David Humphries is a visual artist based in Sydney. In 1990, he created the design and production of two significant glass mosaic murals for the Skygarden shopping centre. When Skygarden was demolished 20 years later, in 2010, Humphries was involved in salvaging two of the major mosaics. ‘The Spirit of the Day and Night’ arch was moved to Yeoval in Central West NSW. The 7.5 metre high mosaic ‘The Maiden of Abundance’ is now held in the collections of the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (MAAS). This interview was conducted in 2010.
It was a very upmarket Hermes, Yves Saint Laurent sort of image, or client, that they wanted. It was opposite David Jones, it was a very prestige location. They brought in Peterhansrea who were an American interior design architect team to work on that, and we became their Australianising part of it. Because in the beginning their designs were all very New York art deco, and I’d be saying “Hey, listen, mate, there isn’t that reference here; we need to Australianise it.” Eventually we came up with the iconography that would work as the theming of the building, and that’s the iconography that is mainly in the lobby, at the Castlereagh Street entrance, of using Australian native flora and fauna: so the waratah, the lyre bird, all of those symbols. Some of the works were just mosaic, which were the arch and the wall piece. The floor had decorative terrazzo inlaid with mosaic as well, and the symbols and the themes went into marquetry (beautiful parquet floors were done), in glasswork, they’re all interrelated. It was a very expensive project – I can’t remember how many millions it was. They wanted it to be a quality building that would last forever and become a treasured thing of Sydney.