West of the Divide (1972-3), Brett Whiteley’s polyptych work snaked along two walls of the Brett Whitely Studio in Surry Hills Sydney, inviting us to admire it in its entirety before swooping in to look at the detail. Upstairs we sat on the leather couch absorbing the enthusiasm and knowledge of the woman from the Art Gallery of NSW.
Yet curiously, we left feeling sad. Was it us, or something about the space that we loved so much on entering, or was it the soul that inhabited it? We resolved to find Wendy’s Secret Garden as an antidote to the damp melancholy that had inexplicably engulfed us.
Wendy Whiteley has poured her heart and soul into this beautiful place, creating a unique public garden in front of her home at Lavender Bay for all to enjoy. It lifted our spirits as we soaked up the magic its colours, textures shapes and sounds. There were little touches of whimsy that made us smile, and winding paths leading us to open spaces or places to pause.
“The garden sits across a sloping parcel of land owned by the NSW Government, bordered by the formal lawns of Clark Park on the high side and an old railway siding running parallel to the harbour foreshore below. The rambling, multi-leveled garden has evolved in response to Wendy’s singular vision, her strong aesthetic sense and the challenging site itself. Stories of her hard work to regenerate this once derelict site soon spread and dedicated gardeners and volunteers came to assist with the project. Together they have established a tranquil oasis or ‘hidden’ sanctuary – a public garden that offers balance and some breathing space to the commercial and fast-paced commuter life close by. This is an enriching and enchanting place to stop, reflect and picnic while taking in the panoramic views captured so famously by Brett Whiteley in his Sydney Harbour paintings from the 1970s.”