The Light and the Ground, 2017

Dutch metal leaf on wall
8m x 36.8m
The Abbotsford Convent, Melbourne
Commissioned by the Abbotsford Convent Foundation
Assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council for the Arts, its arts funding and advisory body
Design development and installation collaborators included Art Gilding, Sydney. Installation collaborators also included Astrid Mendez, Krissie Kalteis and Catherine Buckley.

Process time lapse by Kristian Laemmle-Ruff
Photo study by Giovanni C. Lorusso


The Light and the Ground is a semi-permanent installation covering  the Providence building facade with an imperfect gold patina. It investigates an immersive sensation of colour and light, and whether this has an effect on the experience of awareness in the space. The work aims to reference processes of transformation, symbolically and in its lived experience.

The work combines the golden background of the Providence facade with a variety of simple elements characteristic of the Convent space - children playing in a tree, markets, passers by, a worn fire hydrant, sunset - each new composition revealing simple but striking relationships and perspectives on its subjects.

It is hoped that the viewer approach the work from beyond the Convent grounds as a process of introduction to the site over distance, and for it to affect the experience of entering through the front gates, playing in the Meer Cat enclosure, sitting in the cafes and on the lawn, attending markets and traversing the area. The intention is for it to be a subtle transformation of space that supports the community and its activities.

Gold references alchemy and its attempts to transform physically and metaphorically, through processes of purification and maturation. It is also symbolic of the spiritual processes of the women of the Order of the Good Shepherd as well as the community they supported, their laundry and lacemaking services of cleansing and refinement, and the Providence building itself with its historic role as a finishing school. The contemporary uses of Convent spaces for creative arts, cultural and wellness activities continue this legacy of transformation with great sensitivity to maintaining the site’s heritage.

The imperfectly applied golden dutch metal leaf covering the facade relates to the patinas on many of the Convent surfaces in various states of transformation and decay, and is semiotically connected to the gold leaf in the architecture, artwork and craftsmanship of Catholicism. From it’s traditional interior use in places of worship and as the gilded ground of religious icons, this work transitions the reference of gold to the building’s exterior. Its manifestation in the outside world offers the internal treasure symbolically to the community, where the value belongs to all, like the beauty found in nature and everyday experiences.

Gold’s associations with light, awareness and transformation are significant to the memory of the Abbotsford Convent site, and through this new creative development are hoped to inspire a transformed awareness of the presently unfolding community and space.