Albion Place at night. An illuminated doorway displays a steel double door etched with a silhouette of a tree. A pedestrian walks down the laneway towards the doorway.

A tree replicated, rotated and etched into doors along the laneway referenced the history of the area and its cinema context.

Artist: Caroline Rothwell
This artwork is no longer at this location.

Artwork description

Watling Tree was a series of etched steel panels attached to 6 sets of double fire doors, set within alcoves along Albion Place in Sydney’s city centre.

The panels were based on the iconic tree depicted in Thomas Watling’s drawings of the area from the late 1700s. Artist Caroline Rothwell said:

“The tree imagery relates directly to the history of the site and is heavily influenced by the tree used in Thomas Watling’s drawing of the vicinity in the late 1700s. Watling’s tree was translated again and again by his admirers in pictorial renditions of the area. I like the idea of this influence continuing – where the representation of an actual specimen in the 1700s is reinstalled in a contemporary configuration in the 21st century.”

The trees were placed in a rotating sequence, beginning with an upside-down tree at the lower Kent Street end of the laneway and ending with an upright image at the George Street end. The changing position of the images gave the deliberate impression of an animated sequence (acknowledging the artwork’s location behind a cinema) and was designed to echo the movement of passersby up the slope of Albion Place.

The images stretched across the full width of each set of doors, disguising their function, and at night the etchings were illuminated by strip lighting set into the roof of each alcove. While the panels worked together as a cohesive sequence, each was also designed to operate as an individual artwork.

The artwork was commissioned as part of the upgrade to Albion Place in 2012.

“The translation of tree to paint to digital image to laser etch reflects a long journey laden with social and political history. Watling’s drawing was of a tree that existed pre-colonisation. In these artworks, the tree is conceptually back in situ.”

– Caroline Rothwell


Caroline Rothwell is a highly experienced artist who studied in London, Auckland and New York.

Rothwell has held residences at several universities, studios and museums, including the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology in Cambridge, UK.

She has displayed her work in solo and group exhibitions in cities across Europe, Asia, the US and Australia, and features in public and private collections throughout the world.

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