EF welcomes another significant public art commission

Work is complete on another major public artwork at EF from renowned Melbourne-based sculptor Eolo Paul Bottaro, which celebrates Daphne, a female goddess with origins in Greek mythology.

The large bronze sculpture is located within the English Street Green at the centre of the shopping and office precinct at Essendon Fields, and features Daphne as a Greek dryad, or tree spirit, and daughter of Peneus, the Greek river god.

Image credit: Craig Moodie

To illustrate this connection, the statue Daphne at Essendon Fields, with her limbs turning into branches and tree trunks, rises above a shallow water feature which surrounds her to create a modern environmental statement. Real vines will encircle the sculpture over time, to make it a living representation of the ancient myth.

Traditionally, Daphne has been depicted with the Greek god Apollo, who fell in love with her. To escape Apollo advances, Daphne asked Peneus to transform her into a laurel tree.

Artist Eolo Paul Bottaro’s interpretation was to focus on the relationship between father and daughter, and not Apollo, and to celebrate Daphne’s transformation into mother nature, rising from water.

The sculpture of Daphne, which was unveiled in January 2024, rises to almost 4.5 meters, with a water feature at ground level.

Eolo Paul Bottaro was also the artist behind the sculpture of the mythological figure of Atlas – the Titan of Greek mythology – which stands proudly at the entrance to Essendon Fields outside the Hyatt Place Hotel. Atlas was fated to bear the weight of the universe on his back.

As part of the artistic process, Eolo worked with model April Le Feu Rouge on a series of sketches, before completing a detailed plasticine model of the Daphne sculpture (pictured) which was meticulously hand crafted in his Melbourne studio.  The model was then taken to Fundere Foundry in Melbourne, who cast the sculpture in bronze sections using a lost-wax process, before Daphne was put back together ahead of being positioned into her final place on site.

Image credit: Daniel Mahon

“I looked at the location at Essendon Fields many times and it seems that it’s frequently used as a lunchtime gathering place for people or for events and it’s also central for most of the shops, and easily accessible, so it’s the ideal location for this sculpture,’’ Eolo said.

“I didn’t want to take away peoples’ enjoyment of that place but enhance it. The sculpture will be accessible at level ground, so it’s got a strong connection to the earth. The sculpture will suit Essendon Fields very well. The story behind Daphne transforming in Greek mythology into a tree has a strong relationship with the environmental commitment at EF and celebrates how many new trees the precinct has planted over two decades,’’ he said.

“There is also some consistency in the other public artworks at Essendon Fields with Titan, as both represent strong characters in Greek mythology.

“My aim with this sculpture is to reinterpret this ancient Greek myth to fit into a modern theme. I’ve done that by avoiding the normal representation of Daphne being positioned with Apollo. Instead, Daphne is on her own, as a strong character surrounded by water, which of course represents her father, who in mythology she asked to turn her into a tree. In many ways my interpretation of this myth is all about the relationship between daughter and father and that’s so interesting.’’

Eolo says the addition of the water feature to surround Daphne also allows those viewing the sculpture some additional elements to enjoy, because they can put their feet in the water if they wish in the warmer months (it is only 150 mm deep) and they can enjoy the reflective and calming nature of water as well as they contemplate the entire impressive sculpture.

“Daphne is a great celebration of the strength of Mother Earth, and I hope that everyone will enjoy this modern representation of her story. I think it’s an exciting project in public art.’’

Image credit: Daniel Mahon

The Daphne sculpture was officially unveiled to the Essendon Fields community on Tuesday 30th January, 2024. Hundreds of locals turned up to the free event held by Essendon Fields, who supplied free coffee and floral pots for visitors to take home. Guests were welcomed by Essendon Fields CEO, who encouraged the community to interact with the artwork by whipping off his socks and giving his speech from within the reflection pool, something he hopes locals will also do to cool off on summer days in the Fields.

Image credit: Craig Moodie