Share the Story:

LiddellWORKS Coalface

Retired coal-fired Liddell Power Station has mutated to an en plein air (open air) artwork as part of an ambitious creative program seeking to honour the legacy of the iconic energy plant.

Liddell helped to keep the lights on across NSW and sustained businesses for more than half a century until its closure in April last year. The LiddellWORKS project – an innovative partnership between Arts Upper Hunter (AUH) and AGL – invited artists to mark the occasion.

A highly competitive process selected 16 artists from across the Hunter and beyond for a residency that allowed them to respond creatively to the process of closure and decommissioning of Liddell.

The invite extended to the before-and-after of the site’s closure, and the artists created works across a range of artforms including sound installation, pottery, 3D video recording, portraiture, large-scale photography, sculpture, blacksmithing, and wearable art.

AUH executive director John O’Brien said there were many ways for artists to respond to Liddell’s evocative industrial landscape and to the decarbonisation journey AGL is undertaking.

“Liddell is a place of history and a place of transformation, and for artists, that’s a deeply appealing combo. The artists have struck a careful balance between the realities of climate change and greenhouse gas production and the essential work of providing electricity for 50 years.”

Drawing inspiration from the vast industrial space and Liddell’s people, it didn’t take long for camera clicks to replace workplace clang and clank. Fossil fuels fired up a forge instead of a turbine, “industrial” and “technical” music replaced the melody of generating megawatts, and brush strokes on canvas were painting a different picture of the imposing legacy of the industrial revolution.

LiddellWORKS Coalface

LiddellWORKS residency artists included blacksmith Will Maguire who ran workshops with Liddell employees, creating artworks using metal scraps from the site. Rebecca Rath, an en plein air artist who works predominantly with landscapes, produced a still life series. Todd Fuller, who has a special connection with his father having worked at Liddell for decades, engaged with the workforce and produced a series of 30 portraits. Agronomist Penny Dunstan created a series of bowls out of the fly ash, a by-product of coal combustion power.

The program also incorporated an Indigenous component that local Aboriginal artists and culture workers designed. This included Gomeroi man Jakeob Watson’s bold and vivid mural and Wonnarua artist Michelle Earl’s weaving work. Both involved collaboration and engagement with local students.

LidddellWORKS project officer Marina Lee-Warner said the enterprise was all about connection, legacy, and transformation and much effort went into involving the Liddell workforce and community wherever possible.

“There is a palpable sense of pride and camaraderie among past and present employees. They remain very connected to Liddell. It is essential we honour that.”

LiddellWORKS Residency Artists:

  • Tim Black, VR artist
  • Mark Brown, installation creator
  • Suellyn Connolly, visual artist
  • Penny Dunstan, sculptor & geographer
  • Andrew French-Northam, music producer
  • Todd Fuller, visual artist
  • Huw Jones, musician
  • Fiona Lee, sculptor
  • Will Maguire, artist blacksmith
  • Rachel Milne, visual artist
  • Anna Rankmore, composer, photographer
  • Rebecca Rath, visual artist
  • Kirry Toose, wearable arts
  • Fran Wachtel, metal sculptor
  • Lisa Wiseman, crochet artist
  • Kara Wood, sculptor

LiddellWORKS culminates in a major exhibition at Muswellbrook Regional Art Centre from Saturday 8 June and at Singleton Arts & Cultural Centre from Friday 14 June.

Share the Story: