Sydney is undoubtedly a beautiful city with tons of arty and architectural eye candy. The Opera House and Harbour Bridge are known around the world and all manner of statues, fountains, sculptures and memorials (the ANZAC War Memorial even won a design prize) fill up pages in the “must-see” sections of guidebooks. Combine the elegant columns and grand architecture of some of Sydney’s historic buildings with the sharp, skyward-reaching lines of the more modern constructions against the backdrop of a glistening, vibrant harbour, and you can be visually stimulated the whole live-long day. There’s even a web site where you can find public art, both permanent and temporary, around the city.
Despite the lot of proper monuments to Sydney’s storied past, it’s not all straight lines and city planning. Dip into the sometimes seedy, creative and alternative enclaves of the Inner West, and you’ll find a look that’s less 90-degree angles and more mysterious curves and dark shadows. Enmore, Marrickville, Alexandria – there’s a fire and funk to these suburbs that only comes out in fits and starts in the city proper. Secret concert venues, to which passerby are only alerted by a camel’s head jutting from the window, line lonely railway tracks. Bars sit tucked away in warehouses you can only find with a local’s help. (Note: I saw The Voice’s Darren Percival perform at one of these venues). This is where the city’s Fringe festival – a counterpart to the one I frequented in Philly for almost a decade – takes place each year, inviting burlesque and dark comedy and the theatrics of brilliant, burgeoning playwrights to rotate across venues much more contained than ANZ stadium.
It’s quite appropriate, then, that one of the entrances to this Inner West corridor is marked by a misshapen troll under a bridge in an area called Annandale. It’s made of fiberglass and has huge red-rimmed eyes, two fangs jutting up from its bottom lip and a swirl of green, red and brown “skin.” I first noticed this troll when I moved to Balmain two years ago, as the 433 bus route travels past it. I never got up close to it until a few weeks ago when we were walking to meet friends in Annandale Park. He’s big enough that you can sit on him, and I did just that. I didn’t think he’d bite; his face looks more dopey than mean.
It turns out the troll took up residence under the bridge in 2008 as part of a new Channel Ten show called Guerrilla Gardeners. The Leichardt Council was going to take down the troll in 2011 due to it falling into disrepair, but more than a year since that move was announced, he remains. Locals don’t seem to mind him being there and he has gotten a bit of a following on social media – the troll has its own Facebook page (but then again, so does my 5-month-old nephew).
What is the weirdest, coolest, piece of public art/sculpture/statue you have in your city?