Arthur Boyd brings the Australian bush to the heart of Parliament
6th May 2017 by Loren Robertson
This magnificent tapestry gracing the wall of the Great Hall in the Australian Parliament, Canberra, is a work on an epic scale. A collaboration between some of the finest creative minds in Australia at the time Parliament House was built - artist Arthur Boyd; architectural firm Mitchell, Giurgola, Thorp; and the craftspeople of the Victorian Tapestry Workshop (now the Australian Tapestry Workshop) in Melbourne.
One of the largest tapestries in the world, measuring a massive 20 metres wide by 9 metres high, it is the focal point of the native timber-clad Hall. The tapestry pays homage to the centuries-old tradition of hanging tapestries in grand buildings. Rather than take the form of a heroic scene or striking panorama as so many tapestries do, it depicts the essence of the Australian landscape - the textures and colours of life under the canopy of a eucalypt forest.
The idea for a great work of art as the centrepiece of the Great Hall was muted in the very earliest stages of designing Parliament House. The architects had considered a monumental painting for the space but after a meeting with renowned artist Arthur Boyde in London during 1983 the decision was made to commission a huge tapestry for the southern wall.
The tapestry is entirely handmade—the weavers worked directly from Boyd’s painting to draw the outlines for the work, which was woven in four sections. It took 14 full-time weavers two years to complete the piece, using yarns that were specially dyed to match the colours in the painting.