Daughter inspires larger than life “Sheila” sculpture for Queen’s Wharf Brisbane

A larger-than-life five tonne goddess-like bronze sculpture is the latest artworks to be unveiled as part of the multi-million-dollar public art pipeline for the iconic $3.6 billion Queen’s Wharf Brisbane.

Known for her focus on the body as an art form, Brisbane based creative Justene Williams, said her five-year-old daughter Honore’s fascination with tiny toy figurines, inspired the almost five metre upscaled version of a superwoman, titled Sheila.

“My daughter is interested in superheroes and loves her plastic figurines, so I took that and gave the sculpture gravitas,” Ms Williams said.

“The name Sheila riffs on the term used for an Aussie woman but it is also the female character carved in stone mainly in Europe from the 11th century, which has interpretations of protector, fertility and empathy and I wanted to immortalise those qualities.”

A former dancer and cabaret performer, Justene Williams is an established artist over 25 years and is well known for her large-scale immersive live works, multi-channel video installations and photography.

“My work is often ephemeral, but this is permanent and I’m so excited for Sheila to be so prominent in such an important development for Brisbane,” Ms Williams said.

Sheila will stand at the Queen’s Wharf Plaza on the riverside of the existing Commissariat Store and is one of four artworks now announced for the 7.5 hectares of public space within the integrated resort precinct.

Art curator and Director of the Institute of Modern Art Liz Nowell, part of the Specialist Arts Advisory Council panel, led by highly regarded art figure Philip Bacon alongside leading Indigenous curator and arts administrator Avril Quaill, likened Sheila to a “towering goddess-like figure”.

“I like to think of her being the guardian of the Plaza, who will watch over the millions of visitors to Queen’s Wharf Brisbane, including for the 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games,” Ms Nowell said.

Ms Nowell said while there have been four signature artists announced so far, there were two First Nations artists and artworks yet to be announced this year.

The public art project is unparalleled in its ambition and the calibre of works by some of Australia’s most innovative contemporary artists will see Brisbane become an art destination.