23 November 2017

Art in the Park (2017)

Words by Kings Park Festival Director and Manager, Jacqui Kennedy

"Great art picks up where nature ends."
- Marc Chagall, Russian painter 

"Art is the stored honey of the human soul."
- Theodore Dreiser, American novelist

Art appears in unexpected places in Kings Park. In a sculpted park bench, a mosaic in the path beneath your feet, in the sweeping curve of a pavilion or shaped into a picnic table. It is often subtle, designed to be stumbled upon and spark a moment of delight.
Art is like a speed bump that slows us down for a moment to allow us to consider our place in the fast-paced world we live in. In Kings Park, art often encourages us to think a little deeper about the landscape that surrounds us. Art and science collide gracefully everywhere in Kings Park, from garden bed design and layout, to native plant cultivars painstakingly developed by the plant breeding program. Art can attract fresh audiences and give a voice to some of the knowledge and memories in Kings Park.
Bolder art forms appear in sculpture, outdoor exhibitions and installations, music, theatre and through Kings Park Festival events across the park at different times of the year. A large new art installation – Symbiotica, has recently become the long-awaited and dramatic entry to the Western Australian Botanic Garden, more than 50 years after it opened in 1965.
Most Western Australians can easily list our favourite plants or places in Kings Park, measure its size or count its visitors. But how do we measure what really makes Kings Park tick? How do we express the joy, the solace, the relaxation or the well-being this place offers?

Since this land was first set aside ‘for public purposes’ just two years after the Swan River Colony was settled, Western Australians have been protective of Kings Park. We have made it the home of our most cherished memorials, the first place we take important visitors from around the world and have battled against all manner of ‘bright ideas’ put forward by developers including freeways, swimming pools, golf courses and mobile phone towers. Expressing this deep connection and value through art is a protective measure, helping to ensure its pristine beauty is kept intact for generations to come.
Life in our botanic garden has just hit its peak, with the 2017 Kings Park Festival done and dusted for another fabulous year. This year’s Festival attracted approximately 500,000 people who delighted in the wildflowers and took in the stunning ephemeral and static art in the park across the month of September. 

A highlight at this year’s Festival were two stunning installations which celebrated Western Australia’s stunning biodiversity and the uniqueness of our flora and fauna. ‘Woven Wildernest’, a striking three metre by six metre ephemeral sculpture, stood proudly in the heart of the Western Australian Botanic Garden. Designed by WA artist Sally Stoneman, the sculpture honoured the Kwongan region of South West WA – a globally recognised biodiversity hotspot; and represented the amazing relationships between WA plants and animals. A second installation located at the entry to the WA Botanic Garden near the famous Floral Clock, ‘From Pollination to Inspiration’, took a magnified look at the life stages of jarrah flower from pollination to new growth. Designed by local artists Karen Millar and Pascal Proteau, the sculpture which saw pollen hanging gracefully from the tree canopy, was a stunning and much-photographed installation at the Festival and will have a life long after the end of the 2017 Festival has finished.
2017 was a bigger than usual year for our humble park. Live music events in Kings Park have a magical pulling power, with a bumper concert season drawing thousands of people from all walks of life into the picturesque Pioneer Women’s Memorial venue. A record Moonlight Cinema season saw more than 30,000 movie buffs enjoy a film under the stars at May Drive Parkland. It’s hard to look past the Boorna Waanginy: The Trees Speak event, however, as one of Kings Park’s biggest art and culture highlights of 2017. The event attracted more than 100,000 people to Kings Park across three evenings in February and was a magical merge of Kings Park’s Aboriginal culture and biodiversity. The visually mesmerising event explored the inter-connectedness of all life, and highlighted the beauty and fragility of WA’s South West. From bushfires and rainstorms to flocks of birds, frolicking fish, playful animals and blooming wildflowers, visitors delighted in the visual feast right in front of their eyes.
Art has always been an important part of the modern development of Kings Park and, in particular, the Western Australian Botanic Garden. The intent was to encourage the community to think a little deeper about what a place like Kings Park means to them, however, when it comes to articulating its importance, people often struggle. This is the perfect role for art to play. Art acknowledges that the emotional and spiritual connections we all have are valuable and important, although we know they’re not always easy to express.
Art brings pleasure and a little thoughtfulness to our lives. In our fast-paced, commercialised and densely populated world, a little thoughtfulness may just be the key to the park’s survival. With still, warm nights under Tuart trees and the stars, overflowing picnic baskets, a summer of art and cultural events still to come, not to mention impromptu performances from cheeky kookaburras still to come in summer, what’s not to love?

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Sally Stoneman, Woven Wildernest, 2017.
Photographer: Sue-Lyn Moyle

Karen Millar and Pascal Proteau, 
From Inspiration to Pollination, 2017.
Photographer: Sue-Lyn Moyle