Rare Sunlit Water  

Project Space
Contemporary Art Tasmania, 2021


Before covid, every year I would return home.

At the end of a 2 day journey through the sky, I would see the shoreline.

2 chimney towers on the coast would anchor my bearings; built in 1971, they stand just under 208 metres tall. They are the tallest human made structures in the country.

Growing up I viewed them from a 2 kilometre pier. My grandmother would take us for walks there as children.

As an adult, every time I return home, I retrace my steps along the pier. 2 kilometres walking, walking, walking, only out to sea.

There are many concrete landmarks along the way. I used to take them at face value- solid joyous seaside furniture.

Now they are brutalist structures, painted spearmint green.

I think of childhood friends. So many young people emigrated, often to Australia. I wonder if they struggle to accept their new identity in colonised lands. I wonder do they visit this place when they return home.

At the end of our walk, my grandmother, in her beige ford, would wave and shout ‘hello!’ to all the honking cars, as though a parade was greeting us. But they were just angry, as she drove against 1 way traffic, taking a shortcut back to the main road.

The chimneys were to be demolished in the 90s, but people protested.

They had become vital to the skyline, though their original function was dormant.

In 2014 they became protected structures.

The men’s and women’s changerooms are a kilometre apart. The ‘room’ faces the sea. People’s bodies are shielded from human eyeballs, but exposed to wind, sidewards rain and salty sea spray.

On this day, the seemingly endless sheet of grey was lifted, and I recorded the reflections of sunlit water on a usually grey place.

At the end of the pier, the story ends the same way each time:

A statue of Mary with a halo of iron spikes… the concrete ground breaks up, piled up rocks continue alone out to sea, falling apart as water breaks through and long seaweed furls over; an unwalkable path to an unreachable lighthouse.

I wonder if I kept walking would the path break my ankles.

I wonder if anyone I know has been to that lighthouse.

© Maria Blackwell 2024