Arty Habitat*

Sydney finance executive and keen art-lover Ronald Johnson died in February 2003 leaving a substantial estate, including provision for a major new sculpture to be placed near Sydney Harbour.

The sculpture has to fit the site and be of high quality, significance and innovation. From a short list of leading contemporary sculptures New Zealand artist Mr Chris Booth was selected to create a piece from stone and plants with a construction cost of more than $2 million.

Chris was born in Kerikeri, in the north of the North Island of New Zealand. After studying art at university he worked with leading sculptors around the world such as Barbara Hepworth, Denis Mitchell, John Milne and Quinto Ghermandi.

His work has been exhibited in Australia, New Zealand and Europe, but is better known for the iconic pieces he has created in situ. For example a huge blanket of rocks out the front of Hamilton Gardens

Chris is keen on rocks and many of his sculptures are built from boulders in gravity defying arrangements (a book on his work is called ‘Woven Stone’). His work has a strong connection with the place, and the materials as well as design reflect this. Indigenous culture and the living environment feature strongly in most pieces.

The Royal Botanic Gardens work was created by Chris Booth after extensive research into local cultural heritage, geology, flora and fauna, as well as the availability and suitability of local stone and other materials to be used in the construction of the sculpture.

The major part of the work is to be built from slabs of sandstone sewn together, creating a wave-like rock structure holding pockets of local plants. Native animals such as skinks and micro-bats will encouraged to live in the crevices. Nearby will be a totem-like structure created out of quartz stone and with a local Gadigal image marked on it.

The sculpture will be on the lawn below the Government House grounds. The location has Sydney Harbour and Farm Cove views and visually connects with the sandstone cliffs of Mrs Macquaries Point. These were crucial factors in the site selection and the design statements of the sculpture.

Work has already started and will take over a year to complete. So come and watch a sculptor at work in one of the most beautiful settings in the world.

For more of Chris Booth’s work see

Image: a thin bamboo line marks the spot for part of Chris Booth's sulpture in Sydney's Royal Botanic Gardens.

*This Passion for Plants posting will also appear on the ABC Sydney website (possibly under 'gardening'), and is the gist of my 702AM radio interview with Simon Marnie on Saturday morning, between 9-10 am.