Engineers move out of comfort zone onto canvas

A group of engineers have teamed up with artists in Sydney's north to create the Manly Dam Project exhibition that showcases the significant environmental and water research site and its Aboriginal heritage.
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Engineers move out of comfort zone onto canvas

A group of engineers have teamed up with artists in Sydney's north to create the Manly Dam Project exhibition that showcases the significant environmental and water research site and its Aboriginal heritage.

The eight engineers from Sydney's Water Research Laboratory (WRL) at Manly Dam have partnered with the Manly Art Gallery and Museum (MAG&M) to explore the relationship and synergies between art and engineering. The project aims to increase awareness of the critical role of water management, no more so now than, given the issues of climate change and the widespread bushfires around Australia in the summer of 2019-2020.

The University of NSW established the WRL more than 60 years ago to undertake research into the world's water engineering challenges. Its director, Professor Ian Turner, said the engineers and artists "share a common aspiration to discover, understand, interpret and communicate the natural and cultural environment".

In preparation for the exhibition, the artists toured the WRL and the Manly Dam catchment area with the engineers and spent time with them to understand their research and the history of the area. The Aboriginal Heritage Office also participated in the project, resulting in the cultural significance of the area being captured in several of the eight new artworks inspired by water management and engineering.

Professor Turner said he and the engineering team gained new perspectives from the process.

"Our team works with partners from academia, industry and government to tackle civil and environmental engineering challenges," he explained. "We're not used to working with artists, and it's fair to say this project has put us out of our comfort zone.

"Working with this exceptional group of artists has definitely given us new ideas on how we work and engage with our partners and the community."

The participating WRL engineers are Alice Harrison, Ian Coghlan, Chris Drummond, Francois Flocard, Mitchell Harley, Gabriella Lumiatti, Tino Heimhuber, and Ben Modra.

The artists are Shoufay Derz, Nicole Welch, Blak Douglas, Melissa Smith, Nigel Helyer, Sue Pedley, David Middlebrook, and Cathe Stack. The Manly Dam Project exhibition is open daily at the MAG&M until Sunday 23 February 2020.

Image: Yarrahapinni (infra-red time-lapse film) by Nicole Welch.