Tankstream – Into the head of the cove

Related to City Art
Installed from 1999 to 2019
Pavement during the day with an inset artwork. In the artwork, two parallel steel lines reflect the sunlight, while two parallel glass lines extend from them at an acute angle.
Pavement at night with an inset artwork. In the artwork, two parallel steel lines extend straight forward, while two illuminated blue glass parallel lines extend from then at an acute angle. In the background are a memorial and a building.
Detail of artwork inset into a pavement. A textured, dirty glass line runs left to right while a steel line with part of an inscription extends above it. The visible part of the inscription reads, "Into the head of the cove... which serves to divide..."

Markers in the pavement created a sense of the historic Tank Stream still flowing beneath the surface of Sydney.

Artist: Lynne Roberts-Goodwin
Curator: Sally Couacaud
This artwork is no longer at this location.

Artwork description

Commissioned as part of the Sydney Sculpture Walk for the Sydney 2000 Olympics, Tankstream – Into the head of the cove … marked the course of the Tank Stream, Sydney’s first water supply, with 5 key sites through the city. The stream began in marshes near today’s Pitt Street Mall, extending to Alfred Street and finally flowing into the harbour at Circular Quay. This artwork celebrated the stream’s importance in the founding of the city and its continued survival under the city streets.

The location of Sydney was chosen by Governor Phillip because of the Tank Stream, and it remained the city’s only water supply until the 1850s. This work made people aware of the presence and historical importance of the Tank Stream in the development of Sydney.

The artwork was located in 5 separate sites from Pitt Street Mall to Alfred Street creating a diagram mapping the course of the stream. Set into the pavement, above the existing subterranean stream, were coloured glass modules overlapping and angled away from stainless steel lines. The angles represented the flow of the Tank Stream in relation to the direction of Pitt Street – comparing the natural and man-made conduits of energy in the city. At the final site on Alfred Street the rods splayed to represent the delta as the stream flows into Sydney Cove.

The movement of the subterranean stream was alluded to by the glass rods which were lit from below. They rippled blue light at night, creating a sense of flow beneath the surface.

The title of the work was taken from Watkin Tench’s historical text and the steel rods were etched with the longer quotation. Watkin Tench, Captain of the Marines of the First Settlers at Port Jackson, wrote in his diary about the selection of Sydney Cove as the site for the first settlement. He recorded the presence of water at this site, his vision of grandeur of the settlement, the geographical description of the Sydney valley and the rise and flow of the stream.

“Into the head of the cove, on which our establishment is fixed, runs a small stream of fresh water, which serves to divide the adjacent country to a little distance, in the direction of north and south.”

– Captain Watkin Tench of the Marines, January 1788


Lynne Roberts-Goodwin lives and works in Sydney. She studied at the University of Sydney and University of New South Wales, gaining a postgraduate Master of Fine Art Degree from Manchester University, Medlock Fine Arts Centre in 1980. Roberts-Goodwin’s photographic work is grounded in a deep concern for nature and humanity.


Artwork deaccession

This artwork was deaccessioned in 2019.

Originally commissioned for 10 years, Tankstream – Into the head of the cove … formed part of the Sydney Sculpture Walk and public art collection for nearly 20 years.

Each work included in the Sydney Sculpture Walk has been a significant artistic and cultural contribution to this city, adding renewed interest and meaning to established city spaces.

A 2016 review of the Sydney Sculpture Walk resulted in the deaccession of 3 works, including Tankstream – Into the head of the cove ….

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