News and Media

1 year ago in Community , Media release , Arts & culture
(15/8) Freo Rainbow revealed

At nine metres high, 19 metres long and tipping the scales at 66 tonnes, Rainbow is not your average public art piece.

The sculpture, by prominent Perth artist Marcus Canning, is constructed from nine recycled sea containers joined to form an arch. Colourful and creative, the sea containers form the shape of a giant rainbow as a universal symbol of hope and inspiration as well as being a highly visible Fremantle welcome statement.

The new artwork will take pride of place at Beach Reserve adjacent to Canning Highway, overlooking the Swan River and the port.

The largest public art piece ever commissioned by the City of Fremantle, the $145,000 Rainbow is the jewel in the crown of more than 50 public art pieces throughout Fremantle, a city with a rich arts culture and well-known as a city for artists.

In a complex engineering feat, the massive artwork was be pieced together by cranes one container at a time on-site in Fremantle on Friday 12 August.

Fremantle Mayor Brad Pettitt said he hoped Rainbow would spark debate and conversation.

“It’s big, it’s bold and colourful and very Freo. As a city of artists we have commissioned a dynamic artwork that has been conceived, engineered and produced in Western Australia and represents the ingenuity of our arts industry.

“I hope Rainbow will not only foster conversation and debate but will put a smile on the faces of locals and visitors and remind us of just how lucky we are to live in such a great place. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Rainbow emerge to become one of the most talked about and photographed landmarks in the region in the months and years to come.

“Like all good pieces of art it will mean different things to different people. For me it represents a variety of things including Fremantle’s strong links to the sea, a celebration of Freo’s renowned arts and culture scene and also a strong statement of hope for greater diversity, tolerance and compassion in society,” Mayor Pettitt said.

Artist Marcus Canning said turning his concept into reality had its challenges from an engineering and construction point of view.

“It was always going to be a challenge to connect nine sea containers and make them hover in an arch which at its apex is nine metres above the ground. The result is 66 tonnes of wow,” Canning said.

“Nothing like this had ever been attempted so we’ve had to come up with some innovative ways of joining the containers together and worked with some brilliant companies and contractors bringing the vision to reality. One of the structural engineers working on the project refers to the structural form as being weirdly simple and the sculpture itself as being simply weird. I really like that description of Rainbow - weirdly simple and simply weird.”

Location and design

The location and orientation of the artwork was carefully considered to provide a unique entry statement to Fremantle and to showcase the artistic and creative merits of the city.

The design was selected by open tender from 28 applications received by the City. The selection panel for this major commission was made up of public art professionals, historians and art experts from the City of Fremantle Public Art Advisory Group and staff.

Rainbow… In the words of the artist

Rainbow is a work that is 110% Freo, over-the-top fun and frivolous whilst remaining resonant and rich with deeper references, resplendent and radiant, brash and ballsy.

The work is a monumental welcome arch that speaks to the port environment over which it stands. These elements (sea container & rainbow) have strong associations with the history and character of Fremantle both in the historical and contemporary moment.

Containers are a ubiquitous element in the port environment and its surrounds and a direct symbol of the history of Fremantle as a commercial port from the deepening of the harbour by C. Y. O’Connor in 1897.

The rainbow is a symbol of many things including alternative and counter cultural hippy styles and aesthetics, a distinctive and ongoing element of the Freo character.

The rainbow is associated with dreams, flights of fancy and the escapism of fantasy.
It’s a universal symbol of hope as well as aspiration.

By slamming these seemingly incongruous elements together, the results speak volumes about the unique spirit of Freo as well as its character - big, bold and brutally beautiful. Colourful, creative and a little bit crazy. Super-sized playful on an industrial scale. Welcoming, whimsical and joyful. Undeniably and distinctively - Freo.

The work gives a nod to the ready-made as much as concrete art, pop art as much as minimalism, it also speaks to global economic as well as cultural concerns in the age of late capitalism.

It was the transportation entrepreneur Malcom McLean who revolutionized international trade in 1956 when he developed the intermodal shipping container, standardised the transportation of goods around the globe and ultimately lowered the cost of goods, everywhere – contributing more than any other single invention to the exponential explosion of globalised economy and world trade that was to roll out over the second half of the 20thC.

Rainbow is a new iconic entry statement for the portside City of Fremantle - visible from a range of major entry arteries - from the water, from the air, from rail as well as car. Its presence is as architectural as it is sculptural, awe inspiring for the pedestrian to engage with, a beacon of welcome that is instantly recognisable from afar.

Marcus Canning