'Figtree' a reminder of the joys of nature and childhood

As a child Jade Oakley would clamber over the enormous protruding roots of the Port Jackson fig trees dotted around Sydney, in awe of their colossal scale and mesmerised by the speckles of sunlight filtering through glossy green leaves onto the yellow and red berries shining like jewels.

Those childhood memories have been captured and reimagined in hand forged copper and acrylic ‘petals’ in her sculpture ‘Figtree’ at the entry to Scarlet at Pavilions.

The two majestic Port Jackson figs that cast welcome shade over the Australia Avenue façade of Pavilions were all the inspiration Jade needed to create an artwork that would both delight and have special meaning for residents of Pavilions.

“’Figtree’ was a natural response to the site,” says Jade. “When you choose something that belongs to the site it gives a sense of belonging.

“One thing I love about them, they take you back to childhood and climbing over the branches and leaves. Because they are so colossal they make us seem small again too and I wanted to capture that sense of being transported back to being a child.”

Jade’s expression of the beauty of the fig tree is not a literal one. Instead she has reinterpreted the beautiful texture of the trunk, the way the roots twist and stretch, and branches arch overhead. The gem-like berries have been represented as broad, colourful petals, lit from above and glowing like a stained glass window.

“To achieve the texture of the branches I’ve used hand beaten copper,” says Jade. “It is such a beautiful material and like the bricks of the Pavilion buildings it has a sense of age and time. Even though this is a sophisticated environment there is a sense of permanence and timelessness in the materials that have been used.”

From Jade’s scaled down models, blacksmiths Lok Sutherland and Chris Sulis worked the copper, heating it in a furnace, stretching and beating it to form ribbons twisting up the walls and curving into an arbour. Even the rivets that fix the structure to the wall and fittings to suspend the petals are hand made, beautiful works of art in their own right.

The petals were hand painted by Michael Wolff in Adelaide, working from Jade’s water colour sketches and his own intuitive knowledge.

“I wanted him to create something that lights up like a stained glass window,” says Jade. “They look so beautiful when light is shining on them and through them.”

‘Figtree’ stands around five metres high and took a day to install but more than a year to fabricate. But the process began many months earlier when Mirvac invited public art curator Merran Morrison of Public Artworks to present a short list of artists who could capture the spirit of Pavilions in a meaningful and playful way.

The final selection has proven the right one with the eye-catching sculpture warmly received by residents of Scarlet, bringing a happy glow as they come and go throughout the day.

It is just the effect that Mirvac General Manager of Design, Marketing and Sales, Diana Sarcasmo, had hoped the sculpture would produce.

“We put such a lot of thought into the coming home experience for residents at Pavilions,” said Ms Sarcasmo. “Figtree is the finishing touch which we hope will delight residents every day.

“It begins with that beautiful walk through the colonnade alongside the gardens with the sweet smell of gardenia building the anticipation. Then as you approach the Scarlet lobby, here is this beautiful sculpture with its almost luminescent red and pink petals hanging from the copper branches.

“It’s playful and joyful, yet sturdy and robust, and is the perfect detail to capture the essence of Pavilions and put a smile on the face of everybody who passes by.

“Mirvac has always placed a big emphasis on public art in our residential communities, design being so deeply embedded in our DNA. Figtree is a beautiful way to finish a beautiful building.”