Melbourne’s suburb of Brunswick did not inherit many public sculptures from previous generations. The Temperance Movement from early last century erected a few drinking fountains, a couple of war memorials were commissioned, and there is that ugly bronze lump – now stuck outside a carpark along Sydney Rd., that commemorates the gold rush of the 19th century.
There are now many more contemporary sculptures including some by notable Melbourne sculptors, Peter Corlett (see my entry about Peter Corlett) and Simon Perry. Peter Corlett’s 2004 statue of “Father John Brosnan, Chaplin Pentridge Prison 1945-1985” is out the front of the Brosnan Centre in Brunswick. Simon Perry, whose best-known sculpture, is the “Public Purse” is in the Bourke St. mall, has a number of sculptures around Brunswick.
Simon Perry’s “Rolled Path”, 1997, on the Merri Creek bicycle path, north of Albion St. and south of the Brunswick velodrome, is witty and fun. At the end of a short side path, the concrete rolls up into a large cylinder, like a giant classical scroll, or a carpet waiting to be unrolled were its progression not blocked by a large bluestone rock. The sculpture plays with the parkland environment of concrete paths, the boulder is the local bluestone granite found along the creek. It reminds me of Robert Smithson’s “Spiral Jetty”, as a work of earth art because of its form and the invitation to walk a path that ends in the contemplation of art.
“Rolled Path” exhibits many of the qualities that I think are essential to public art. Like all good public art kids can climb on it and you can sit on it. It is practically indestructible without heavy equipment or explosives and even the graffiti that was painted on it when I was there was inconsequential. It fits perfectly into the park environment of Merri Creek, creating an identity for an otherwise nondescript area beside the bicycle path.
“Rolled Path” is a rare example in Moreland of the sculpture that has been incorporated into the design of the landscape. Too often sculpture is put where space can found for it, with little consideration to the landscape or architecture. And for this reason none of these sculptures have become an image for suburb or a meeting place.
At the corner of Sydney and Glenlyon Rd. is a less successful sculpture by Simon Perry. “Monument to free speech” 1993, commemorates artist and activist Noel Counihan. It is a stone carving of a cage being unveiled or covered by a bronze dove. Only 3m high this sculpture is too small to be much of a monument and too ambiguous to be a landmark, given that Australians do not have any rights to free speech. The original commission for this sculpture is probably the source of many of its problems.