Grafton Regional Gallery director Jude McBean with general manager Pacific Highway Bob Higgins at the launch of the Bridges project.
Grafton Regional Gallery director Jude McBean with general manager Pacific Highway Bob Higgins at the launch of the Bridges project. Adam Hourigan Photography

Clarence River bridges get the artistic treatment

IF YOU have ever wondered what a meeting of the left and right side of the brain would look like, then venture no further than the Grafton Regional Gallery's Bridges Project.

The official opening of this much-anticipated partnership between the gallery and the Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) was held on Friday night, a showcase of artists' interpretations of the early stages of four of our big scale engineering projects happening in the Clarence.

Initiated by the gallery, The Bridges: The First Year exhibition presents artworks created by Valley artists Robyn Sweaney, Robyn Tychsen, John Van Der Kolk, Stacey Conridge, Malcolm King, Simon Hughes and Curt Edwards.

Expressions of interest were put out earlier this year for people to artistically and creatively respond to the construction and progress of the four Clarence Valley bridges set for development in the upcoming years - the Grafton, Harwood, Sportsmans Creek and Tabulam bridges.

Gallery director Jude McBean said the results in this inaugural exhibition had naturally focused on recording and interpreting the existing bridges.

"Two of these bridges are to be removed, and the Grafton and Harwood bridges will have new bridges sitting beside them. Other works on show here also importantly capture the houses that stood where the new Grafton Bridge and approaching areas are to be built," Ms McBean said.

She said the selection of artists for the first year of this project represented a diverse artistic approach to the evolution of the bridges. "It's a fantastic opportunity for artists of the Clarence Valley to be involved in the documentation of a significant part of our history.

RMS representative and general manager of Pacific Highway Upgrade Bob Higgins said the exhibition was about "telling the story of these bridges in a different way" from the engineering, planning and design construction process they encounter in their fields of work.

"We're here today to celebrate it all. It's a really big area and we are going to see it change over the next three years. This tribute, while a bit out there for us, pays respect to the past and the current infrastructure," Mr Higgins said.

"It will be interesting to see how the artists interpret it over the next three years of construction."

  • The Bridges: The First Year will be on show at the Gallery until February 4, 2017, and will also travel to The Kirk, Yamba Museum from March 8-25, 2017. The project is also supported by the Yulgilbar Foundation.


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