ST PETERS FENCES / past / SIMPSON PARK / 09.20 SYDNEY

Mike Hewson: St Peters Fences - Simpson Park, St Peters, NSW AUSTRALIA

St Peters Fences 2020

40 x 20 x 6m approx.
Heritage brick & sandstone, rubber concrete, refurbished play equipment, structural steel, various
Simpson Park, St Peters, NSW AUSTRALIA

Mike Hewson: St Peters Fences - Simpson Park, St Peters, NSW AUSTRALIA

St Peters Fences 2020

40 x 20 x 6m approx.
Heritage brick & sandstone, rubber concrete, refurbished play equipment, structural steel, various
Simpson Park, St Peters, NSW AUSTRALIA

Mike Hewson: St Peters Fences - Simpson Park, St Peters, NSW AUSTRALIA

St Peters Fences 2020

40 x 20 x 6m approx.
Heritage brick & sandstone, rubber concrete, refurbished play equipment, structural steel, various
Simpson Park, St Peters, NSW AUSTRALIA

Mike Hewson: St Peters Fences - Simpson Park, St Peters, NSW AUSTRALIA

St Peters Fences 2020

40 x 20 x 6m approx.
Heritage brick & sandstone, rubber concrete, refurbished play equipment, structural steel, various
Simpson Park, St Peters, NSW AUSTRALIA

Mike Hewson: St Peters Fences - Simpson Park, St Peters, NSW AUSTRALIA

St Peters Fences 2020

40 x 20 x 6m approx.
Heritage brick & sandstone, rubber concrete, refurbished play equipment, structural steel, various
Simpson Park, St Peters, NSW AUSTRALIA

Info

Up the road from Simpson Park, on Railway Road, there’s a row of fences, unhoused and overgrown. Their homes were demolished in the late nineties to make way for Sydney’s third runway. Left behind, they memorialise what was taken. Recently, homes adjacent to Simpson Park were caught up in equally controversial state acquisitions, with houses demolished for WestConnex’s speedy tunnels. By remaking rather than taking, St Peters Fences reclaims what has gone.

In this sculpture park of fences Mike Hewson has turned sculptures into play equipment. Moving through the playground, an uprooted post becomes a snake and a contorted monkey bar a ladder. In the gutted frame of a terrace two swings hang from the beams of the second floor. A slide dives over a lattice brick wall. A climbing rope is webbed across an archway. Through play, St Peters Fences recognises how art can be used to adapt the functionality of our public spaces.

Using Street View to scroll through years, Hewson found the fences online. Taken from in and around the area, each fence was remade as an exact replica. Leaning forward, warping back, they stubbornly maintain their original – and at times shoddy – form. The work is a play on plonk art. Yet unlike its plonky cousins, St Peters Fences inherently belongs. It was built for and by the local community. Configured by the local school children, the arrangement is pleasantly absurd. Picked and placed, a custard yellow fence balances on a 20s brick wall, a baby blue fence is buried at right angles halfway into the ground. The off-kilter arrangement draws our attention, making us contemplate our day to day environment. It is a public work made from the everyday for the everyday.

Despite its monumental scale St Peters Fences is intimate and familiar, unmonumental. In form and arrangement, Hewson has adopted and maintained the neighbourhood vernacular. At ground level, you find small shiny stones lined up on a sandstone block, as if a child has laid out their precious collection and at waist-height potted plants crown brick columns. While mimicking the neighbourhood, the work also tests it. Will the rocks be nicked? Will the plants be plucked from their soil? These temptations call for care and ownership. Optimistically, the work is offering a way to affect and maintain our relationships. Equal parts art and playground, St Peters Fences shows how public space can be used to adjust our behaviour. By playing with how we use public space the work reimagines how we can relate to each other.

Words by Aarna Fitzgerald Hanley

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ST PETERS FENCES, 2020 is a permanent public artwork commissioned by Westconnex/Transurban and in conjunction with Inner West Council for Simpson Park, St Peters.