Where Eels Lie Down
Where Eels Lie Down, is a public artwork created by Kamilaroi artist, Reko Rennie and honours the significance of the eel in Parramatta. The 7.5-metre-tall sculpture depicts two eels rising from the ground and crossing each other as they play. This remarkable sculpture pays homage to the eel's significance to the Dharug people of the region, intertwining Aboriginal culture and contemporary expression. The name of the city, Parramatta, is derived from the Dharug word Barramada meaning ‘where eels lie down.’
Located in Parramatta Square, visitors will be captivated by the dramatic large-scale artwork which is made up of sections of painted aluminium, and raw and polished granite panels. It also features an embedded lighting display where it will glow at night, with the eels lit up in blue light. Artist Reko Rennie hopes that his work becomes a marker for the City of Parramatta, as a place where people can come together and share stories and experiences.
Where Eels Lie Down is one of two artworks chosen for the $2.7 billion Parramatta Square precinct following a competitive worldwide selection process. An independent panel chose from more than 110 submissions including those from international artists from the US, Japan and Spain.
This magnificent artwork stands as a testament to the commitment that City of Parramatta have to art and culture in the public domain. City of Parramatta believe that public art enriches the community, enhances a sense of place and cements Parramatta as a leading cultural destination and place to be.
Where the Eels Lie Down, by Reko Rennie, 2023.
- The artwork features a total of thirty-three square metres of granite panels, weighing four tonnes and an additional thirty-three square metres of aluminium panels, weighing 550kg in total.
- The artwork was fabricated by Urban Art Projects (UAP) in its Brisbane workshop.
- In order to transport and install the artwork, it was built in modules with the largest completed module weighing 2500kg.
- More than twenty people worked to design, fabricate and install the artwork over an 18-month period. This included boilermakers, fabricators, painters, stonemasons, project managers, designers and engineers.
- More than five thousand hours to create, transport and build the artwork in Parramatta Square.
The Artist behind Where Eels Lie Down
Reko Rennie is an interdisciplinary artist who explores his Aboriginal identity through contemporary media. Through his practice, Rennie provokes discussion surrounding Indigenous culture and identity in contemporary urban environments. Largely autobiographical, his commanding works combine the iconography of his Kamilaroi heritage with stylistic elements of graffiti, merging traditional diamond-shaped designs, hand-drawn symbols and repetitive patterning to subvert romantic ideologies of Aboriginal identity.
As a result of recent, catastrophic fire events, the ever-pressing issue of global climate change is more pertinent than ever. Locally, there is a call to learn from our ancestors who have, for tens of thousands of years, successfully managed and maintained native ecologies through sustainable land management practices. This project provides an opportunity to create a public artwork that speaks to the significant history of Aboriginal culture and identity of the Parramatta region in a contemporary context. Of specific interest is the importance of the Burramattagal waterway (known as Parramatta River). As with past public art projects, my aim is to examine the historical and present day use of sites as a means to creating work that enlivens and enriches local and broader communities.
Where Eels Lie Down brings the history of the eel, inherently tied to the site, its surrounds, and its people, to the fore by celebrating it in large-scaled, articulated form. Two eels rise through the ground level of the square, their winding bodies crossing each other as they play. Reaching a height of approximately 7.5 metres, visitors are to walk under, around and through sections of the work. Fabricated in painted aluminium and etched granite panels, the artwork features sequenced lighting nestled within the seams of the panels. Transitioning from light, to bright, to dark blue, and back again signifies the tidal variations – the rise and fall – of the Burramattagal; a dynamic effect that acts as a beacon for activity against the night skies. Much like it was over thousands of years, these eels will again make the site a place for gathering; where people, local and afar, come to share stories, knowledge and time.
UAP believes that incredible things don’t just happen; they’re created, nurtured, and believed in. Headquartered in Brisbane with studios in Melbourne and Sydney, UAP | Urban Arts Projects offers consultancy, design assistance and workshop services with arts, culture, and creativity playing a vital role in their business.
The artist collaborated with UAP from the initial expression of interest submission to the final installation. UAP's extensive workshop expertise and familiarity with materials such as aluminium and granite enabled the artist to realise their artistic vision. The manufacturing process involved meticulous design of the substructure, granite, and aluminium panels using a detailed CAD model to document and manufacture all components of the artwork. Skilled technicians performed extensive welding, adhering to tested specifications, while painting and finishing each aluminium panel to achieve the desired flatness, gloss, and colour.
Artist Curator and Project Manager:
Urban Art Projects:
Fabrication and Finishing:
J.H. Wagners & Sons, Michael Wagner
Bligh Tanner, Matthew Ennever
AAW Installations, Aaron Fuller
Xenian, Philip Pulle