Category Archives: Public Sculpture

Public Sculptures @ Arts Centre Melbourne

In the shadow of the landmark architecture of the Art Centre’s spire Inge King’s Forward Surge stands between curves of Hamer Hall and the Art Centre. Children try to climb this sculpture by Melbourne’s matriarch of modernism, trying for a moment to surf these four massive black metal waves. Forward Surge is one of the many significant number of public sculptures, many by notable local sculptors, like King, in the grounds of Hamer Hall, the Art Centre and also at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl.

Inge King, Forward Surge 1972-74 (4)

Inge King, Forward Surge 1972-74

Now there is an exhibition about these public sculptures; “Sculpture Show: Public Art in the Arts Precinct” is displayed in the curved ‘Gallery’ that runs along the outer wall of the Arts Centre. The exhibition features four maquettes, the scale or working models for a sculpture, a few preliminary drawings and photographs of the sculptures by Mark Ashkanasy and Carla Gottgen. This was rounded out with a new series of drawings of some of the sculptures by Melbourne artist, Jill Anderson present new views of these familiar sculptures.

Amongst the preliminary drawings there are three drawings for a proposed but never completed hanging sculpture by the trio of Melbourne sculptors; Anthony Pryor, Geoffrey Bartlett and Augustine Dall’Ava. Although the three sculptors shared a studio in Fitzroy but collaborative works are rare. The drawing depicts a crazy mobile with pulleys, springs, weights and mini mobiles hanging off larger beams. Parts resemble Bartlett’s “Messenger” 1983 that once stood in the NGV’s moat.

Many of the sculptures around the Arts Centre have moved over the years as their surrounds have been redeveloped. Several of the photographs in the exhibition, especially those of interior sculptural elements in the buildings, reminded me how much has changed. Cole Sopov’s Family of Man has changed from interior to exterior sculptures. Even the five tons of Meadmore’s Dervish has been moved.

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maquettes for Clement Meadmore Dervish, painted wood

After looking at the exhibition I went out into a little sculpture park at the back of the Arts Centre where Les Kossatz’s sheep are still Coming and Going 1979-82, in their comedy routine of doors. The sheep are kept company by an odd trio of sculptures; Tom Merrifield’s tribute to Anna Pavlova, Dragonfly 1988, Anthony Pryor’s Marathon Man 1991 and Andrew Rogers’s Rhythms of Life.

Andrew Rogers’s Rhythms of Life once stood on the river front side of Hamer Hall but this area has been taken over for more eateries. (It is not the only public sculpture along the Yarra River that has been moved to accomodate more dining areas; Deborah Halpern’s Ophelia was also moved for the same reason.)

To complete the experience I should have continued on to the Sidney Myer Music Bowl where there is the sculpture of Sidney Myer by Michael Meszaros, Carl Milles’ Hand of God and Pino Conte’s Miraggio.

I have previously written blog posts about David Maughan’s Les Belle Helénès, as well as the sculptures of Pino Conte and Cole Sopov. I have also written blog posts about the sculptures of Geoffrey BartlettInge King, Anthony Pryor and Andrew Rogers.


Street Art Sculpture 7

I was aware of the dangers as I wrote about un-commissioned three dimensional works of street art in the final chapter of my history of public sculptures, Sculptures of Melbourne. Placing a current trend at the end of a history is almost predicting the future and that is always open to error.  The danger is that a trend can simply fizzle out and the artists involved have no real influence on the future such that future readers will be left wondering why.

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GT Sewell, Tinky, Kranky in Presgrave Place

Of the street artists that I illustrated in my book about half are still active. Junky Projects is currently exhibiting more of his bottle-cap-eyed figures made of found rubbish at Melbourne gallery, Dark Horse Experiment. GT Sewell has been more active both exhibiting and adding more of his series of works based on the form of a spray can on the streets. Work by Will Coles can still be found around Melbourne but Nick Ilton, Mal Function and CDH are no longer active on the streets.

However, in the last year new artists have made their mark on Melbourne streets. Kranky assembling art from plastic rats, Barbie dolls and other toys. Tinky Sonntag works with miniature figures, toy soldiers and model on a very small scale. Tinky makes uses the infrastructure of the street, drains become rabbit holes, missing bricks become crypts, reusing favourite locations in Presgrave Place for different installations. These assemblages are easily disassembled on the street but missing parts can be replaced or a new work added. Kranky makes up for their work’s lack of durability by being prolific.

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Addition to Delkuk Spirits by Kelly Koumakatsos

Un-commissioned street art sculpture includes the non-destructive augmentation of existing permanent sculptures. Recently on Gertrude Street someone put a knitted dress on one of the Delkuk Spirits by Kelly Koumakatsos.

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It is still too soon to tell almost a year since the book was published and well over a year since I finished writing it. However, I remain confident that street art sculptures will continue as there are still street artists producing three-dimensional work in Melbourne’s streets and lanes. There are still plenty of unknown anonymous artists assembling or casting sculptures for the street. Another reason that I am confident in my predictions for street art sculpture is because it is not isolated to Melbourne; last year I wrote a blog post about street art sculpture in the Whitechapel Area.

For more street art sculptures (and I hope that this won’t be the last in this series of articles) read my earlier posts:

Street Art Sculpture 6 2015 

Street Art Sculpture 5 2015

10 Great Street Installation 2014

Street Art Sculpture III 2012

More Street Art Sculpture 2010

Street Art Sculpture 2009


How to Photograph Public Sculpture

The most photographed public sculpture in Melbourne is probably Larry La Trobe or The Three Businessmen… because of their potential for selfies. The most televised public sculpture in Melbourne is Lady Justice by William Eicholtz because there is a shot of it in almost every story on a County Court case.

Sculptures of Melbourne cover

I have some experience in photographing public sculpture for this blog. I did take a few of the photographs in my book Sculptures of Melbourne but most, like the cover photograph by Matto Lucas, were taken by professional photographers.

Here is some practical advice to people on photographing public sculpture and then some advice on copyright issues regarding photographing public sculpture in Australia. There isn’t any technical information and my only advice regarding equipment is a telephoto lens for sculptures high up on buildings.

To get a good photograph of a public sculpture you will probably need to visit the location twice to determine the best time of day to take the photograph as you can’t get the sculpture to turn to face the sun. It is pointless trying to photograph a sculpture with the sun behind it unless you just want its silhouette against the sky. Bronze sculptures on plinths are particularly difficult to photograph, but many modern and contemporary sculpture can be viewed and photographed from all angles.

However, just as you thought that sculptures stand still they are moved, or building works occur around them and they are fenced off, or they have been ‘capped’ by a tagger or sticker. The first time I went to photograph David Bell’s Raising the Rattler Pole – The Last of the Connies just after it was installed in 2013, it was surrounded by fencing and there were workers rebuilding the corner. I had to hold my camera above my head to take some shots over the fencing. Not the best way to photograph a sculpture and so I returned a few weeks later.

Photographing a sculpture may involve cleaning up the site, removing rubbish wedged in parts of the sculpture and wipe the sculpture with a dry cloth to remove spider webs and dust. While photographing King’s Sun Ribbon at Melbourne University for my book Fiona Blandford had to remove the rubbish left behind by the builders working nearby.

In Australia you do not need copyright permission to publish photographs of sculptures that are permanently installed in a public location. The laws are different in other countries. For more on this see the Arts Law Centre of Australia, “Without my Permission: photographing public sculptures” by Jasmine McHenry.

In Australia you only need copyright permission from the artist to publish the photographs if the sculpture is temporary. This includes illegal temporary street art installations. So I had to track down every street artist whose sculptures that I wanted to have photographs of in the book, not exactly the easiest of tasks. Sometimes I felt like a detective working from an obscure clue: who was the street artist who signed his sculptures with GT? Determining if a sculpture is permanent or temporary may also be more complicated than the drafters of the law anticipated but I didn’t run into any problems with this with my book so I tried to err on the side of caution.

Bruce Armstrong, Eagle

Bruce Armstrong, Eagle, 2002, Docklands


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.

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Tom Merrifield, Dragonfly

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.


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