says that the next exhibition “Twenty Years. The War in Afghanistan” is on from 2 August to 3 September. A good reason to return to Blacktown.
The Village Green
At the Village Green, you’d be forgiven for not realising that the mosaic and fountain are public artworks. The mosaic and fountain by Nerine Martini with Robyn Caughlan and Tracie Bertram bring to life “Breath of Blacktown”, a poem by Darug writer by Jacinta Tobin.
A caravan painted in distinctive Aboriginal black yellow and red (with white) stands in the car park behind the Arts Centre. Again, naively, I didn’t realise this was an artwork. Called Travelling Colony by Brook Andrew, it’s a striking addition to the car park.
Cultural Diversity in Blacktown
People from a wide range of cultural backgrounds live in Blacktown. When I first explored the city, the variety of shops (along the street, not in the large shopping centre) represented many of these cultures. African, Afghani, Middle Eastern, Indian and more.
It was an exciting place to visit. As I walk down the street today, I notice that many haven’t survived COVID. The streetscape appears to be becoming bland for want of a better word. There’s less variety. But gems survive. I enter an Iranian grocery store to look around.
An Iranian Grocery Store
The store is chockablock with goods. Bottles of juice stored on the floor make the narrow aisles even narrower. A young boy wearing a red jumper and sporting a new ‘cool’ haircut picks up packing boxes blocking the entrance.
I chat to him. He tells me he had his hair styled this morning. He’s in Year 2 and “the tallest in my class”. Saying “You know something?” he gently touches his gelled black hair and proudly tells me that “they put in blueberry gel”.
Three More Artworks
Light Wing, a largereflective sculpture by Skunk Control gleams against the blue sky. The mood and feel of this impressive piece, fixed to the side of a building in Warwick Lane, changes according to the light. At night LEDs enhance the kaleidoscope effect.
Gursha, an Ethiopian restaurant where I plan to have lunch, opens in ten minutes. I use the time to find the last two artworks on my Blacktown City Art Walk. The one by Blak Douglas, winner of the 2022 Archibald, is a simple but effective work. It serves as a wayfinding system in a car park.
The words “Knights of the underground table” printed on figures in Street Cycle makes me chuckle. Like the work in Mackenzie Way, this mixed media piece includes street art. A colourful mural, it’s part of Council’s graffiti management strategy.
Ethiopian Lunch at Gursha
Doing as the locals do, I wash my hands in the little basin hidden behind a screen at the back of Gursha Ethiopian Restaurant. My tasty meal of lamb and potato eaten by hand with the spongy type bread called injera is more than sufficient.
Discover Blacktown through Art
Following the meal, I pour myself a cup of rich, smooth black Ethiopian coffee from a long necked black coffee pot. It’s a fine end to a pleasant morning discovering the Blacktown City Art Walk.