New contemporary art exhibition reveals the making of the Metro Tunnel


As the opening of the Metro Tunnel draws closer, an upcoming contemporary art exhibition will offer a unique glimpse into the incredible feat of engineering taking place deep under Melbourne.

Commissioned by the Metro Tunnel Creative Program, the Making the Metro Tunnel – reflections by contemporary Australian artists exhibition aims to explore and celebrate the massive rail project that will transform how people move around Melbourne when it opens in 2025.

Artists, including painters, ceramicists, and sculptors, have taken inspiration from archaeological digs that took place before construction, heavy machinery, and the aesthetics of worksites and workers’ equipment to produce their own portrayals of the project.

Paintings by Troy Argyros depict several important objects discovered during the project’s archaeological digs that are now under the guardianship of Heritage Victoria.

Kenny Pittock’s ceramics playfully represent items found in the digs that were not deemed significant but still contain clues to Melbourne’s social history, from old beer cans to straws.

First Nations artists Jenna Lee and Iluka Sax-Williams with Dan Bowran have transformed fragments of post-European settlement objects from the digs into contemporary artworks.    

Michele Hamer’s intricate cross-stitch works use a warm material to translate photographs of the concrete-lined tunnel and giant digging machines called roadheaders into art.

Harley Manifold’s atmospheric oil paintings capture the activity – above and below ground – of construction sites busy with machinery and industry as workers build the tunnels and stations. Chelsea Gustafsson’s paintings pick up the common visual references that tie all the diverse workers on the project together—the highly recognisable protective equipment such as hardhats, high visibility vests, steel-capped boots and safety glasses.

Making the Metro Tunnel – reflections by contemporary Australian artists opens April 1 and runs until May 7, at Domain House, Dallas Brooks Drive, Royal Botanic Gardens. •

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