Artist: Maria Fernanda Cardoso
Curator: Amanda Sharrad
Royal South Sydney Hospital (former), 3 Joynton Avenue, ZETLAND, 2017
Project: Green Square Public Art Program
Artist Website

Artwork Description

Bottle Trees are natural life forms that have internalised the critical challenge of water scarcity and turned it into a beautiful solution.

– Maria Fernanda Cardoso, 2014

Maria Fernanda Cardoso’s public art installation consists of narrowleaf bottle trees (Brachychiton rupestris) of different ages together with native edible succulents planted among sandstone garden beds. The sandstone blocks will be sandblasted with text providing the date of birth of each tree, horticultural information and recipes for the roots. When read from above, the blocks spell out the text While I Live I Will Grow.

The artwork connects strongly with the site. The South Sydney Hospital has always had strong connections with the local community as a service and a place to gather. Bottle trees double their girth each year, so the artwork also recalls the history of the hospital as a place of births and healing in the local community.

The site is now being redeveloped as a community hub for creative learning. The artist studios, creative workshop spaces and community events will facilitate interpersonal connection and inner development. The artist believes this re-connection with one’s self to be very important in our hectic and demanding lives.

The bottle trees signify and re-contextualise the history of water and water management strategies, so important to the Green Square urban renewal project. Green Square’s once gushing stream and wetlands were drained for industry, resulting in periods of water shortage followed by recent flooding. This drought and deluge is representative of Australia’s historical relationship with water. The innate ability of the bottle tree to store water in its trunk through periods of drought aligns with the City’s efforts to syphon, store, treat and recycle storm-water in nearby tanks.

The installation will present a strong entry marker to the site and a narrative that connects with the community as a growing and living organism. It will also provide a place for respite, play and education about the species, and a natural habitat within the surrounding built environment.

While I Live I Will Grow is about the growth of Green Square as a community, the personal growth of individuals, families and children in the area.

Bottle trees fascinate me because of their sculptural quality, their character and charm. Their visible growth can also become a visual analogy to the expected growth and maturity of the Green Square community.

The stone text will not only create a favourable environment for the bottle trees to mature, but aims to become a motto for the community, for our potential personal growth as we, as humans, age. This bottle tree community will celebrate their ageing together with humans and other species in a shared environment.


Maria Fernanda Cardoso is a Colombian born artist who currently lives in Sydney. She is well known for her unconventional materials and the use of animals as inspiration.

Cardoso has a longstanding, internationally recognized career and has exhibited in museums including the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid, the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, the Museum of Modern Art in San Francisco and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney.

Green Square Public Art Program

The Green Square Town Centre will have a role as the heart of an evolving inner-city region.

The City is responsible for several major projects in and around the town centre.

The integration of artworks is a priority to ensure an engaging and vibrant place for the existing and new Green Square residents, workers and visitors.

The Green Square Public Art Strategy, by Curatorial Advisor Amanda Sharrad, is a program of permanent and temporary art projects that aims to connect with the community, and address the historical, cultural and ecological elements of the site.

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