Situated in the heart of Darwin, St Mary’s Cathedral is recognised by its 16m high parabolic arches, white porcellanite stone, and eight printed glass artworks in the Bishop O’Loughlin memorial window, the first artworks within the cathedral to be commissioned from Indigenous artists.
Opened by Bishop O’Loughlin in 1962, St. Mary’s Star of the Sea is the centre of the Diocese of Darwin. The catholic connection to the Indigenous communities of the Northern Territory dates back to the mid 1850’s, when missionaries first visited the region’s remote areas. The church has since forged a strong relationship with the Indigenous people, and a small Catholic church in the remote Santa Teresa (Arrernte) community is credited with inspiring the artwork behind the windows, which were undertaken in memory of the late John O’Loughlin, a bishop of Darwin for more than 30 years.
The project began in 2009, and Bishop of Darwin Eugene Hurley has been key in raising the capital required to replace the aging coloured glass and framing system installed after Cyclone Tracey. ‘Ever since I’ve been here I’ve dreamt of having Aboriginal art in the cathedral’ Bishop Eugene says. ‘While we do have a very famous icon in the cathedral, the Aboriginal Madonna, it’s not by an Aboriginal artist. The Bishop O’Loughlin windows go a step further to say well this is actually Indigenous art from our own diocese.’
The windows feature eight lively, full colour artworks, created by artists from the remote communities of Arrente, Tiwi and Melville islands, Larrakia (Darwin) and Daly River. The artworks were created as large watercolour paintings, combining inspiration from traditional culture with Christian references. Facilitator and art consultant Cait Wait spent 2 weeks working with the Cooling Brothers team in Perth on behalf of the artists, translating the paintings into the ceramic inks featured in the company’s ImagInk printing process.
The ImagInk product was selected by the church due to the longevity and translucency offered by the ceramic inks, which creates rich glowing colours within the interior of the church. ‘At different times of day it looks totally different’ says Cait ‘it’s like a silk, a very painterly effect, and the light becomes diffused, it’s not sharp or harsh light, which was really important for us’
With Darwin classified as wind region C, a crucial requirement of the project was cyclonic glass and framing. The current coloured glass and framing system was almost 40 years old and well out of code under AS1288. Cooling Brothers supplied the printed glass windows on 14.28mm low iron Tempest Guard Cyclonic Glass to suit wind speeds of up to 38m/s, and a Cooling Brothers glazing team flew up to Darwin to perform the de-glaze and installation.
The colours within the artworks of the new windows create an arresting and vibrant contrast against the contemporary neo-gothic design and white porcellanite stone, which was cut from the cliffs of Darwin Harbour. The eye catching addition to Darwin’s most well-known church has resonated with locals and tourists alike, and the longevity of the printing combined with cyclonic glass, will ensure it resonates for many years to come.
‘It’s become an icon for the city, I want people from all around the world to come and look at this’ says Bishop Eugene. ‘If you want to look at beautiful Aboriginal spiritual art, go to Darwin and look at the printed glass in our cathedral – it really is that good.’
Further information on the artists and the inspiration behind the artworks can be downloaded in PDF format by clicking on the link below:
Client The Darwin Diocese Location Darwin, Northern Territory
Glass 14.28mm Tempest Guard Cyclonic Volume 35sqm
Processing ImagInk ceramic printing, Heat Soaking
Further information on the processes featured in this project can be found below: