Inconspicuous to the eyes of locals, large and looming to those unfamiliar with the work. The City of Manningham’s ‘Sentinel’ sculpture is a resident icon, standing proud at the western gateway to the City nestled amongst the native grassland at the Doncaster Road exit of the Eastern Freeway.
This extraordinary form, measuring 13 metres tall and weighing a paltry 12 tonnes, was the first of three sculptures commissioned by Manningham Council to mark major gateways to the City. Its purpose – to enhance the amenity and identity of the municipality.
The sculpture itself is a mastery of contemporary abstract art, a towering blue, red and black figure which encourages entrants to the City to guess what it represents – a depiction of human, of animal or both? In fact, its curved shape symbolises the intersection of the two main creeks found in the municipality – the Mullum Mullum and Koonung creeks, which enclose the blue oval form at the crown, representing the City of Manningham.
Sentinel was constructed by world-renowned artist Inge King and was installed on 18 September 2000. Formed of steel, the monument took Inge around 4 months to fabricate, with the artist, a long-term Warrandyte resident, gifting her fee to the City.
King, who has since passed on – not long after reaching her 100th year – is today recognised as a leading Australian sculptor, an artist synonymous with her public works erected in parks and next to freeways across Melbourne and regional Victoria.
Inge was born in Berlin in 1915 and educated at Berlin Academy of Fine Arts and Glasgow School of Art. Her emigration to Australia in 1951 is said to have enriched “Australian cultural life as she introduced contemporary ideas, encouraged her peers to experiment and educated the community to accept the innovative, intellectually challenging forms of modern sculpture,” writes Judith Trimble in her hardcover ‘Inge King Sculptor’, Art & Australia, Craftsman House, 1996.
The sculptor is quoted to have been intensely inspired by the vastness of the Australian land in a 2011 article by Jenny Brown, writing for Domain. “The landscape grips my imagination. I try to measure my work against the vast space of this country.”
The erection of the Sentinel and other such monuments, which were commissioned as part of Manningham’s Public Art Collection, reflects the Council’s long-founded dedication and pursuit of innovative links between art, culture, heritage and environment through works in the public sphere. Public art contributes to a strong local identity and ‘sense of place’ for the City, with the Sentinel, as its name suggests, steely marking its territory and casting a watchful eye over the borough.
Sentinel, 2000, painted steel. Manningham Art Collection.