Herring Island Environmental Sculpture Park (South Yarra)
Accessible only by boat, Herring Island, 3.2 hectares in size, is just 3 km from the city, and the only substantial island in the Yarra River. This informal parkland has provided the inspiration for curator Maudie Palmer to develop a concept in which artists are commissioned to create site-specific sculptures. Created from natural materials such as stone, earth and wood, the sculptures appear as part of the landscape to reflect the Island's unique and tranquil setting. In particular, different types of stone have been brought from various locations to the island.
Things to Do
The European tradition of placing beautiful artworks into recreational spaces has been adapted to meet the public's contemporary needs. The artists have focused upon the history and landscape of this isolated park.
The Sculpture Park
Internationally renowned British environmental artist Andy Goldsworthy has created two works - a slate Cairn and a Stone House constructed from Dunkeld sandstone. Four Australian artists have also installed works on Herring Island. These are: John Davis - A Hill, a River, Two Rocks and a Presence, Jill Peck - Steerage, Julie Collins - Audience, Robert James - The Ramp and Torres Strait Islander, Ellen Jose - Tanderrum (coming together).
Julie Collins - Audience 1997
Working exclusively with bluestone taken from the tunnel under the Yarra River, Melbourne sculptor Julie Collins has built a large surreal arena into the hollow of the levee bank. Julie's work is intended to welcome visitors upon arrival at the Herring Island landing. Ambiguous carvings of strange creatures at times reminiscent of native animals and birds present a silent audience for visitors, whom the artist believes become performers when they enter the arena.
John Davis - A Hill a River, Two Rocks and a Presence 1997
Working in an open grassed area, Melbourne sculptor John Davis has combined the elements of water, timber, vegetation and limestone. These elements are found in the natural landscape and provide a sense of place and recognition of the Island's source. Pictorial elements exist in a series of opposites which include dark - light, fragile - strong, horizontal - vertical, light and shade, and day and night. These elements are discrete, yet attached to each other's spatial placement.
Andy Goldsworthy - Cairn and Stone House 1997
The only natural valley on the Island was set aside for British sculptor Andy Goldsworthy's installation. He has built two works, the first work, a cairn, construction from Castlemaine slate, independent of its sight and yet making it's journey to Melbourne. The second work Stone House, was made from Dunkeld sandstone in a similar way to his renowned ephemeral works. Responding to the challenge to work with the large red stone and in an area which he called the "dip" of the Island, he built a wall, stone by stone, into the levee bank, making a new resting place to house the red stone. Intensive planting has taken place with the intention of further isolating the piece. The artist believes his work is most powerful from a distance and that it emphasises the sense of discovery and concealment that an island holds for him.
Jill Peck - Steerage 1997
Canberra sculptor Jill Peck has created a large scale Harcourt Granite boat form at the westernmost point of the Island as a metaphor for journeys, water and knowledge. A path leads up a bank between two mounds to reveal this unexpected resting place for contemplation. The land formed boat, incorporating the surrounding planting, extends to the waters edge beyond the stone rhythm of the sculpture. The Island and the work become one, the prow of the sculpture and the prow of the Island Pointing towards the city's horizon.
Ellen Jose - Tanderrum 1997
Aboriginal culture emphasises the land, water and sky as central to the spirit of the Australian landscape and part of the living spiritual domain. Together, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists Ellen Jose and Joy Murphy, Wurundjeri Tribal Elder, have imagined a vision for the creation of flight. Tanderrum (coming together) brings together concepts of pride, culture and spirit and the work symbolises the coming together of the five clans of the Kulin nation as one people. It links the symbols and Legends of the Dreaming with ancestral bird spirits and totems of the five clan groups. This installation flows between two mounds and is made from Mount William Limestone. Castlemaine slate, rocks and indigenous plant species have been chosen for their cultural and spiritual significance. Many of the materials have been transported from tribal areas and presented as symbolic markers of their land.
Robert Jacks - Ramp 1998
Victorian Artist Robert Jacks' sculpture Ramp uses the remains of a tree that has fallen not far from his property and was approximately 250 years old. Ramp comments on the modern era of colonisation and also rural architecture. This sculpture also signals for the artist a new discourse concerning the regional tradition of Australian sculpture, something already well explored in Australian painting.
Robert Bridgewater - Scaled Stem 1999
A sinuous form detailed with intricate patterning carved in cypress macrocarpa, Melbourne sculptor Robert Bridgewater's Scaled Stem can be linked to a budding plant, a club, fishing float, kitchen utensil or scientific apparatus. Bridgewater states that the work "is part of a continuing line of inquiry concerned largely with relationships between form, pattern, craft and material and the poetic associations that can be evoked via these relationships". The organic shaped yet highly worked textures of Scaled Stem highlight "an inseparability and interdependence between notions of nature and culture".
Native Wild Garden
Melbourne horticulturist Iain Shears has designed a Native Wild Garden using patterns and species which occur naturally in temperate grasslands in Victoria. The wild garden starts flowering in early spring.
Herring Island Gallery
With the assistance of The Sidney Myer Fund and the renowned Melbourne based architect Gregory Burgess, the existing 20 year old Scout Hall on the island was renovated and transformed into the Herring Island Gallery. Responding to a brief to design a multi purpose space, the architect has sensitively integrated this gallery and its walled court yard with the sculptures and native plantings.
Herring Island has a grassed picnic area with two shelters, free electric barbecues, picnic tables, seats, toilets, unsealed walking trails and water fountains and taps located at various points.
The Gallery is suitable for exhibitions and cultural events. Other areas on the island can be booked for functions; a charge will apply.
Interpretive signage has been placed at strategic locations on the island.
Discover the island's past, how the island was used and how it has today become one of Melbourne's most unique parks.
Originally a basalt quarry in the last century, this artificial island was filled with silt dredged from the river and a shortcut created for the river on the Richmond bank to lessen the likelihood of flooding.
In 1932/33, the levee banks of Como Island were built up to protect the island from flooding and trees and shrubs were planted around the edge but inn November 1934, nearly all the levee banks and trees were swept away by the biggest flood ever recorded on the Yarra River. The entire island was submerged. The levee banks around the island were rebuilt in 1935, trees were replanted and the island continued to be built up using silt dredged from the Yarra. Much is now known about the impact of river silts and salinity on tree growth from these early efforts.
During the 1950s and 1960s the Scouts leased the island, first known as Como Island, but renamed after the then President of the Australian Scout Association, Sir Edmund Herring. From 1970 until 1994 the Friends of Herring Island, Government and local Council representatives formed a committee which administered the island.
Management responsibility transferred to Melbourne Parks and Waterways in 1994. After substantial public consultation, Melbourne Parks and Waterways, subsequently Parks Victoria, proceeded with the enhancement of Herring Island Park to establish an island suitable for Melburnians to use as a destination providing recreational and conservation values on the Yarra River.
Birds are abundant and varied and occupy a broad range of vegetation types. Those commonly seen include honeyeaters, Willie Wagtails, cormorants, kookaburras, magpies, wattlebirds and White-faced Herons. Waterbirds that shelter and forage within the reeds include Pacific Black Ducks, Dusky Moorhens and Maned Ducks.
Vegetation on the island consists of a few remnants of indigenous riparian forest and grassland communities, as well as native and exotic species that have been planted over the past 60 years. The earlier plantings are mainly around the perimeter of the island, while more recently, the central flat areas and silt mounds have been planted, since the dumping of silt stopped. Other dominant vegetation on the island includes Silver Wattle (Acacia dealbata), Manna Gum (Eucalyptus viminalis) and Southern Mahogany (botryoides).
Wallaby and Spear Grass, Chocolate and Bulbine Lilies, Everlastings, Billy Buttons and Hoary Sunray create the colour and texture of the garden. Many of these plants hold significance to the indigenous Wurundjeri people and have been incorporated in the symbolic planting of Ellen Jose's Tanderrum.
Access to Herring Island Environmental Sculpture Park is by watercraft. Punt operation dates are the summer months from early December to early April from 11am - 5pm. It only runs Saturdays, Sundays and certain public hols - these are 26 Jan (Aust day), 8 March (Labour Day) & 5 April (Easter). Does not run 25, 26 Dec or 28 December or Good Friday.
The punt can take up to 12 people. There is no set timetable as the service runs on demand between 11am and 5pm. Punt Days of Operation
Punt leaves from Como Landing (Melways ref Map 58, G2). Car park in Alexandra Ave.
Private boats also have access to the island (Melway Ref: 2M C2).
The punt is $2 per adult /$5 per family, with pensioners, unemployed and children under 12 free.
A trip to Herring Island is a nice family activity during the summer period. Note that the punt only operates on certain days of the weeks and part of the year.
The elevated section of the island has an open grassy area with two shelters. One shelter has two tables and a BBQ, another shelter has two tables and a BBQ and there are also shaded and unshaded tables and seats.
There are a range of outdoor sculptures constructed from elements like rocks and wood. The kids had fun trying to use the map and spot all the sculptures.
There is also a small gallery with a historical display and other displays.
Address | Contact
Cnr Alexandra Avenue and Williams Rd, South Yarra 3141, Victoria, Australia.
Map: 2M Ref: C3