British artist Tracey Emin is best known for bold works of monumental self-confession, but her new artwork for Sydney is a world away from this approach. Her public artwork The Distance of Your Heart places up to 60 handmade bronze birds around the city centre.
The artwork runs from the city’s northern end on Bridge and Grosvenor streets through the Kent Street underpass. The bird sculptures perch on poles, above doorways and on awnings. You may not notice them immediately, but the search will have you seeing everyday places differently.
The Distance of Your Heart was specially created for Sydney – a city Emin knows very well from visiting at different points throughout her life. The work responds to Australia’s distance from other parts of the world. It’s Emin’s reflection on distance and feeling homesick. To express the tenderness of this emotion, the artist juxtaposes the birds’ tiny, delicate figures against the tall, concrete buildings. She says:
Sometimes we can feel lost and sad, but the sight of a bird can give us hope.
The artwork is also situated around Macquarie Place Park, the site of the Obelisk of Distances. Designed by convict architect Francis Greenway, the Obelisk of Distances was erected in 1818 and records the distance to various places in New South Wales along the colony’s earliest roads.
From a solitary bird in this central location, Emin’s bronze birds fan out, inviting you to slow down and reflect on the people you love, whether close by or far away.