A new artwork by Fenella Kernebone, part of the City of Sydney’s Art & About series
The stories spill out, tales of rebirth and decay, beauty and struggle, stories of life up close. Fenella Kernebone’s new artwork, Here Lies Your Story, is a love letter to a pocket of Sydney that continues to stimulate the imaginations of the city around it.
Kernebone has lived in Potts Point, on and off, for the best part of two decades. During that time she has watched people come and go, drawn like her to the energy of these streets.
This is a community defined by its diversity, and the sense of acceptance is always there. “The place has changed but I still love it,” she says. “It’s that mix of people: the noise, the smells, the bats flying overhead, the ibis honking in the palm trees. It’s constantly busy and always noisy and there’s nowhere else like it in Australia.”
Here Lies Your Story, part of the City of Sydney’s Art & About series, is a text-based mural installed on the surface of the Potts Point Hotel. On the wall, it stands about 4.5m high and 3m wide. It then extends a further 2 metres along the ground below.
Both sections feature a range of vignettes collated from residents and visitors to the area. Kernebone, best known as a curator and broadcaster, drew on her experience as an interviewer to assemble these stories together.
She spent months collecting memories and observations: interviewing people on the street, visiting shops, putting out word on social media, consulting historical archives. Participants ranged from celebrated local identities and renowned storytellers to anonymous visitors and long-term residents.
Working in collaboration with acclaimed local designer Marita Leuver, whose skill and experience was crucial to the realisation of the physical artwork itself. Kernebone set out to capture a cross-section of the stories that made Potts Point so unique. While Kernebone collected and curated the stories, Leuver designed the artwork and even proposed the location. Leuver chose bright, bold colours and a striking font, ensuring that whether you stand near or far the work is striking and memorable.
The result was a kind of in memoriam for one of the most mythologised parts of Australia.
“I think of this work,” she says, “as a kind of strange and beautiful tribute to one of the most interesting locations this country has to offer.”
Whether you call it Potts Point or Kings Cross, or spill over to the streets of Elizabeth or Rushcutters Bay, there has always been something intoxicating about this dense, interlocked jungle of city. In recent years its complexion has taken on a new look amid rising real estate prices, lock-out laws and the pandemic.
“I think of this like a time capsule, how we as a community feel about a location,” Kernebone says. “How is it you can mark a location to an individual? What is it that makes a space beautiful, meaningful? Whether we live here or visit, what is it that we love about the place? Everybody has a story to tell.”
The observations that Kernebone has put together range in tone and experience. Some are complimentary; others are severe. Some are wistful; others are mournful, or full of hope. Together they represent a mosaic of a village that so many characters call home.
“Lots of downsizers in Potts Point,” reads one. “They leave their mansions, come here and then they complain about the noise!” One pushes back against criticism: “You find this ugly, I find it lovely.” Another sets the scene after dark: “A murmur, a push, the scrape of a heel.
Lining up to get in, the night’s feeling real.” While another reflects on a familiar journey: “I remember coming in from the suburbs nervous and excited, arriving at Kings Cross Station to a strange and exotic world. I was home. My first Mardi Gras.”
An audio version is available online, with a series of extended interviews with participants to be released in the coming weeks.
The mural will be in place alongside the Potts Point Hotel until 16 May 2022. For more information, visit Art and About.
Words: Ashleigh Wilson
Photography: David Varga