No simple splash of paint. The woman at the heart of our art shares the behind-the-scenes experience of turning our hotel into a vibrant celebration of aesthetics.
For every stay at our hotel, we throw in a complimentary art gallery experience which you can enjoy without leaving the building. In fact, you can enjoy it without even leaving your bed…
That’s all thanks to our artist in residence, Jessica Le Clerc, the creative mind behind the mammoth challenge of turning almost 100 walls into stunning artworks during the construction phase of our boutique hotel.
Award-winning Australian fine artist, Jess took on the task of creating unique wall murals at the bed heads of the majority of our 88 guest rooms, as well as transforming a soaring 25-metre-high internal brick wall into a colourful work of art.
Months of sketching and planning (including painting a 2.5-metre scaled oil on canvas version of the brick wall work) culminated in an 11-day stretch of 12-hour painting sessions by Jess and her tight-knit team of six other revered female artists, working their way from one guest room to the next, and up and down eight storeys of scaffolding to hand-paint the large hidden mural.
“This has been one of the biggest challenges I’ve faced in my career to date, given the scale, logistics and time required to create the lofty mural in particular, working with varying levels of light, scaffolding, hundreds of litres of paint and long days across almost two consecutive weeks,” Jess confesses.
Jess and her team were even rained on during parts of the painting, with the large mural located in a then roof-less lightwell.
“When it comes to my philosophy on art, I see myself as being a problem solver. Overcoming problems is often how my art evolves. And with this creative project, there were lots of limitations to what I could do with the walls (especially working with a heritage building and during construction, so in many ways this project and I were meant to be.”
Wait, what did they paint?
With a knack for storytelling through art, Jess is renowned for her emotive, life-like portraits which have seen her listed for numerous accolades including the Archibald Prize.
But for this brief, we challenged Jess to step outside her comfort zone and create works which told the story of our area’s original inhabitants, which incidentally come without a face.
“I want to tell the stories that matter. And with this project, I sought to focus on the original inhabitants of the land, those growing here long before we changed Sydney into what you see today, Pyrmont’s true natives… the native plants,” says Jess.
The result? A vibrant series of murals depicting dry climate natives including more than 10,000 black wattle blooms, after which Pyrmont’s Black Wattle Bay is named, brings our guest room walls to life, while the 25-metre-high wall – visible from just a select few guest rooms – celebrates Sydney’s native tropical plants in a lush green rainforest scene.
“A green wall with a difference,” says Jess.
“Sydney sits between arid and subtropical, and it holds both climates’ plants. It’s a meeting point of dry climate natives and subtropical natives. I liked the idea of Sydney as a meeting point, a city sitting in the middle, bringing together lots of different cultures, stories, a rich diversity of life,” she explains.
“Murals are best experienced when they are dramatic and blown-up. And that’s very much what the rainforest wall mural delivers.”
And it almost didn’t happen
There was a time during the hotel’s construction that there was much doubt over whether Jess would still be able to finish the beautiful works inside the hotel.
Halfway through the project, in September 2020, Jess was in the middle of teaching a class at her Art School Co when she experienced a sudden, life-threatening brain bleed, falling into a coma and needing emergency surgery to operate on and close a major brain aneurysm.
The odds were stacked against her, but Jess made a surprisingly speedy recovery given the circumstances, and was able to return home to her husband Dylan and four children Toby, Jewel, Summer and Eden – something which many who suffer a brain bleed don’t get the opportunity to do.
And while her recovery continues, Jess has continued to create works, inspiring everyone around her with her enduring strength, drive and positivity.
There’s more to come
One final piece of the artistic puzzle is yet to be put in place. In the opening weeks of the hotel, Jess will return to deliver one final work in the lobby area of the building, in a series of live painting sessions.
This work will be closer to her signature style – a figurative work inspired by the experience of travelling, depicting the faceless traveller, celebrating the true adventurer.
“Travel and art have a lot in common. Art has a way of bringing beauty in from people and makes life deeper. I believe the same can be said about the experience of travel,” says Jess.
Follow Jess’ journey via Instagram
Read more about the hotel’s art here