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Tag Archives: Akio Makigawa

Akio Makigawa @ NGV

Akio Makigawa’s sculptures are elegant works amid the often ludic, bombastic, and inappropriate public sculptures in Australia. Now there is an exhibition of his sculpture at the NGV. The exhibition is on the foyer of each floor of the NGV Australia at Fed Square. It is part of the NGV’s series of exhibitions about sculptors that has included Inga King, Bruce Armstrong and Lenton Parr.

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Makigawa is also a break from the list of European names in the history of Melbourne’s public sculpture. Makigawa moved to Australia in 1974; the year after the White Australia policy finally ended in 1973. The sculptures on exhibition are familiar because Makigawa’s public sculptures are all around Australia. You have probably seen his sculptures as they are out the front of buildings in most capital cities and regularly appear behind parliamentarians giving press conferences in the gardens of Parliament house.

In public spaces his sculptures influence the space around them. It is a larger space than just the negative space around the sculpture; it is a space, a pause or rest, in the movement of the city. They are not obvious and neither are they rigorous theoretical abstractions. Their rigid geometry dissolving into natural forms of a leaf or flame of marble or resin.

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Seen in an exhibition, the viewer quickly becomes familiar with the similar shapes repeated in variations of material: corten steel, stainless steel, marble… Most of the work in the exhibition was very similar to his public sculpture until the third floor where there were three early works that are very different. In these early works lighter materials: papier-mâché, wood, rope, cotton… contrasting heavy materials, like stone and lead.

Also on the third floor is a collection of his maquettes, models for his sculptures. These are interesting because where other sculptors will use any convenient material, Makigawa used exactly the same materials that he used to make the final sculpture. There is a respect for the materials in his work, in the alternating, contrasting surfaces.

For more on Makigawa’s public sculptures.

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Sydney Public Sculpture

“A city is the greatest work of art possible” Lloyd Rees

What I did on my summer holiday. Did you ever write that for school?

I went for a holiday in Sydney. I wanted to have a holiday and get away from my work but when your work involves public art, even walking around the block can involve looking at a sculpture or street art. I did take a few photographs of some sculptures in Sydney.

I saw sculptures that I like; I loved the golden tree in Chinatown, Golden Water Mouth by Lin Li. I saw some sculpture that horrified me like the bronze sculpture of Governor Macquarie with its very large feet.

I can’t help explaining the differences between lost wax and sand casting when looking at the Robert Kippel sculpture at Circular Key. The Jason Wing alleyway in Chinatown brought back memories of seeing an exhibition by him in 2009. My wife asked me if I was thinking of writing a book about Sydney’s public sculpture, after my Sculptures of Melbourne.

People keep telling me that Melbourne is somehow special in its relationship to public sculpture and I just don’t buy that intercity rivalry. Admittedly Sydney did not have the year long “Yellow Peril” stupidity but it was just a stupid overblown Melbourne City Council dispute after all and not the end of civilisation. Sydney was less in need of landmark sculptures having both major architectural and physical landmarks.

I ran into the sculptor, Lis Johnson in the Art Gallery of NSW shop who was up in Sydney studying marble carving. She thought that Sydney was becoming more like Melbourne with the street art in the laneways along with small coffeeshops and bars.

There are a lot more public sculptures in Sydney these days. There is a similar historical trajectory as I trace in my book. And I have done the research on some of the sculptors like Akio Makigawa already. The street sculptor, Will Coles lives and works in Sydney; I could add interview with him instead of the one with Junky Projects.

Pipe dreams aside I have no immediate plans to write the companion book to my Sculptures of Melbourne because I don’t live in Sydney. About half of what I have earned from writing the book has come from walking tours and talks. Anyway the City of Sydney has a good website about its public art with walking tours.


Swanston Walk Sculptures

With the transformation of Swanston Street into a semi-pedestrian district in 1992 came new public sculptures. A precursor to the pedestrian district was a weekend stunt of grassing in the street in 1985 for Victoria’s 150th birthday celebrations. 11,000 square metres of grass was laid from Flinders Street to La Trobe Street.

The Melbourne City Council hadn’t commissioned a sculptor since the ill-fated Vault (aka The Yellow Peril) a decade earlier. The sculptures were funded through a variety of sources there was a Street Walk Public Art Project fund the commissioned some sculptures and temporary art, Percent for the Arts (1% of the total redevelopment budget) funded other sculptures and Nauru funded one sculpture. Fortunately there were no controversies this time and the public either loved or ignored the new sculptures.

Melbourne’s art eduction had not produced enough local sculptors in Melbourne to fill all the commissions. Many of the sculptors who produced work for the Swanston Walk were not born in Melbourne but were recent arrivals from interstate, Japan, Sri Lanka, Holland and the USA.

Petrus Spronk, Architectural Fragment, 1992

Petrus Spronk, Architectural Fragment, 1992

On the corner of Swanston and La Trobe Streets is “Architectural Fragment” 1992 by Petrus Spronk. The bluestone sculpture was commissioned as part of Street Walk Public Art Project and installed in 1993. Spronk was born in Holland, immigrated to Australia in 1957 and trained as a ceramicist and sculptor in South Australia.

The steel and jarrah seat near the corner of Swanston and Little Lonsdale Streets is  “Resting Place” 1994 by Bronwyn Snow. It was funded through Percent for the Arts.

Edward Ginger “The Echo” 1997

Edward Ginger “The Echo” 1997

There were delays to commissions. “The Echo” by Edward Ginger was commissioned in 1992 but its fabrication and installation were delayed due to a lack of sponsorship. It was completed in 1996 and unveiled for Chinese New Year 1997 on the corner of Swanston and Little Bourke Streets.

Born in 1951 in Sri Lanka Edward Ginger arrived in Australia in 1975. After completing his studies at the College of Fine Arts, Sri Lanka Ginger undertook further studies in sculpture and printmaking at RMIT.

On the corner of Swanston and Little Collins Streets is “Time and Tide”. “Time and Tide”, 1994 by Akio Makigawa is a bluestone, white marble, bronze and stainless-steel sculpture, 1994 (Percent for Art Program)

At the intersection of Bourke and Swanston high on top of tram poles, turning on the wind are four animals. Made of hand-beaten copper sculpture with gold-leaf detail there is a bird, a horse, a fish and a pig with wings. The bird is a reference to the city’s gardens; the horse symbolises sport; the fish its waterways; and the winged pig a joke about the city’s hope and future.

The “Weathervanes” 1993 are by jeweller, Daniel Jenkins. Born in America in 1947 Jenkins studied art at Georgia Southern College. He moved to Australia in 1981 with his wife where they established a jewellery workshop and a retail outlet. Jenkins received an honourable mention at the 1984 Ornament Jewelry International Competition. In 1984 the NGV acquired a copper, silver (laminated) brooch c.1984 by Jenkins and in 1988 a steel walking stick (1988).

Alison Weaver & Paul Quinn, “Three businessmen who brought their own lunch; Batman Swanston and Hoddle”

Alison Weaver & Paul Quinn, “Three businessmen who brought their own lunch; Batman Swanston and Hoddle”

On the corner of Swanston and the Bourke Mall is “Three Businessmen Who Brought Their Own Lunch: Batman, Swanston and Hoddle” (aka “Metal Men”) 1993 by Alison Weaver and Paul Quinn. It was a gift from Nauru even though it had already been commissioned by the City of Melbourne. The much-handled hand of the first of the businessmen had broken off sometime in 2013 but has now been reattached with an internal steel armature reinforcing it.

In the City Square near the corner Swanston and Collins Streets and the Burke and Wills Memorials by Charles Summers. Further up Collins Street there is “Larry LaTrobe” 1992 by Pamela Irving, a small bronze sculpture, 1992 (Percent for the Arts)

At the City Square on the corner of Swanston St & Flinders Lane a bronze sculpture on granite plinth, “Beyond the Ocean of Existence”, 1993 by Loretta Quinn. Quinn was born in Hobart and studied sculpture at the Tasmanian School of Art before going on to further studies at the Victorian College of the Arts.

There are few great works of art on Swanston Walk; the sculptures are often frivolous, quirky and irreverent and these are the most popular sculptures for the people walking the Walk.


Corporate Power Symbols

Outside 1 Spring Street is C.O. Perry’s “Shell Mace”, 1989, a huge ribbed form of steel with a bronze coloured finish. Commissioned by the Shell Oil Co. American industrial designer, Charles O. Perry (1929-2011) was a sculptor, designer, and architect. There is another Perry sculpture, “Cassini”, 1978 outside the front of the Civic Arts Complex in Ringwood and three more in Sydney and Perth. Inside 1 Spring Street above the foyer is a large Arthur Boyd painting of swimmers at Shollhaven.

Charles O. Perry, Shell Mace, 1989

This post is about the corporate sculpture on public display in the forecourts of office buildings, mostly along St. Kilda Road in Melbourne. I have already written about some corporate sculptures in the CBD in an earlier post as well as in Batman and Fawkner. I don’t want to suggest that these corporately owned public sculptures are common; less 10% of the buildings along St. Kilda Road have a sculpture in front of them.

Most of the sculptures were added long after the buildings construction. BHP House, 140 William Street, built 1967 – 1972, added Robert Juniper’s C.O. Perry’s Shell Mace, 1989. “Shadow Form” is steel simplified organic forms, like a clump of steel plants amidst the glass and steel canyons of Melbourne’s central business district. The steel sculpture is appropriate for a steel framed building and for the former headquarters of the steel producer.

Robert Juniper, “Shadow Form III”, 1988

One difficulty in writing about these sculptures is identifying them, as unlike sculptures owned by the City of Melbourne there are no brass plaques in the sidewalk to identify the artist. On the corner of Albert St. and St. Kilda Rd. and out the front of The Domain (1 Albert Street) it is a corten steel sculpture, like a curved figure on a steel obelisk plinth. I wasn’t been able to find out anything about this sculpture or the sculptor but after an appeal on this blog it has been identified as the work of Robert Jacks

Robert Jacks sculpture, title unknown

There are a couple of Akio Makigawa statues outside 479 and 509 St. Kilda Road. They were easy to identify as I have previously written a post on Akio Makigawa. 509 St. Kilda Rd, the MLC building has 3 black stone obelisks surmounted with white twists of marble turn on three different axes. There is a single obelisk surmounted with a leaf or flame of marble outside of 479 Dun & Bradstreet House. The obelisk is composed of alternating grey and white marble, a simple rhythm typical of Makigawa’s sculpture.

Akio Makigawa sculpture at MLC Building

Akio Makigawa sculpture at Dun & Bradstreet House

At the Lucient Building 430 St. Kilda Road there is a curved steel form set in a water-feature, a very shallow, black marble reflecting pond. A welded signature allowed me to identify it as Melbourne based sculptor, Geoffrey Bartlett’s “Orion”, 2008. I must write more about Barlett’s organic metal forms as he has many sculptures around Melbourne and is represented in significant public collections, like the NGA and NGV.

Geoffrey Bartlett, “Orion”, 2008

These sculptures are symbols of corporate wealth and power. The corporations aspire to own sculptures that exhibit to public that the company has wealth, power and a modern outlook.


Akio Makigawa

“Time and Tide” 1994 by Akio Makigawa seems to rise organically from the small plaza on the corner of Swanston Walk and Little Collins Streets. The bluestone, white marble, bronze and stainless steel seems to match with the materials of the city.

Akio Makigawa, Time and Tide, 1994

Part of the sculpture is fitted with fiber optics that emits light creating a different mood at night from daylight. “The individual elements of Time and Tide loosely represent a tree – signifying growth, knowledge and the land – a flame – signifying rebirth and transcendence – and a shell – signifying the ocean.”  (City of Melbourne Outdoor Artworks October 2009 PDF) The sculpture appears to grow out of the broad Swanston Walk footpath and the steps leading up to the café.

Akio Makigawa was born in Karatsu City, Saga Prefecture, Japan 1948 and died in Perth, Western Australia, Australia 1999. During his life he was a gymnast, yachtsman, sail-maker, print maker and sculptor. He arrived in Perth in 1974 and worked as a sail maker before turning to sculpture. His first major public work was for the Perth Cultural Centre “Gate II Coalesce”, 1987 around the approach line to the State Library. His sculptures are now in most Australian capital cities: “Equilibrium” at the entrance to the Commonwealth Law Courts in Brisbane and “Elements and Being” in the upper forecourt of the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Adelaide.

“Time and Tide” is not the only statue by Akio Makigawa in Melbourne but it is the most visible. There is the simple elegance of his pillar-like sculptures in the forecourt of the Victorian Museum, Carlton Gardens. These sculptures are similar to his “Sculpture IV”, 1998, located in the northern courtyard of Parliament House in Canberra. There are two more in the departure lounge at Melbourne Tullamarine Airport shiny and colorful steel, bronze, aluminum and fiberglass sculptures “Journey West” and “Journey East”, 1996.

“Reinventing the vocabulary of Brancusi and Arp, with a gesture of acknowledgment to his compatriot Hokusai, Akio used and reused formations that echo clouds and seed pods, as well as forms that metaphorically convey the notion of vessels and sails carried by the wind. He drew upon these forms throughout his working life as an artist, returning to them constantly, as if referring to the elements that connect, nourish and inform the movements of all living creatures.” Dr Gene Sherman (Art & Australia, v.38 no.1, 2000 p.71)

The sculptures of Arp and Brancusi are good comparisons except that Makigawa’s sculpture are on a slightly larger scale in proportion to the architecture around it. Arp in respect to his lyrical reinvention of simple natural forms, in the case of “Time and Tide”, the tree, flame and shell. Brancusi for his sculptural interest in the column and his combination of materials, for example, bronze and stone or stone and wood. In “Time and Tide”, Makigawa use of contrasting materials, the contrasts between curves and straight lines form a counterpoint, between dark and light materials, and metal and stone.


Travel Notes + Jetlag

Relaxing on the green grass of Ireland

I’m back from my European Economic Basket-case 2010 tour of Dublin and Greece trying to get over my jetlag, get through the hundreds of emails, downloading travel photos, Facebook, the handful of snail mail, shopping and washing. Under this stress I’m trying to put together blog entries from the jumble of notes in my travel journal.

What is this gibberish that I’ve written?

“Beware of Greek’s building bathrooms.”

“Dubliners are to fashion what the Eurovision song contest is to music.”

“I arrive in Greece on the 21st of May the birthday of Apollo; his twin sister Artemis was born the day I departed Melbourne.”

I wasn’t looking at art galleries for most of the trip, sometimes I was even trying not to look at the horrors in the tourist focused art galleries that I passed in Greece and Dublin. Or trying not to look at the same thing hung on the wall of the hotels that I was staying at.

Then there is the art in airports. I should write something about the similarities between international airports and art galleries. There is always some art on display at the airports – I remember as a child seeing an Alexander Calder mobile at Toronto International Airport. Nationalism at international airports sometimes demands displays of art and the architecture wouldn’t really work without it. However, the art, like hotel art, can’t be too confronting, too political, too expressive, too anything. At Melbourne Tullamarine Airport there are mosaics. Then in the departure lounge there are these funky, shiny and colourful steel, bronze, aluminium and fibreglass sculptures by Akio Makigawa “Journey West” and “Journey East” 1996. There is one Australian aboriginal painting by David Blanasi “Two crocodiles, the same yet different” 1994 in the departure lounge at Gate 7. Why is it the only painting in the departure lounge? Is it a token piece of Australian aboriginal art at the airport?

Looking back through my travel journal there are more notes about the art at Adelaide Airport and Singapore Airport but the art is pretty much the same. But maybe the content is more suitable for the blog my wife and I write: Who Buys This Stuff?

At some points in my travels I was on a similar path to the 19th century grand tour. What is the point of the “grand tour” as a contemporary experience? No, someone else (Kevin McCloud’s Grand Tour) has already made a TV series about that.

Maybe I should write something about Mykonos given that The Kings of Mykonos movie has just been released. It was also released in Greece when I was there. I can put a tag on it and get a few more readers. Maybe not… but the exchange of contemporary Melbourne and Athens Greek culture is worth noting.

Maybe I should write about travel guides. “In Your Pocket – Essential City Guides” they proved to be a more practical travel guide than my old favourite Lonely Planet. For one these guides actually fit in your pocket and don’t overload the reader with information. The editorial information was accurate, informative and critical…

I am just raving now… jet lag will do that to your brain. I will be writing more about my travels – I just have to do some more writing and research before publishing them.


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