Thursday, 26 November 2009

Catch step 103


Since 1996 the site of the old Darlinghurst Gaol has been the home of the National Art School. What an ironic combination of freedom and detention!

For 74 years, Darlinghurst Gaol was the main penitentiary serving the city of Sydney. In 1840, Prisoners were moved in from the old gaol at Circular Quay and in 1914 moved out to the newly constructed Long Bay Gaol. During WW1 the buildings were used as an internment camp and then, in 1921 were reconfigured to become the East Sydney Technical College concentrating in Fine Arts and Design. In 1996, the State Government removed it from the TAFE system, converting it into an independent school with its own governing board.


The amalgam of freedom and detention is palpable as one wanders the site: glorious sandstone buildings radiating as spokes from the old chapel hub. Random doors stand ajar, and incomplete artistic works tumble from benches, sprawl over window sills and peek half-hidden from garden beds. Students dressed in black with bovver boots and silver studs dart hither and thither with boards and bottles and boulders.


Time moves on. What care we now for those incarcerated behind these walls during the 19th century? Should we spare a thought for those like Captain Moonlight, Jimmy Blacksmith, Louisa Cooper and 71 others hanged within these walls? They lived by the sword and died by the sword. Or did they?

One of the inmates (on more than one occasion) was Henry Lawson, renowned in Australia as a poet and short story writer immortalised by Archibald's "Bulletin". Lawson was an alcoholic suffering from manic depression who bounced between the Reception House and the gaol for crimes such as wife desertion, and failing to pay maintenance and other small debts. His prisoner number was 103.


I pay tribute to the work of Jim Clarke that resulted in this video from You-Tube. At 8+ minutes, it is lengthy, but gives a voice to those who may be treated differently today.

Note: the vents that I posted on Monday showing gorgeous morning light were to cool a shed full of potterty kilns.

16 comments:

Steffe said...

I like it better as an art school!

Lois said...

What a marvelous atmosphere for the art school. So much inspiration, right there under their noses! I work in a building with art and theatre students all day and I never get tired of seeing their unusual dress and their artwork scattered around the building in unusual places.

brattcat said...

If the truth doesn't set us free, perhaps art will.

Leif Hagen said...

Just think if those heavy, thick walls could talk . . .

Joan Elizabeth said...

Julie I so enjoyed this ... the lovely photos, the well written story of how it is today and that poem ... so moving and beautifully read ... it will stay with me all day today ... thank you.

Maggie said...

Besides fashion it was a cookery school.
I studied there in the late 60's.
I studied to be a "home economist" and also did my commercial cookery certificate within those walls.
I loved the stone walls and went back to wander the paths there last year.
Thank you for capturing Sydney as I remember it.

J Bar said...

Thanks for showing us this Julie. This is another place in Sydney, that I've never seen before.
Sydney - City and Suburbs

Ann said...

Same as Jim, I've never seen this before either, where is it?

Julie said...

The National Art School is immediately behind the Supreme Court of NSW at Taylor Square. It is bounded by Forbes St to the West, Burton St to the North, and Victoria St to the East. This places it close to both St Vincent's Hospital and the Jewish Holocaust Museum.

Being behind the Supreme Court I am surprised that security is not higher than it is. It was only after over an hour on site that a chap wanted to know what I was doing and why. At the time, I was prostrate shooting a nice air vent, mondo grass and flaking sandstone so I did not look too dangerous.

On Sunday I will court controversy and tell you about "the wall".

Julian Davis said...

Really a great atmosphere for an art school. I like its architecture.

Thank you for sharing this Julie.

diane said...

It looks much nicer in your photos than I remember it in the 50's. Maybe it has had a sand blasting.I had dreams of going there when it was the previous Art School but parent pressure saw me enter Teachers College.Fancy Henry Lawson bouncing between Reception house and Gaol. It is a great poem.

Ian said...

I hope Sydney hangs on to its colonial history.It is so interesting and the literature that came from it should be promoted.
Australia is much more than cricket and footy etc.
Thanks for the post,very informative.

AB said...

Another fascinating history lesson

BlossomFlowerGirl said...

I wonder if the ghosts of the past linger in the today of the present? Lovely building as so many of the old ones were.
Melbourne Daily Photo

Paula said...

It's hard to imagine living in a place like this, being incarcerated in such a place. I have to think that we're all better off for what Medicine has learned from the way people with mental illness used to be treated. Knowing the art school is now there has to be a comfort and I love the animated poem. A lovely tribute.

BANJO52 said...

I'm late again, but want to say I like this series, both photos and commentary. Combo of prison and art school, as everyone as seen, is really interesting--symbolic and all that.