Tag Archives: sculpture

Marblephilia

The immense, almost two metres long, polished, muscled torso turning at the waist, made of the white marble is Peter Schipperheyn’s most recent sculpture, River God. It refers back to figures one of the figures on the Parthenon’s tympanum (you know, that triangular bit filled with carved figures under the pitched roof).

Peter Schipperheyn, River God, 2012/13

Peter Schipperheyn, River God, 2012/13  (photograph courtesy of Mossgreen Gallery)

Peter Schipperheyn loves carving marble, particularly Carrara marble. Marble is a metamorphosed limestone, the crystals in the white stone is vary in size and occasionally mixed with tiny specks of mica. The white marble can be naturally stained with yellow with iron oxide or green with copper oxide. The block of marble is then under goes a second metamorphosis when it is carved.

Schipperheyn wants to be part of the marble carving tradition around Carrara. Marble has been quarried in Carrara since the Roman Empire. Quarrying and carving marble in Carrara is a tradition that might appear conservative but it also includes a tradition of anarchist radicals since the 19th century.

Peter Schipperheyn was first inspired by the large marble, stainless steel, silver bronze, nickel-plated steel sculpture in the NGV, Jean-Robert Ipoustéguy’s Death of the father (La Mort du père) 1967-1968. I always wondered what influence this macabre installation like an exploded medieval tomb of a bishop would have on Melbourne’s art. Schipperheyn understood the power and the instinctual desire to touch that that polished surfaces of Ipoustéguy’s sculpture generated. This desire to touch is expressed in several of Schipperheyn’s sculpture including Erotica, 2009.

Ipoustéguy had other resonances in Schipperheyn’s life. Eric Westbrook, the director of the NGV who had acquired Death of the Father also wrote a letter of reference for Peter that helped get his first trip to Italy where discovered his love for carving marble. Years later Schipperheyn managed to meet Ipoustéguy in Choise La Roi, on the outskirts of Paris.

Peter Schipperheyn carving the River God (photograph courtesy of Mossgreen Gallery)

Peter Schipperheyn carving the River God (photograph courtesy of Mossgreen Gallery)

I met Peter Schipperheyn at an exhibition of his ten of his recent works in marble and bronze at Mossgreen Gallery. Peter was wearing a bright orange linen suit and plain t-shirt. His marble carving tools, still with marble dust on them, are on exhibition in the built in vitrines at Mossgreen Gallery. He is happy and relaxed, he is on a hiatus after a lot of hard work, at the same time he is keen to get back to work.


Plinth Projects

It is like the start of a joke… A man walks into a plinth

Annie Wu, A man walks into a plinth...

Annie Wu, A man walks into a plinth…

It is Annie Wu’s sculpture for Plinth Projects in Edinburgh’s Gardens in Melbourne’s suburb of North Fitzroy. Plinth Projects, an artist-run public art program supported by the Yarra City Council, first used this vacant pedestal in March 2013. A suburban version of London’s Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square, temporary public sculpture on an unused plinth.

Edinburgh Gardens is a large park that was established in 1862. The centrepiece of the park, amid a semi-circle of mature elms is an empty pedestal that once held a statue of Queen Victoria. The plinth stands a circular garden bed.

The old plinth had been erected for a temporary memorial statue for Queen Victoria in 1901 immediately after her death. Melbourne would have to wait until 1907 for the permanent white marble and granite memorial to Queen Victoria paid for by public subscription. It is not known who was the sculptor for the statue of Queen Victoria In Edinburgh gardens but it is similar to the figure of Victoria on top of James White’s marble figure on top of the permanent memorial, depicting the Queen holding an orb and scepter.

The marble plaque on the plinth: “ Presented to the citizens of Fitzroy by the Hon. George Godfrey MLC 1901.” George Godfrey (1834 – 1920) was solicitor born in London who arrived Melbourne 1858. He was the representative for the seat of South Yarra in the upper house of the Victorian Parliament from 1895 to 1904.

The original statue is often described as ‘timber’ but from an image on an old postcard it likely that it was made of ‘stuff’ an inexpensive mix of plaster, straw and timber frame that was often used for temporary statues in the 19th Century. The statue of Queen Victoria went missing over a century ago – council workers probably removed it after the period of official mourning and when it started to deteriorate and the timber frame was exposed.

The plinth remained, left empty almost a century. Plinth Projects’ has a seasonal exhibition calendar with a five-month-long exhibition over the winter and month long exhibits during the more pleasant seasons. The old plinth is in remarkably good condition and has been repainted by the Plinth Projects.

In March Oscar Perry placed a cylindrical bale of hay on the plinth in his Harvest Showdown / Early Classics, Hits and Rarities. It was a strange memorial to the death of ELO’s Mike Edwards in 2010 when a bale of hay rolled down a hillside and collided with his van. In April Spiros Panigirakis, A Tentative Sign examined the privileged position of the plinth adding an overturned lectern in front and a ladder up to the plinth. Mutating over a period of five months between May to September, Sarah crowEST presented a human proportioned lumpy form of paint splashed material on the plinth. Renee Cosgrave painted colourful designs on the plinth in October.

Annie Wu A man walks into a plinth… painted the same colour, Wu’s sculpture doubles the hight of the plinth and mirrors in a pared down, in a simplified modern form, the three steps at the base of the plinth. The title brings a sense of irony to its austere form.

I went to see the current installation; I would have gone to the official launch in the park but the weather last Sunday was unpleasant. There are other temporary public art programs in the city. On my bike ride to Edinburgh gardens I went past a few remaining installations in MoreArts, another inner city suburb temporary art exhibition organized by the Moreland City Council (see my post on this years MoreArts). There is a lot of graffiti and street art along the bike track, another part of Melbourne’s temporary public art.

Liz Walker, Estate, MoreArts

Liz Walker, Estate, MoreArts


Anthony Pryor “The Legend”

“The Legend”, 1991, stands at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. It is a steel sculpture with the upper part suggesting the movement of the football in play. Anthony Pryor wanted it to be a climax of exuberance and energy.

Anthony Pryor, The Legend, MCG

Anthony Pryor, The Legend, MCG

Daryl Jackson describes “The Legend” as a “gateway, an arched figure through which people may journey to the game.” (Joanna Capon, Anthony Pryor: Sculpture & Drawings 1974-1991, Macmillan Education AU, 1999, p.6) When I last saw “The Legend” there wear orange bollards around it. I don’t think that the orange bollards around each of the steel pillars were part of the original work but something had to be done for health and safety reasons – just one of the perils of not having a plinth.

The maquette for “The Legend” was made at the studio that Pryor shared with Geoffrey Barlett and Augustine Dall’Ava at 108 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy. The actual sculpture fabricated at J K Fasham Pty Ltd a firm that specialize in architectural metal fabrication. (J K Fasham Pty Ltd in Clayton South fabricated many other public sculptures including Deborah Helpburn’s “Ophelia”, Inge King “Sheerwater” and Edward Ginger’s “The Echo” in Melbourne.) The sculptures commission was associated with the re-development at the MCG. It was completed and installed just before Pryor’s untimely death in 1991; he was only 40.

The youngest of three siblings Anthony Pryor was born in Melbourne in 1951. His father Ron Pryor ran a knitwear manufacturing business. Pryor grew up in Melbourne’s northern suburbs where attended Reservoir High School and Preston Technical Collage. It was a tough place in a young man in the late 60s and Pryor thought that he wanted to be an engineer. He changed his mind mid way through an engineering exam and studied sculpture at RMIT. There he met fellow students, his friends, and now, also notable sculptors, Geoffrey Barlett and Augustine Dall’Ava.

Anthony Pryor, The Performers, 533 St. Kilda Rd.

Anthony Pryor, The Performers, 533 St. Kilda Rd.

Pryor’s sculptures are dynamic even though they stand still. They have so much energy zapping around them that they have are lighting bolts and motion blurs. His curved marble forms have metal wings.

Anthony Pryor has other public sculptures in Melbourne, as well as, in Brisbane, at Bond University, in far north Queensland and in central Victoria. There are several of his sculptures outside corporate buildings along St. Kilda Road. In the foyer of 607 St. Kilda Road there is his “Tree of Life 2”. And at 553 St. Kilda Road “The Performers” 1989 metal and marble commissioned by Pomeroy Industries for its development now occupied by the American Consulate General. There is another figure titled “The Performers” at Box Hill Central. This is not the only Pryor sculpture in Melbourne’s outer suburbs; Templestowe City Council acquired “I am a Man Like You” in 1986.


Armstrong’s Melbourne Sculpture

“Bruce Armstrong’s name is synonymous with current sculptural practice in Melbourne.” Boasts John Buckley Gallery’s website. There is good reason for this boast Armstrong’s sculpture Eagle (aka “Bunjil”) erected in May 2002 at Bunjilway is now an iconic image of Melbourne. However, Bruce Armstrong is hardly a household name.

Bruce Armstrong, "Eagle", 2002

Bruce Armstrong, “Eagle”, 2002

Geoffery Barlett & Bruce Armstrong "Constellation", 1997, wood and steel, detail

Geoffery Barlett & Bruce Armstrong “Constellation”, 1997, wood and steel, detail

Bruce Armstrong was born in Melbourne in 1957 and studied painting and sculpture at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT). He has sculptures in Melbourne, Sydney, Perth and Canberra. In the 2005 Armstrong was an Archibald Prize finalist with a self-portrait with eagle.

“Bunjil” is not an isolated work Armstrong’s sculptures have been around Melbourne for decades. There are two more of Armstrong’s eagles, “Guardians”, 2009 out the front of the Grand Hyatt Hotel on Russell Street. At Yarra Turning Basin there is a series of angled pillars, Armstrong’s “Constellation”, 1997, made in collaboration with Geoffrey Bartlett. His “Tiger” 1985 is out at Heide Museum of Modern Art.

Bruce Armstrong, Untitled, 1986

Bruce Armstrong, Untitled, 1986

Armstrong’s two lions beasts (Untitled 1986) once guarded the front of the National Gallery of Victoria but are now out the back in its sculpture garden. When Armstrong’s two lions untitled beasts were out the front I overheard a man and woman from the country who were looking at them. “I reckon I could do that with my chainsaw” the man remarked. I’m sure he could be I doubted that he would make the effort to move such enormous logs and do all the carving.

The muscular nature of the sculpture is part of what makes Armstrong’s work powerful, the monumental physical displays of power. There is an unrefined power to the statues of Bruce Armstrong, the large lumps of materials from which they are carved are still visible. His huge animals are usually carved from native red gum and cypress although the monumental 23-meter tall “Bunjil” is cast aluminium painted white.

Armstrong’s sculptures are totemic, in a Jungian collective unconscious way; it is serendipitous that his Eagle happens to correspond to the sea eagle creator, Bunjil, of the Kulin Nation. His public sculptures work as totemic features along paths or guarding gateways. And because of their monumentality they are treated with a kind of awe.


Paul Montford in Melbourne

Book review of Catherine Moriarty, Making Melbourne’s Monuments – The Sculptures of Paul Montford (Australian Scholarly, 2013, North Melbourne)

With his middle name, Paul Raphael Montford was destined to being an artist. He first trained at Lambeth School of Arts and then at London’s Royal Academy of Arts where he was awarded 5 prizes and a travelling scholarship. He had a distinguished career with many commissions in England and Scotland for architectural sculpture. He moved to Melbourne in 1923 and his sculptures adorn the Shrine of Remembrance. Montford came to my attention because he has more public sculptures in Melbourne than any other artist until the 1990s.

Paul Montford, Adam Lindsay Gordon, 1931

Paul Montford, Adam Lindsay Gordon, 1931

Montford’s sculptures were not the first neo-classical sculptures to adorn Melbourne. Nor was Montford was not the first British sculptor to move to Melbourne, others had come before him but Montford does have more public sculptures in Melbourne than any other artist until the 1990s. Montford represents the high water mark of neo-classicalism in Melbourne before the tide of art history turned away from the classical tradition. For years that Paul Montford has been ignored by Australian and British art history and Moriarty’s book restores him to art history.

The high point of Montford’s career was the sculptures on Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance. This gives Moriarty the opportunity to do a scholarly examination of Australia’s nascent nationalism. There are plenty of details about the arts and culture in Melbourne, including the various artist’s clubs that Montford and his wife joined.

The first half of the book is a short history of Montford, in England and Australia.  Moriarty makes the detail of history an engaging read and I reached the end of each chapter wanting more. There is a chapter on his domestic arrangements and his wife was a notable miniature artist. There is also a strange diversion on Montford osteopathy and medicine but it is justified given the interest in osteopathy in Montford’s letters and that in 1938 Montford died of leukaemia as a result of a bizarre medical treatment where he was given large dose of radium for tonsillitis.

Montford's signature on base of Judge Higgenbothen Memorial

Montford’s signature on base of Judge Higgenbothen Memorial

The second half are the annotated letters from Montford to his wife, his brother and other family members. There are also a few letters to Montford including one from the sculptor, and Montford’s professional rival, Bertram Mackennal.

It is this archive of material that gives weight to Moriarty’s examination of Montford.

And along with a detailed catalogue of Montford’s work this book is the complete reference for Paul Montford

Montford’s art is deeply conservative. Robert Menzies assumed that being a conservative artist he would be politically conservative too, appointed Montford to the Australia Academy of Arts. Pacifist, socialist and opposed to the White Australia policy Montford challenges the assumption that progressive artists are both progressive artistically and politically.

With the up-coming federal elections it is amusing to read Montford’s analysis of Australian politics and compulsory voting because the situation has hardly changed since 1925:

“We shall have to vote next July or be fined and what a choice. Nationalist or Labour, both Protection and ultra Australian. Labour being keen on making more money and doing less work. Nationalists keen on making more interest with less trouble. The Socialist ideals simply don’t exist. Labour has none, Communists is that of a Proletariat  – by force leading to a working man’s heaven – very undefined. Yet we must vote – penalty £2 if you don’t.” (p.112)

Moriarty has managed to make a long overdue academic examination of Paul Montford into something more than that; it is an engaging look at life in Melbourne in the 1920s.

Montford, The Court Favourite, 1906

Montford, The Court Favourite, 1906


Puppets with Attitude

Riding around Brunswick enjoying the sunshine and looking for interesting things to write about I couldn’t go past the Brunswick Pop Up Gallery. Especially after I looked in the window and saw a giant pink dust mite and some other puppets.

Felipe Reynolds, Dust Mite

Felipe Reynolds, Dust Mite

The curator, Joe Blanck was gallery sitting at the time. Joe told me about the dark exhibition opening where they had covered up the windows and visitors were given lanterns like the International Surrealist Exhibition of 1938. Joe is evidently a fan of Surrealism with a Dalian soft watch tattooed on his wrist. In the darkness of the opening he had moved his puppets around the crowd.

There are 18 artists exhibiting in this exhibition and there is a lot of humor in the dark exhibition theme, like the puppet “Spanky, the manic teddy”. Some of the exhibition is in the realm of fantastic art; sculptures by Richard Mueck, brother of Ron Mueck, the paintings by Beau White and Isabel Peppard’s “Pupa” sculpture.

Chip Wardale’s “ installation “7 music videos, 7 questions and self-reflections” was effective and lived up to its title. The outside of the installation didn’t contribute but it didn’t really matter once inside. Watching industrial music videos inside a mirrored cube was like being in your own small private world.

Recently when discussing the architectural work of late 19th and 20th century sculptors I was asked if there were the same amount of work for sculptors today. Classical inspired architecture requires bas-relief and other sculptural ornaments. The Corinthian columns with their stylised Acanthus leaves on their ornate capitals all had to be designed and carved. Now with modern architecture eschewing ornamentation, where had all the work for sculptors gone? The Darkness Within provides ample clues to answer that question, there has been a growth of scenic artists for movies, theatre and advertising. Joe Blanck, for example, works at Creature Technology Company, the company behind recent arena spectaculars like Walking With Dinosaurs and How To Train Your Dragon.

(Brunswick Pop Up Gallery, it’s sort of, new Brunswick Pop Up Gallery on Albert Street, I’m sure I’ve seen exhibitions there over the years under different names. As if there weren’t enough galleries with “Brunswick” in their name in Melbourne….)


Architecture & Fashion

I saw a few exhibitions this week that united art, architecture and fashion: “Transitions” at No Vacancy and the combination of Denise Wray’s “Compartments” and Jake Preval’s “Costumes for the Ark” at the George Paton Gallery. This seems an odd remark because I rarely see exhibitions that unite art, architecture and fashion and yet what is the difference between them?

“Transitions” by Make Shift Concepts: Armando Chant, Donna Sgro and Oliver Solente is part of the L’Oreal Melbourne Fashion Festival’s cultural program. “At first glance it will look like just a video and some sculptures.” Oliver Solente (from the exhibition paper.) It did look like that but the suspended dresses and video of the dress worn on the catwalk reminded me that this was a fashion exhibition. The suspended dresses were not hung to suggest a human form but hung to show potentials in their architectural form, much like the angular architectural forms of the sculptures.

It was these angular architectural forms that reminded me of the structure of the masks in Jake Preval’s “Costumes for the Ark”. Preveal’s exhibition isn’t in the fashion festival’s cultural program but it should be, it is like the queer alternative. The exhibition is basically a series of photographs of queer couples wearing only black underpants and Preveal’s cardboard masks. The architecture of the couple’s bodies as they posed together is what made the photographs. Love the scattered black underwear around the room, suggesting that the couples from the photographs had stripped off their costumes and left the ark.

Denise Wray’s “Compartments” definitely united art, architecture and fashion. If art and architecture is about filling or not filling a space than Wray’s four works did that, with stitched zips, acrylic on canvas, polyester twine and leather strips. It looked like Wray gone mad after reading too much Greenberg and books on Duchamp and had raided a leather garment factory’s bins to make ‘art’. I liked it is ironic in punk deconstructionist way.

I wouldn’t say that I’m a big fashion, design or architecture fan; it is too cool for me. I want passionately engage – this why I’m very interested in sculpture and I enjoy writing about it. It is odd because sculpture and architecture are so similar – it is often difficult to distinguish where one begins and the other ends – visually it is often difficult to distinguish them, they might be indistinguishable. But what is the difference between sculpture and architectural or fashion forms? Function appears to be too simple an explanation as sculptures are also functional (see my post on the Uses of Public Art). Given that I can’t clearly distinguish between sculpture and architecture I don’t know why I feel differently about them.

The difference between sculpture and architectural forms is not an insubstantial issue and can have legal, as well as, aesthetic implications. The Copyright Website reports that in the case of Leicester vs. Warner Bros. the Los Angeles “district court found that the towers (Andrew Leicester’s sculpture Zanja Madre), although containing artistic elements, were actually part of the architectural work of the building.”


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