King George V Activity Centre

In   |  
Acrylic on Concrete
Kings George V Activity Centre, The Rocks, Sydney

KGV Mural – Completed in 1983 the King George V mural is one of the largest genuine community murals in the Southern Hemisphere. Over five hundred people of all ages contributed to the design and painting. It was painted on the Wall holding up the Cahill Expressway leading to the Sydney Harbour Bridge and bordering the King George V Memorial Playground. The mural captured the activities of the centre and the environment prior to and post the building of the Cahill Expressway.

In a project of this nature and size, communication is paramount, so, much of my time was spent contacting individuals and groups at all levels of the Rocks community; two stages of workshops were held between November 1981 and March 1982. These collections of workshops, which garnered over 350 participants, resulted in the following concepts: illusion of repeating tunnels along the wall, windows on a wall with scenes beyond the frame, a painter and easel depicted with different canvasses/paintings, the classical landscape, and themes such as historical, sports and circus.

The final concept of arches aimed to relate to the existing environment of the bridge and road support structure and to act as a ‘frame’ or mediation between the real environment and the future, with the whole mural taking 12-15 weeks to complete.

One evening, after a day of painting, people were congregated in the pub across the road when one of the patrons stated “you should put a circus in it”, as circuses were often visiting the Wentworth Park site (which also has arches). This idea was reinforced when a mother, whose children attended the centre, stated “you should put an elephant in there!” Peter’s response was “If I draw an elephant in, will you come back and paint it?” That afternoon, armed with a camera, I dashed down to Wentworth Park to photograph the elephants. Then off to Surry Hills to have the transparency film developed and by that evening I projected the slide onto the wall and began drawing the elephant. It was ready to paint the next day when the mother and her children returned to the centre to paint. The elephant was life-sized. That mother is now a director of the centre and to her children work there.