Category Archives: Public Sculpture

Hot Metal in Reservoir

On Saturday I went to the opening of Mal Woods Foundry in Reservoir. Sculptors, foundry workers, friends and interested people gathering to watch bronze being poured along with nibbles and drinks.

The weather was great, a pleasant sunny day, I bicycled to the foundry from Coburg. “This must be the place.” I thought as I cycled along Kurnai Ave. The factory and even its carpark was an oasis of tasteful design in the industrial area.

Mal Woods Foundry

The professionals were talking about their work including another Boer War Memorial with one and half sized equestrian statues. I can see why the sculptor, Louis Laumen and the foundry workers are keen on the project, more work for them. I can also see why the people behind the project might be having difficulty raising funds for it. Why does Australia need more Boer War Memorials?

There were amateur backyard foundry enthusiasts talking about their hair dryer or vacuum cleaner fanned furnaces. I didn’t know that there were amateur backyard foundries casting small objects in plaster moulds.

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At the back of Mal Woods Foundry the moulds that had been drying out in a kiln and were then placed in a large metal trough and secured in place with sand.

Mal Wood added an ingot of tin and two large ingots of copper to the furnace, the tin first and then the copper. These two soft metals when combined produce an alloy that is harder than either of them.

Removing crucible from furnace

The roar of furnace dies away and in front of the assembled crowd the crucible was removed. The temperature of the bronze tested and then the bronze was poured into the moulds. I didn’t see the results of these castings, you couldn’t tell from the moulds, not with all the venting pipes. When I left the bronze was turning from florescent pink to dark purple in the moulds, still hot enough to warm a person standing nearby.

Bronze pouring into cast

Sculpture moulds cooling

For more on foundries read my 2012 post Casting Sculpture in Melbourne.


10 Public Sculptures in Melbourne that you have probably never seen

The ten best public sculptures in Melbourne that you have probably never seen.

Springthrope Memorial

1. Springthorpe Memorial. If you have never been to the cemetery in Kew then you will not have seen this over the top, late-Victorian masterpiece of sentimentality created by an all star team. (See my post.)

Will Coles, Consume, 2015

2. Will Coles, various objects. Will Coles is notorious for his small cast objects. You need to look carefully walking around Melbourne. They can be found in surprising locations around the inner city suburbs. Except you won’t find this one in Hosier Lane anymore because it was stolen.

Reg Parker Untitled 8/73

3.  Reg Parker, Untitled 8/73, Preston Public Library. Forget all the hype around Ron Robertson-Swann’s Vault, this is actually the first abstract public sculpture still on public display and still in its original location.

Charles Robb, Landmark, 2005

4. Charles Robb, Landmark, 2005, LaTrobe University. This statue of Governor LaTrobe, Victoria’s first governor turns traditional monuments on its head.

Rolled Path II

5. Simon Perry, Rolled Path, 1997, Brunswick. This is my personal favourite. It is on a bicycle path along the Merri Creek.

Paul Montford, John Wesley, 1935 (4)

6. Paul Montford, John Wesley, 1935, Melbourne Wesleyian Church. I had to look again at this sculpture after the sculptor Louis Laumen told me it was his favourite Montford sculpture, it is very dynamic and lively.

Vikki Couzens and Maree Clarke, Wominjeka Tarnuk Yooroom (aka Welcome Bowl) 2013 (detail 1)

7. Vicki Couzens and Maree Clarke, Wominjeka Tarnuk Yooroom (also known as Welcome Bowl), 2013, Footscray. Rocks spraying fine mists of water remind the public of Aboriginal smoking ceremonies but also provide enjoyment to small children and dogs.

Bruce Armstrong, Untitled (Two Persons Hugging), 1988 (1)

8. Bruce Armstrong, Untitled (Two Persons Hugging), 1988, Footscray. Armstrong the sculptor for the Eagle in the Docklands and on a very quiet suburban street in Footscray there is one of his large sculptures carved out of a tree truck. There are some great public sculptures in Footscray.

Russell Anderson, Apparatus for Transtemporal Occurrence of Impending Space, 2014

9. Russell Anderson, Apparatus for Transtemporal Occurrence of Impending Space, 2014 You probably haven’t seen this sculpture because it so new and you don’t walk along the unfashionable north bank of the Yarra River. (See my post on Steampunk sculptures.)

Steaphan Paton, Urban Doolagahl

10. Steaphan Paton’s Urban Doolagahls, 2011, Melbourne You can’t see the Urban Doolagahls anymore because they were only temporary but they still turn up from time to time.


The Burke and Wills Monument 1865 – 2015

Today is 150th Anniversary of the Burke and Wills Monument and both Melbourne and the monument have changed in the 150 years. Just after 4pm on 21 April 1865 the sculpture was unveiled in the middle of the Collins and Russell Streets intersection. The monument has been four different locations and these different locations show the history of Melbourne’s transportation with the introduction of trams, the city loop trains and the pedestrianised zone of the city square.

Charles Summers, Burke and Wills Monument, 1865

Charles Summers, Burke and Wills Monument

Proudly Australian the monument was made from local materials; the bronze from tin mined in Adelaide and copper from Beechworth, and the imposing plinth is of Harcourt granite. The sculpture was cast in Charles Summers’s workshop in the east end of Collins Street, now the location of Burlington Chambers. The casting of the sculpture before an invited audience was a bit of a fraud. Summers claimed that the figures were cast in one piece, an impossible accomplishment and one that the sculpture’s restoration has revealed to be false. Pouring hot metal is a spectacular event but Summers felt the need to lie about how successful it went.

For a nineteenth century artist Summers worked hard at publicity. He was a celebrity as far as the Argos newspaper and Melbourne’s elite were concerned but what ever happened to its sculptor Charles Summers?

Researching my book, Sculptures of Melbourne, I couldn’t help feeling that Summers was a man who, in part, believed his own publicity. I think that really believed that he was Melbourne’s Michelangelo but he was a bit of a fraud and a show off. After basking in the glory of his monument Summers moved to Rome, after all if was Michelangelo then he belonged in Rome. In Rome he established a factory for producing sculptures that his son, also a sculptor took over after his death. Summers never returned to Melbourne but his son did and there are Victorian neo-classical marbles by the Summers factory in both the Bendigo and Geelong art galleries.

The monument is now an icon of Melbourne and Australian history, a preserved historic relic, the first work of public art to be registered by the National Trust. However, its anniversary has not been officially recognised. Along with attitudes to heroic deaths, ideas about public art have changed radically and I doubt that there are now many Australian parents who would follow Governor Darling’s prediction for the monument at its unveiling. “For, oft as it shall be told, and oft-times it will be told upon this very spot, Australian parents, pointing to that commanding figure, shall bid their young and aspiring sons to hold in admiration the ardent and energetic spirit, the bold self-reliance, and the many chivalrous qualities which combined to constitute the manly nature of O’Hara Burke.”

For more about the history of this and other public sculptures in Melbourne (and some better photographs) read my book, Sculptures of Melbourne.

Charles Summers, Burke and Wills Monument, 1865, panel Dig tree

Charles Summers, Burke and Wills Monument, 1865, panel Dig tree


Bendigo’s Old Sculptures

Late Victorian and Edwardian marble and bronze sculptures, statues and busts are quaint relics of the central Victoria gold rush in the centre of City of Greater Bendigo. The highlights of this collection are works by some of the leading sculptors in Australia: James White and Charles Douglas Richardson. There are also works by some less well known sculptors, R.G. Summers and John Walker that tell us as much about the history of that time as the works of more famous sculptors.

Charles Douglas Richardson, The Discovery of Gold, 1901-06

Charles Douglas Richardson, The Discovery of Gold, 1901-06

On the Corner of Bridge St and Pall Mall is Charles Douglas Richardson’s The Discovery of Gold, 1901-06, with three bronze base relief panels around the base showing the history of mining in Bendigo.

James White, Memorial to George Lansell

James White, George Lansell Memorial, 1908

The twice life sized marble memorial to Queen Victoria, a bronze memorial to George Lansell, The Quartz King and the bust Memorial to Ernst Mueller are all by James White. White’s The Quartz King was installed in 1908 and The Bendigo Advertiser has a detailed story about this memorial to George Lansell. James White received several commissions for memorials to Queen Victoria, including the memorial in Melbourne’s Victoria Gardens. Bendigo’s memorial to Queen Victoria unveiled in Rosalind Park on Tuesday 14th April, 1903.

James White, Queen Victoria Memorial, 1903

James White, Queen Victoria Memorial, 1903

Ola Cohn wrote: “I recall the erection of a monument in Bendigo to the great monarch Queen Victoria some time after her death in 1901, but I was unmoved by it. Her statue stood on a green plot in the middle of the town  looking most austere and unapproachable, and as cold as the stone in which she was carved. I studied it in my young days, but never got a spark of interest in its sculptural quality, nor did I appreciate it as a work of art.” A Way With The Fairies – The Lost Story of Sculptor Ola Cohn edited by Barbara Lemon (R W Stugnell, 2014, Melbourne p.28)

Ola Cohn also recalled in her autobiography meeting John Walker as a sculpture student at the Bendigo School of Mines and that he had later received the commission for the Boer War Memorial although she neglects to mention its location. (Stugnell, p.24)

John Walker, Sculptor

John Walker worked as a sculptor in both Bendigo and West Brunswick before turning to chicken farming in the Bendigo suburb of White Hills. John Walker born in Bendigo and first studied sculpture at the Bendigo School of Art. Walker then went to England to study at the Royal College of Art London, and in Paris at the Collarossi and Julian Academies. [Memorial to Sir John Quick. (1934, June 12). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), p. 6. Retrieved December 7, 2014, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article10945852 ]

John Walker’s bronze bust Memorial to Sir John Quick, 1934 in Rosalind Park was cast by E. J. Gregory of Whitby Street, West Brunswick. Walker’s bronze statue of Captain Cook on the grounds of St. Paul’s Church.

“A statue of Captain Cook was unveiled by the mayor (Councillor J Semmens) in St Paul’s Church grounds on Wednesday. Under the will of the late Mr John Emery, the statue was bequeathed to St Paul’s vestry. It was executed by Mr. John Walker, the Bendigo sculptor, at a cost of £530.” [(1906, November 29) The Argus (Melbourne, Vic.), p. 8. Retrieved December 21, 2014, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article9671945 ]

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A couple of neo-classical statues stand in a small garden with a conservatory on the corner of Bull Street and Pall Mall, the McIvor Highway (the A300), that runs through the middle of Bendigo. There is a hunting scene, a poorly assembled bronze copy from the Uffizi Gallery, the various parts can be seen cracking white paint and a marble figure by the little known Australian sculptor, R. George Summers (no relation to the more famous Melbourne sculptor, Charles Summers).

R. George Summers, Canova’s Venus, 1901

R. George Summers, Canova’s Venus, 1901

This neo-classical white marble female nude, referred to as ‘Canova’s Venus’, as it is a copy of Antonio Canova’s sculpture. It is actually the figure of Pandora, notice the box at her feet, the one that Zeus put all the evils in the world in. It is the work of R. G. Summers and was installed November 1901. R. George Summers of Carlton was also the sculptor responsible for the figure of the soldier Brunswick’s Boer War Memorial. He is also known to have inspected pink marble in Benambra, north of Omeo in East Gippsland, for its commercial potential.

These sculptures, this civic bling from another era have now become historic relics.


My Book Launch & Other Events

Rita Dimasi, the publicist at the publisher, Melbourne Books, has done an amazing job. The whole team at Melbourne Books has done an amazing job in the production of my book, Sculptures of Melbourne. It is so nice to actually hold the book. It feels substantial but not cumbersome. It is almost overwhelming for a first time author.

Sculptures of Melbourne

There will now be two book launches one on Friday 1 May at 6pm at Gallery One Three and one on Sunday noon in the great hall at the NGV International. For more information go to my events page. You can also pre-order my book at my new online shop (but I must warn you that it only takes PayPal payments).

Candy Stevens, “Landscape Gardeners”, 2011

Candy Stevens, “Landscape Gardeners”, 2011

Publicity for my book is now occupying a lot of my time and that will continue for the next month or more. A few bloggers have been kind enough to mention my book on Art and Architecture, thanks Hels, and on Public Art Research, thanks Ruth.

I feel that I now I will be my fate to write about public art until I die. It is not a bad fate, although I know that it is likely that I will be phoned by the media to comment on every public sculpture controversy. What to more write about now about public sculpture?A friend asked me if I would now turn my attention to public fountains and other water features. I told them that mentioned a few fountains in my book and that I have already written a blog post about drinking fountains, mosaics and public seating.

I could write about other public sculptures in other cities but that seems to be largely repeating the same history, as would writing about other mediums of public art. If you include the street art mosaics by Space Invader and others following his example, then Melbourne’s mosaics form a similar history to my history of public sculpture.

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Should I be investigating what ever happened to Arthur Boyd’s nine metre high glazed terracotta sculpture, Totem Pole 1955 at the Olympic Pool, Melbourne? Or what happened to the wall-mounted sculpture by Norma Redpath that was once in the foyer of BP House at 1-29 Albert Road, Melbourne? Or write click bait like the ten most something sculptures in Melbourne? Actually I have a few more posts on public sculpture already prepared. Do you know which sculpture in Melbourne is about to have its 150th anniversary later this month?


Street Art Sculptures 6

Discarded

                              Discarded

Walking up Hosier Lane on probably the last warm day of the year, enjoying the location, admiring the callipygian women in their shorts and watching the people as much as the walls. A busker is playing a guitar; I haven’t seen that many buskers in Hosier Lane even though there always lots of people there.

A man drives his Harley Davidson up steep incline of the bluestone lane to photograph his hog in front of one of the walls. A seriously good looking motorcycle but not a serious photographer using his cell phone. It is always interesting to see how different people use this laneway in Melbourne, a reminder that there are many ways of living life.

unknown, Back in My Day, 2015

       unknown, Back in My Day, 2015

I also have an objective in Hosier Lane besides people watching. I am on a mission to collect more photographs of street art sculptures. There is a lot of it about, enough for another blog post. Not only because Will Coles has endowed Melbourne with many new works in a recent visit from his home in Sydney but because there are more street artists doing three dimensional work.

Fee-Rye, monster, 2014

                    Fee-Rye, monster, 2014

unknown, Mr Flip Flop, 2015

         unknown, Mr Flip Flop, 2015

I know about Discarded but I still don’t know about all the new artists, like the Flip Flop artist. Who is doing these great spray cans?

unknown, Lunar Park Can, 2015

unknown, Lunar Park Can, 2015

Will Coles has a lot of new work around Melbourne. His cast designer purse with the word ‘Fake’ and the designer handbag with the word ‘Consume’ in Hosier Lane are a big hit with the anti-fashionistas. His discarded shoe appears forgotten.

Will Coles, Fake, 2015

                   Will Coles, Fake, 2015

Will Coles, Consume, 2015

         Will Coles, Consume, 2015

Will Coles, Forgot'n, 2015

             Will Coles, Forgot’n, 2015

I want to keep up with recent street art sculpture partially what I’ve written in the final chapter of my book, Melbourne’s Sculpture; that street art sculptures are the most recent type of public sculpture. This should not be confused with being the ultimate type of public sculpture, street art sculptures are not about to replace the established types of public sculpture. I also admire the tenacity and ingenuity of anyone who makes a durable sculpture and install it in the street with or without permission.

For more street art sculpture:

Street Art Sculpture 5

10 Great Street Installation 2014

Street Art Sculpture III 2012

More Street Art Sculpture 2010

Street Art Sculpture 2009


Commissioner of Sewers

When I was in high school at Bendigo Senior High I was always amused to see in Rosalind Park a brick memorial drinking fountain to the founder of Bendigo’s sewerage. I never drank from it as the drinking fountain parts did not function for many years although it has recently been restored. I was also unaware, at the time that I lived in Bendigo, that it was the work of Ola Cohn, not that I would have cared at the time if I had known.

Ola Cohn, detail of Curnow Memorial drinking fountain

Ola Cohn, detail of Curnow Memorial drinking fountain

One of the reasons why Ola Cohn received this particular commission was that she was born in Bendigo. By the time she received the Curnow Memorial she had already exhibited and work for Paul Montford, studied with Henry Moore in England and returned to Australia. The Curnow drinking fountain was another commission and it hardly rates a mention in her biography.

Ola Cohn describes the commission:

“I was to design a tribute to the late Cr. J.H. Curnow, a prominent city councillor in Bendigo who had been five times Mayor and had campaigned for proper sewerage for the city. I chose clay as a medium and designed a drinking fountain build of tapestry bricks, with inserted panels of red terracotta. It was placed in Rosalind Park, Bendigo, and looked very well against the green trees.” A Way With The Fairies – The Lost Story of Sculptor Ola Cohn edited by Barbara Lemon (R. W. Stugnell, 2014, Melbourne p.95)

Set into the brick fountain there are four bronze bas-relief panels. There is a boy and girl at either ends, strangely suggesting a segregation of  sexes for the two drinking fountains. In the middle, in his mayoral robes and chains the bespectacled bald man, a post humous portrait of Mayor J. H. Curnow, along with the text: “Public Memorial to James H. Curnow JP, Mayor of Bendigo 1902-04, 1912-13, 1919-20, 1927-28 Founder of Bendigo’s Sewerage”.

Ola Cohn, fountain DSC09958

Yes, the commissioner of sewers, sewerage is an important issue for any civilisation and there aren’t enough memorials about such civic infrastructure but a drinking fountain to the commissioner of sewers, seriously, didn’t someone think that one through or was the nature of irony somehow different at the beginning of the twentieth century? However, I hope that some of my readers have thought beyond the toilet humour and realised that Bendigo did not have a sewerage system until the twentieth century. This is a typical Australian response to basic infrastructure, delay building it for a long as possible; Melbourne had a telephone system before a sewerage system. (Seriously read William Burroughs on becoming the Commissioner of Sewers as it is a wonderful text on political power, the text is reproduced on Toilet Guru).

Ola Cohn


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