Bonds of Friendship

Related to City Art
Installed 1980
Two large, interlocked bronze rings on a granite slab. In the background is a city street with several buses.
A historical photograph from the 1980s, shot in black and white. In the centre of an open plaza in front of Customs House is a sculpture of two large, interlocking bronze rings on a granite slab. A woman stands reading the plaque in front of the sculpture.
Two large, interlocked bronze rings on a granite slab. They are shaded by trees.

Interlocking bronze ring sculptures in both Portsmouth and Sydney commemorate the First Fleet.

Artist: John Edwards Robinson

Artwork description

This memorial sculpture consists of 2 large bronze rings joined together as in a chain. The sculpture rests on a granite slab donated by the City of Portsmouth.

The sculpture was created as a symbolic memorial to the First Fleet, marking the bicentennial of its arrival on 26 January 1788. It is a companion piece to one created by the same sculptor and erected in Portsmouth, England to mark the departure of the First Fleet.

Symbolically, the chain extends from Portsmouth to Sydney over the route travelled by the First Fleet. The last 2 links of the chain form the memorial at Circular Quay and cement the bonds of friendship between Britain and Australia represented by Portsmouth and Sydney. The surfaces of the sculptures are also rich in symbolism – the Portsmouth one has a dull painted surface to denote the ‘old country’ and the links of the chain in Sydney are highly polished brass to represent the ‘new country’.

Australian sculptor John Robinson was living and working in England when he created these works. Through the sculpture he expressed his conviction that the future of civilisation depends on friendship, cooperation and trust.


John Robinson was born in London in 1935 and lived in Australia from 1940–1943 and 1952–1969. During these years Robinson worked as a jackeroo, trekked on horseback 1,100km through the King Leopold Ranges in the Kimberley region and farmed land in the South Australian Ninety Mile Desert, an experience that formed the basis of some of his later work.

It was not until the late 1960s that Robinson decided to become a full-time sculptor and returned to England. By 1975 he had created the first of the bronze sculptures in his Universe Series, where he uses shapes found in nature to symbolically represent the various meanings of life, mortality and immortality.

It was soon after the first public display of this series that Robinson was commissioned to sculpt the Bonds of Friendship (no. 47 in the series) in larger proportions for the City of Portsmouth and shortly afterward the City of Sydney.

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