Category Archives: Public Sculpture

Ballet sculptures in Melbourne

In December I was walking passed the Arts Centre in Melbourne when I noticed some new sculptures being installed at the top end of lawn. Actually I first recognised the small spider-like crane of  J.K. Fansham Pty Ltd, that I last saw installing Louise Paramor’s Ursa Major, before I saw the sculpture.

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David Maughan, Les Belle Hélène, 2015

Les Belle Hélène by David Maughan was being installed on the lawn of the Arts Centre Melbourne. The title is a reference to La Belle Hélène an operetta by Jacques Offenbach. The sculpture depicts two female ballet dancers both en pointe, one in an arabesque balancing on one leg while the other with her arms spread is fully extended on both feet. The sculpture is a gift to the Australian Ballet and the semi-classical bronze figures match the tradition of classical ballet.

Melbourne sculptor David Maughan has done many sexy sculptures of slim ballerinas. David’s wife, Helen Choules was a dancer. This explain both the obvious sexual interest in and the technical accuracy of the female figures in Maughan’s sculptures (the nipples on Maughan’s dancers are aways outstanding).

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Simon Brady, Dancer, College of the Arts ground

I now wonder if Maughan isn’t responsible for another ballet sculpture in Melbourne, the bronze figure of the dancer at the front of the VCA. I’m not sure; his webpage doesn’t give much information. (After the publication of this post I get the answer, no, it is by Simon Brady. See the comments.) There is a sculpture of male and female ballet dancers in the garden of the Stokes Collection at Mount Macedon in central Victoria but they look even less like Maughan’s work.

None of these ballet sculptures are in my book, Sculptures of Melbourne where there are more about sculptures of footballers than ballet dancers. That’s Melbourne, it’s not my taste; my taste is much more for dancers rather than footballers. Not there is much difference as sculptures of dancers or athletes are both celebrations of athleticism.

I am trying to keep up with the new public sculptures in Melbourne. I feel that I should as the author of a history of public sculptures although my book, Sculptures of Melbourne was never intended to be a catalogue of Melbourne’s sculpture. In writing a history you can’t include every example. Melbourne City Council itself has 100 sculptures and 80 monuments; this does not including privately owned sculptures on public display like Les Belle Hélène, that is owned by the Australian Ballet and on public display on the lawn at the Arts Centre near the Inge King sculpture.


December 2015

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Exit 2015, Friday 11th December, Brunswick Arts

On Friday night across Melbourne many galleries and studios were holding their end of year celebrations. But it wasn’t just the end of another year at Brunswick Arts (aka Brunswick Art Space, Brunswick Art Gallery), it is closing permanently. Eleven years ago Joel Gailer established the gallery in a building that featured an old house at one end and a factory space that opened onto laneway at the other end. On Friday there was a final one night only exhibition using the whole now empty building.

I like the tradition of the end of the calendar year but every year I write these terrible end of year blog posts. Barely coherent rambling pieces of writing but what do I expect? As if I could sum up a year in a few hundred words.

Normally in these end of year posts I write that I won’t be posting anything for another month but the Andy Warhol – Ai Weiwei has just opened at the NGV and Julian Rosefeldt’s brand-new thirteen-channel work Manifesto has just opened at ACMI. I anticipate that I will slow down my rate of writing but you never know what will happen. I hope I will take a break, part of being a self-employed professional means taking holidays, otherwise you will burn yourself out. (There is also professional development, or you will decay over time.)

Sculptures of Melbourne cover

Personally 2015 was a great year, a real point of self actualisation as my first book, Sculptures of Melbourne was published. I had two book launches, conducted several walking tours of Melbourne’s public sculptures (one of these was part of Melbourne’s Writers Festival) and a book talk at Brunswick Public Library. So support a local publisher, your local bookshop and buy my book.

Consequently I am being invited to visit a lot more sculptors at foundries or in their studio, however there has rarely been a story in it. In other public art new this year Mr Poetry on Fitzroy Street had his leg broken by a truck, nobody celebrated the 150th anniversary of the Burke and Wills Monument and Alex Goad’s Tethya was installed on the corner of Fitzroy and Jackson streets in St. Kilda.

This year I missed covering the story of Makatron’s Kama Sutra Burger at Land of Sunshine. Censorship, street art and Brunswick, it had all the elements of one of my blog posts, but I can’t write about everything. I also missed the story of the guerrilla exhibition about tagging in the Alexandra Avenue underpass under St. Kilda Road; I finally saw it this week and it had been systematically tagged.

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Grit, an exhibition of tagging, Melbourne

Next year I will be celebrating my 1000th blog post (this is number 992) with a psychogeographical walk in Brunswick on Sunday the 31st January. In March I will also be exhibiting a few of my paintings for the first time in many years. Doubtless I will also be doing a few tours of public sculpture too. (See my events page for more details).

Seasonal greetings and thanks for reading this terrible end of year post.

Live Christmas Decoration 2


Tethya & Public Art

Alex Goad’s Tethya is a new public sculpture on the corner of Fitzroy and Jackson streets in St. Kilda’s restaurant strip. Tethya is a biomorphic post-minimalist sculpture. Being biomorphic and post-minimalist actually work very well together because multi-cellular organisms, like sea sponges of the genus Tethya, are made of smaller units that are basically the same. This reference to sea sponges with the smell of the cool sea air blowing in from the bay connects the sculpture to its location.

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Alex Goad, Tethya, 2015

Alex Goad is a sculptor and industrial designer who knows both about post-minimalist sculptures and marine organisms. He has won an award for designing a modular artificial reef system, as well as, sculpture prizes.

Incorporating lighting into public sculpture has returned now that the new LED lights have allowed this to be done safely with minimum maintenance, unlike earlier modern art attempts/experiments. In daylight, without its purple LED lights, the 2.7 metre high sculpture is not that exciting but the sculpture of fibre-reinforced concrete is not intended to be monumental but public art to create a hub, to mark the intersection between two roads and potentially a meeting point.

How the public will use this sculpture may be different from its intended function. It is a bit too lumpy to sit comfortable on but it will certainly tempt some people to attempt to climb it and this was the only interaction that I observed at the sculpture. The round forms don’t allow enough surface in any direction to tempt many taggers. The many deep gaps in the surface may well attract people to stuff rubbish into them, known as ‘wedging’.

One of the worst things that the media can do with a new public art is report on how much the art cost. It is misleading to the public as a figure in dollar terms fails to explain the breakdown of costs involved: materials, transportation, equipment rental, etc. In thanking the whole team of people involved in Alex Goad had to note that he was the lowest paid worker on a per hour basis. This is not unusual for a sculptor, a hundred and fifty years ago Charles Summers had the same experience making the Burke and Wills Monument. (For more about why reporting the costs is misleading see my post about another public sculpture: Big Cat Controversy.)

Instead of reporting on the cost try telling the story of the sculptures development. This time last year, Tethya was just an idea that Goad was trying to design a submission for the sculpture commission. In February he was awarded the commission. Construction started in July and the sculpture was finished a week ago, although the LED lighting still needs some more work. On Saturday afternoon I was at Linden New Art in St. Kilda to celebrate the installation of Alex Goad’s sculpture. There was a design exhibition at Linden of mostly elegant light shades, reminding me of Tethya’s lighting design.


Andrew Rogers Sculptural Sequence

Starting from zero, Andrew Rogers was an amateur painter.

One. He started making sculpture based on the human form. Nothing remarkable, the last of his figurative sculpture is a public sculpture, City Living, 1996 in West Melbourne.

Andrew Rodgers City Living, 1996

Andrew Rogers, City Living, 1996

Zero plus one.

One. Again, and again Rogers makes sculptures, this time abstract.

Andrew Rogers Rythems of the Metropolis, 1996

Andrew Rogers, City Living, 1996

One plus one.

Two. More editions of sculptures and growing complexity of techniques and materials. Becoming a full-time artist was not a big life changing decision just “something that I grew and enjoyed over time.”

One plus two.

Three. Moving on to something new, land art. He continues to make bronze sculptures, each one building on the previous work. His ‘geoglyphs’ are giant drawings with piles of rocks in sixteen countries on every continent on earth. In his land art Rogers works with local artisans and craftsmen, taking a material that they normally build with and creating abstract form.

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Andrew Rogers, City Living, 1996

Two plus three.

Five. It is getting harder to make sense of Rogers’s sculptural practice as it ranges in material and scale from small work in new materials to land art. His sculptures are a mix between ancient and contemporary materials, ancient and contemporary techniques, the extremely large and small scale and different locations from the desert to the city. But Rogers doesn’t see much difference between all his sculptures. They are all building on the same work, part of the same series of works that intersects with another series of works with the same theme.

Three and Five.

Eight. Scrolling through more photos on his iPhone, Rogers is talking about the latest edition of a sculpture that he made for the entrance to the headquarters of Cirque du Soleil in Montreal, Canada and his plans for more land art in Turkey and Peru. Talking about 420 tons of carved stone and building the roads as well as building the structures. Another version of a sculpture that has fire going through it for the fire breathing founder Cirque du Soleil, Guy Laliberté. He wasn’t a mystic with wild ideas, nor a charismatic salesman, he was more of a calm, taciturn, mathematician.

Rogers explains; “When I’m on a land art site I’m there seven days a week, ten hours a day, working. I’m working with lots of people. I’m just working with more people than I normally work with at a foundry but its no different. Once you have a volume of work you need people to help you create it. You can’t do it all by yourself.”

 

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Andrew Rogers, Come to the Edge, 2015

Out to the foundry floor he shows me couple of elegant, dynamic stainless steel sculptures he spends 90% of his time doing this kind of work. Another sea shell form in stainless steel that is being polished. Rogers explains some of difficulties of casting curved forms in stainless steel. “State of the art stuff,” He says but basically it is art bling for the conspicuous consumers.

On the desk in the small office of Meridian Foundry in Melbourne, where I am interviewing Andrew Rogers, there is the form of a bisected sea shell cast in a polymer and covered in a thick coating of crushed lapis lazuli, a sample of a new technique that Rogers is trying for his Molten Concept series. The series involves the same sea shell form each made in different materials.

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A test sample for Andrew Rogers

The sea shell form is also the form of Rogers’s third ‘geoglyph’, Slice (2003) in the Avara Desert in Israel. A vertical slice through a sea shell drawn horizontally with walls of stones on land that was once part of an ancient seafloor.

“Land art is an ancient form of art but I think my land art is fairly contemporary in its approach and ideas. The methods probably aren’t that different. Some structures are only able to be made with a contemporary approach, with contemporary equipment but the structures aren’t that much different to ancient structures. The ideas behind whether it is a contemporary bronze or stainless steel is the same idea behind the land art. They are all reflecting similar ideas. So you can take the mathematical Fibonacci Sequences, which is an ancient idea but I have made a contemporary bronze and I have created it in a number of contemporary stone structures around the world.”

In the Fibonacci Sequence the next number in the sequence is the sum of the two previous numbers. It is a natural model of growth and progression with each step building on the previous steps. The patterns of nature expressed in numbers, like the slice through a sea shell.

A sequence or a pattern only makes sense as a progression not in isolation. The later numbers don’t replace the earlier numbers but continue to build on them. New art doesn’t replace old art but builds on it in a continuing sequence of art making. And so on and the numbers and types of Rogers sculptures continues to grow larger. He currently has over fifty massive stone structures. We see by recognising patterns in time and space. The Fibonacci Sequence is a both way to understand some of his sculptures and also Rogers’s whole oeuvre.


MoreArt in Coburg Mall

At one end of the Coburg mall, strung between two trees there was the banner announcing Ben Landau’s Coburg Quest, at the other end stood Dan Goronszy’s large chalk board, The Launching Board on its platform. In between them, the usual crowd of activity in the Coburg mall: tables of people drinking coffee and eating, small children playing and a woman busker singing folk songs with a strong vibrato voice.

Larissa McFarlane, A Ritual of Handstands

Larissa McFarlane, A Ritual of Handstands

Larissa McFarlane, A Ritual of Handstands cane detail

Larissa McFarlane, A Ritual of Handstands cane detail

Some people in the mall also noticed the paste-ups by Larissa McFarlane, A Ritual of Handstands in the walls running off the mall. The paste-up of the walking stick leaning against the wall was particularly popular. An elderly Greek man gestures at it, “Somebody leave this behind?” he says and laughs. Coburg Mall and the laneways around Coburg are generally too far north for the street artists and these paste-ups are also part of MoreArt program for 2015.

The MoreArt program is Moreland City Council’s annual public art show. This year there is a theme “Participation: Real or imagined, conjured and or discovered, a shrine, a monument, a ritual, a tribute, a custom”. There may have been themes in the previous six years but never has it been so clear in the art. The theme makes it clear that this is show is not simply art in public space, nor art for public spaces but that the public actively engages and participates in creating. This opens the program to multidisciplinary artists like Dan Goronszy and Ben Landau.

Ben Landau Coburg Quest

Ben Landau Coburg Quest

Ben Landau’s Coburg Quest required more time and participation than I was willing to devote, with multiple individual tasks and two Sunday afternoons involved in this art/quiz/game.

Dan Goronszy, The Launching Board

Dan Goronszy, The Launching Board

Dan Goronszy’s large chalk board, The Launching Board had the question “What does peace mean to you?” on both sides of the double sided blackboard. Containers for chalk are built into the blackboard. Most people who stopped to look just read the few responses but every now and then someone would write something. A group of men on bicycles arrive in the mall, they stand around and watch as one of them writes: “Stop bombing the **** out of Syria” on the blackboard.

I am involved in MoreArt this year. I am part of a panel discussion on public art along with Geoff Hogg, Louise Lavarack, Dean Sunshine, Laura Phillips and Aiofe Kealy: Making it in Moreland.


10 Melbourne Public Sculptures Intended for Children

These Melbourne public sculptures are all intended for children, due to their theme or because they can be played on. Although Inge King did not intend the black curves of Forward Surge at the Arts Centre for any particular audience, she does appreciate the enjoyment that children get trying to climb up the curves and sliding down. Definitely for any child with ambitions to climb sculptures. This is without looking at the sculptural value of play equipment like the dragon slide in Fitzroy Gardens or a carved logs in the playground of the Fitzroy housing commission flats.

Listed chronologically.

Photograph courtesy of State Library of Victoria

Photograph courtesy of State Library of Victoria

Paul Montford, Peter Pan, 1925 Melbourne Zoo The figure of J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan is modelled on Montford’s son and the flora and fauna on the base are all Australian.

Fairy Tree detail

Ola Cohn, Fairy Tree, 1934, Fitzroy Gardens, Like Montford’s Peter Pan, the fauna on Cohn’s Fairy Tree are Australian. Cohn also wrote a Fairy story to go along with her carving.

Tom Bass Children's Tree 2

Tom Bass, Children’s Tree, 1963, Elizabeth Street, Bass intended for children to climb on this sculpture.

Photograph by Dan Magree

Photograph by Dan Magree

Peter Corlett, Tarax Bubble Sculpture, 1966-68 Originally at the National Gallery of Victoria it is now at the McClelland Sculpture Park. The sculpture was intended to be climbed in and on.

Tom Bass, The Genie, 1973 (1)

Tom Bass, Genie, 1973 Queen Victoria Gardens, Melbourne, Bass intended to be climbed on by children.

The Bunyip, 1994, Ron Brooks

There are two sculptures based on children’s book illustrations State Library forecourt. Ron Brooks, The Bunyip, 1994, from Jenny Wagner The Bunyip of Berekeley’s Creek.

Mr Lizard & Gumnut Baby, 1998, Smiley Williams

Smiley Williams, Mr Lizard and Gumnut Baby, 1998, from May Gibbs, Snugglepot and Cuddlepie

Bruce Armstrong, Untitled Installation 1999, at Flemington Children’s Centre, Flemington. (no photo available unfortunately)

Bronwen Gray, Matryoshka Dolls, 2001-2

Browen Grey, Matryoshka Dolls, 2002, on the corner of Brunswick and Gertrude Streets.

photograph courtesy of EastLink

photograph courtesy of EastLink

Emily Floyd, Public Art Piece, 2006 EastlLink. Even though children can’t climb on it or even touch it Floyd did make it with the children in the back seat of the car in mind.

Emily Floyd, An Unfolding Space, 2010, Phoenix Park, Malvern East, sculpture at children’s centre. (I couldn’t get a photograph for this one.)

I will end this with a plug for my book Sculptures of Melbourne, a history of Melbourne’s public sculptures.


Progress on Man Lifting Cow

At Fundêre Foundry in Sunshine John Kelly, the artist famous for his Cow Up a Tree sculpture, is making the third sculpture in his cow series. This one will be a 5.5 metre bronze, Man lifting cow, but at the moment it is mostly clay.

John Kelly at work

Now that I am the author of Sculptures of Melbourne, a history of Melbourne’s public sculpture I get invited to foundries to meet artists. I should really check exactly what I have written about them in the book and on my blog before meeting them, so that I can be prepared. The first thing that John Kelly wanted to talk about was site specific sculptures as I had described his Cow Up a Tree sculpture as “completely non-site specific”.

I doubt that I will say anything like that for his next sculpture as there is a big hook for that story: local boy makes a sculpture for his local suburb in a local foundry. John Kelly is not the only contemporary artist who grew up in Sunshine, but sculptures by Leigh Bowery or Stelarc might be too extreme and confronting for general public.

The local Brimbank City Council is making the most of the sculpture’s local manufacture, holding a “commissioning launch” at the foundry for the sculpture in a few weeks time. Something to do before the model becomes unrecognisable in plaster moulds. For several reasons the model for fake camouflage cow will be made of fibreglass, chiefly as it would weigh several tons if made of solid clay like the figure of man.

John Kelly and the marquette

John takes a break from pushing clay around on the sculpture and shows me the marquettes as Cameron McIndoe of Fundêre Foundry welds the armature of the hand. The problem of fitting the hand to the cow’s leg is going to take some time.

John Kelly and Cameron McIndoe

In the corner of Fundêre Foundry there is the larger than life size equestrian sculpture of a Australian horseman from the Boer War by Louis Laumen. There are plans for three more.

Louis Laumen Boer War equestrian at Fundêre Foundry


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