The wheels are now in motion for the installation of the town of Parramatta’s newest public artwork, Place of the Eels, in Parramatta Square.
Created by Western Sydney artists Claire Healy and Sean Cordeiro, the eight-metre-tall polished aluminum replica of a vintage bus will soon be permanently parked facing the sky in the square’s public domain.
“This eye-catching, larger-than-life piece of art will be a wonderful addition to Parramatta Square and a landmark for our town,” said Parramatta Town Mayor Cr Donna Davis.
“It will inspire conversations and help connect past and present by showcasing and celebrating some of our city’s lesser known stories and intriguing characters.”
Cement footings were cast and over 7.6 tonnes of Australian steel and aluminum were poured, moulded, welded and polished to bring the sculpture to life. The artwork is a replica of the Leyland Worldmaster bus used by the Parramatta Eels in 1981 for team meetings after their home base was set on fire by fans.
The artwork also pays homage to other local legends, including William Francis King – known as ‘The Flying Pieman’ – who raced between Sydney and Parramatta selling his baked goods; and Rosie Bint Broheen, the first Lebanese migrant to buy property in Parramatta.
The historic Parramatta Girls Industrial School, located in the heritage district of Parramatta North, is recognized by a set of Roman numerals on the bus. The numbers represent the coded messages the girls used to communicate with each other when they were institutionalized in school.
Although the sculpture seems to appear in Parramatta Square almost overnight, it is the culmination of two years of hard work.
“It was really difficult to create this piece during the pandemic, so we were lucky that Urban Art Projects (UAP) in Brisbane was able to make it,” said artist Claire Healy.
Using 3D scanning and thousands of hours of video modeling, UAP built the piece using a 12-centimeter vintage Leyland Worldmaster toy bus and making it larger. More than 45 people and 6,500 hours were spent creating moulds, molding and finishing the pieces so that they fit together perfectly.
“The sculpture is made of perfect material as it is like a mirror, which will reflect the people of Parramatta. It depicts people coming together and coming together as they do in Parramatta Square,” Claire said.
Co-creator Sean Cordeiro said the artwork had many layers and would mean a lot to the people of Parramatta.
“It’s going to be a very visceral experience. If you just cross Parramatta Square, you will immediately see this bus hovering in the air. It’s different from something abstract – everyone has experience with a bus. It’s something that will draw people in,” he said.
Cr Davis said she can’t wait to see the finished artwork when it’s unveiled later this year.
“I’m really looking forward to seeing Place des Anguilles once the installation is complete. This is a piece that is very unique to Parramatta and will draw people in from near and far and hopefully teach everyone a little something about our town’s incredible history at the same time.
Claire Healy and Sean Cordeiro
Claire Healy and Sean Cordeiro are Western Sydney-based artists who first met at the University of New South Wales while completing a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. They have exhibited collaboratively since 2001 and are known for their extraordinary sculptures and installations, including their public work Cloud Nation, located in the Green Square Library Tower. They have held solo exhibitions locally and internationally in China, Germany, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, Switzerland and the United States. In 2009, their installation Life Span was part of the Australian representation at the 53rd Venice Biennale. They were recently awarded the 2022 Sir John Sulman Prize for their works, Raiko and Shuten-dōji.