Aussie Outdoor Art #2 – Thargomindah, Outback Queensland

Drawing Water – Thargomindah

I’ve always known – and accepted! – that when it comes to art, I’m a philistine. But two recent stand-out incidents confirm it beyond all reasonable doubt!!

Andrew’s comment on Aussie Outdoor Art#1 affirmed my simplistic and populist tastes – which I happily acknowledge!
But was I REALLY such a philistine I’d mistake Thargomindah’s landmark sculpture for an unfinished public toilet?
Well, yes.
Fredrick White Sculpture, Thargomindah
But in my defence, from a distance, the poles glinting in the sunlight by the side of the road DID kind of look like an unfinished building. Especially as the sculpture hadn’t been there on our first visit 2 years before.
However, when we stopped for a closer look, I was able to give Frederick White’s ‘Drawing Water’ not only the attention, but the appreciation it so rightly deserves. Its 52 poles symbolise the 4,700 bores delivering a reliable source of water to Outback OZ – without which the area would be uninhabitable for much of the year.
A bore’s average depth of 500m – Thargomindah’s water was first found at 808m – is represented by reflective discs in the centre. Ironically, these were covered in dust in June 2011, with no sign of the floods that isolated the town for several months earlier in the year!
But the foresight of Thargomindah’s early settlers – third in the world (and first in OZ) behind London and Paris with hydro-electric street lighting, and first in OZ with reticulated water – mean the effects of the presence or absence of water are minimised.
Drawing Water – Close Up
However, the nearby, still-operational hydro power plant and cooling ponds – water is around 85ºC when it reaches the surface – are reminders of this isolated town’s water self-sufficiency. The sculpture’s setting in grass, dry ground or dust also reflects recent weather conditions.
Light reflecting and sparkling on polished surfaces and shadows cast by the poles are part of the sculpture’s beauty – perhaps a further reminder of alternative, less reliable water sources such as rain, the nearby Bulloo river and Lake Bindegolly.
And all these factors combine to make this eye-catching work of art FAR more fascinating – and important – than just another amenities block!! 

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  1. @eileeninmd – Thanx! If I hadn’t been told, I wouldn’t have known either!
    @NJAMB – Indeed! And not sure about the sound, it wasn’t windy when we visited!

  2. This was so interesting! If only more of the world could be foresighted enough to be self-sufficient like this. Do the rods sound like wind chimes when the wind blows, I wonder?

  3. It is an interesting piece of artwork. If I had not read your post, I would not even be able to guess what it is suppose to mean. Thanks for sharing on Scenic Sunday! I enjoying seeing post from around the world. Happy Sunday!

  4. @PDP – Haha! It does, at that!! I’m a ‘backstory’ kind of girl – it ALWAYS makes more sense with one!!
    @KenG – Welcome, and thanx!! Cold Poland, huh?? Somehow I’m thinking it’s WAAAAY colder than winter in OZ! Drop in anytime you need a break from the cold!!
    @SFlaGuy – Thank god I passed your test!! Makes me wonder how many other times I’ve failed … Not sure about the drilling time – too many variables, like type of rock, availability of equipment, water table presence/absence – you get the picture!
    @Memphis Steve – You’re back!! I’ll be over to visit once I’m back in non-dodgy-internet-connection land!!!

  5. Water, water everywhere and all the boards did shrink.
    Water, water everywhere, and there ain’t a drop to drink.

    Sorry, reading about this brought that poem to mind for some reason.

  6. Thank You for this blog. Australia is so far away from me and thanks to blogs like yours I can see all these wonderful places.

    Of course, I can watch a documentary, but it’s not the same as the opportunity to read the words of a woman who lives there and watches everything closely.

    I send You greetings from the cold Poland! 🙂

  7. I see you caught that. In most places where I live you need only dig down a few feet and hit water. Less if the the tide is high (nope – not kidding) None you can drink. Too salty.

    When I lived in the middle of the state, wells were the thing and were usually drilled in a day or two with a guy in a pickup truck. How long does it take to drill an OZ well? Now that would be investigative reporting.

  8. Very interesting story Red. It almost looks like a huge windchime without it’s strings! To me, if sculpture has a great story attached, therein lies it’s attraction!

  9. @Dianne – Hahaha, that’s hilarious!! I do hope the sculptor reads that one day – although on 2nd thoughts, maybe not … And I was devastated about the book, but will struggle on regardless!!
    @Carola – Well! If you love Australia, this is the place to be!
    @diane b – welcome back! Look forward to seeing more about your trip!!
    @SaucyKod – Haha, yes I now have a VERY disturbing mental image!! Maybe we should compare them sometime to see whose is the scariest!!!

  10. @Eccentricess – from afar, the poles just look like a bunch of poles. Up close, they’re kind of magical!!
    @Windsmoke – interesting that a few of you have commented that the story makes all the difference. Something to remember for us bloggers, huh??!!
    @Rubye – You & me both! I shot off WAY more pix than I should have – because I found it so intriguing!
    @Kath – I guess part of the ‘explanation’ is the setting and context. If you’ve driven for hours through the outback to get to Thargo, a tribute to water makes sense, so the artistic expression may have more meaning. Then again, I could be talking through my bum …

  11. @magsx2 – Well, we’ll agree to differ then!! But I’ll still be the biggest philistine for thinking it a public loo …
    @Andrew – And that, my friend, is why blogs ROCK! No need to retract your previous comment – accepted and appreciated!! And … just between you & I, I’m in Victoria as we speak …
    @FruitCake – I didn’t appreciate it until I got up close! Your comments, on the other hand, I can appreciate from afar! And do!!
    @SFlaGuy – Only 80 feet, huh??!! And using most OZ bore water gives new meaning to ‘sculpted hairdo’!!
    @Sallie – Ah, thank you my friend! You’ve given me my best excuse yet – ‘I’m still learning’ will be trotted out for years to come!!

  12. ha,ha the comment about pole dancing was just too funny – I could just picture it. All these Ozzie felines way out THERE, pole dancing. Too funny
    Great story Red – really enjoyed your explanation, very interesting yet again. Cheers

  13. Okay, I’m a complete Philistine! You want to know what my first thought was? That this was a pole-dancing school. Thank you for enlightening me!
    And thank you for the history. And for reminding me of our deep ranch wells, which produced Sulphur water in abundance, which, though it was known for its softness, smelled . . . bad. And tasted worse. At least that was what everyone said who came to visit. Growing up on it we thought it tasted just fine. 🙂 And thanks for proving, once again, that the most interesting names come from England, and Australia!

  14. When i first seen the first photo i thought it was some type of play ground equipment but after reading your explanation it is truly a unique Australian sculpture :-).

  15. I found this a very aggressive installation when I first looked at it, but your explanation of the history and meaning behind it have given it a lovely strength. Thanks!

  16. Having once lived on a Florida ranch, we drew our water from a well a full 80 feet deep. Considering the expense of the drilling, the cost of the pump and filtration, and the taste (pure sulphur) of the raw water, I appreciate a good well story.

    As an art fan, most art is not just for the eye but for the story. Thanks for bringing this one to life.

  17. Hi Red, thanks for explaining the installation. Now that you’ve explained it I CAN see the water, but from a distance my first instinct might have been ‘que?’.
    Bet it cost nowhere near as much as some of the stuff around Oz; stuff that no amount of explaining would leave one any the wiser.
    And yes, with all the gaps in the wall it does bear a strong resemblance to many thunderboxes I’ve seen over the years.

  18. That is a seriously nice piece. Do I have to go to Tarmor…??? whatever to see it. No, you have shared it. Re the past comment, I must have been drunk. I just checked, and I stand by my comment, drunk or not. Derivative is a kind and artistic word.

  19. Hi,
    I have to say it is the most ugliest thing I’ve seen in a long time, why Governments or councils pay for this type of rubbish I will never understand.

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