Nurim Boardwalk seating, inspired by Indigenous artwork, revealed

Published on 28 August 2020


When you next go up to the Nurim Boardwalk on Mount Archer, be sure to take in the latest pieces of public art – three seats with spectacular views of Tunuba (Fitzroy) River, inspired by a traditional artwork by Darumbal artist Ernest Garrett.

While the seats – a bench seat, a small platform seat and a third large bench - were already in place, the art project involved completing them with artwork created in a collaboration between Ernest Garrett and local non-Indigenous artist Michelle Black.

Working with a palette of timber, stainless steel and rusted-look steel, the seats’ designs draw on Ernest Garrett’s original artwork’s imagery and symbols of gathering places along the river, along with local flora and landscape vistas, as inspiration. 

Michelle Black has drawn on symbols from the original artwork, which have been laser cut from rusted-look steel and mirrored at each end of the bench seats and used as seat backs. A contemporary interpretation of Tunuba has been laser cut from brushed stainless steel, overlayed and wrapped around the back of one of the seats. The image of the river has been oriented to closely reflect the view of the river from the mountain-top vantage point at Nurim Circuit.

Detail and pattern found in the trunks of abundant xanthorrhoea (grass trees) and the towering, twisted pink bloodwood silhouettes in the area have been abstracted to form the chemically etched stainless steel skirts across the front and rear of the bench seats. The ancient trachyte plug landscape features on the bench seat on the northern viewing platform.

Rockhampton Regional Council Community Services Portfolio Spokesperson Cr Drew Wickerson said that the artwork installation will be valued by the community as they discover it when they visit the area, and engage with it.

“In a time where many creative projects worldwide have been paused due to COVID 19, it is great that Rockhampton Regional Council can lead the way with projects that support and positively contribute to the local economy, while also contributing to our open spaces and places.

“The artwork has been created by local artists, and all of the fabrication has been undertaken locally by Precision Engraving. We have talented artists and skilled businesses that all have capability and it is wonderful to showcase this,” he said.

Artist Michelle Black said that she was excited to translate ideas into computer generated images for three dimensional furnishings.

“I was inspired by the twisted silhouettes of the towering pink bloodwoods, vistas of Tunuba (Fitzroy River) seen winding though the western landscape, and the breathtaking ancient trachyte plugs that dot the landscape to the north.

“The original painting by Ernest Garrett, a Darumbal artist, has been digitised to be laser cut and carved from rusted-look steel to feature in the seat end panels and as seat backs. I have used contemporary stainless steel to illustrate the inspiring landscape elements as a striking contrast to the rust and rustic timbers of the benches and indigenous artwork.

“This project has brought together my skills as a printmaker and graphic designer and drew upon my skills from an earlier career as an urban designer. Working with Rebecca from Precision Engraving, we found that chemically etched stainless steel fit the bill perfectly for bringing my linoprint-styled drawings to life. The surfaces of laser cut and etched metals will be quite tactile - you might like to bring some paper and crayons to take a rubbing of the artworks!

“I’m really grateful Rockhampton Art Gallery and Rockhampton Regional Council are able to engage with traditional owners and local artists and fabricators to bring their creative vision to the city for the greater public to enjoy. Visiting a gallery isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, so these opportunities place art into the wider landscape for everyone to appreciate,” Michelle said.

Ernest Garrett is an indigenous artist belonging to the Darumbal mob on his father's side and Wulli Wulli on his mother's. He grew up on his father's country in Rockhampton including the river Tunuba. He gains inspiration from places like the Tunuba River, our native country and family.

Darumbal Liaison Officer Kristina Hatfield said “This is a wonderful project because, by embedding the artworks within the country that inspired them, it gives a sense of place, and reinforces the strong connection of the traditional owners to the land. I am sure these artworks will enhance the experience of visitors to the area.”

The successful design was identified through a public call to artists, artisans and fabricators in 2019, with Central Queensland artist Michelle Black being awarded the commission.  The commission is part of the larger redevelopment of Nurim that officially opened in 2018 and extends Rockhampton Regional Council celebration of place and people connected to Nurim.

Rockhampton Art Gallery is owned and operated by Rockhampton Regional Council.