Frequently when I mention that I’m writing book on the history of Melbourne’s public sculptures, someone will mention Ron Robertson-Swan’s Vault. The year long controversy is burnt into the psyche of all those in Melbourne who lived in 1980. Reg Parker’s Untitled 8/73 is never mentioned. It is the earliest abstract sculpture paid for with public funds in Melbourne; earlier abstract public sculptures were all owned by corporations, like Clement Meadmore’s Awakening installed in 1968 at AMP Building.
Reg Parker’s Untitled 8/73 is out the front of the Preston Library. Parker’s sculpture is an important example of early Melbourne formalist sculpture that was accepted by the community, unlike Ron Robertson-Swan’s Vault. I wouldn’t have known about its significance if I hadn’t been researching the history of Melbourne’s sculptures.
A librarian friend, who once worked at Preston Library told me, after I had mentioned going to see the sculpture that she liked it. It was the size of the sculpture that made it feel in scale with the building. Certainly the current Preston Library staff were very helpful when I made enquires about it.
Melbourne’s northern suburb of Preston is not known for its sculptures but I bicycled over to Preston to see Untitled 8/73 and I saw several more sculpture on the way.
The giant green man in the Ray Bramham Gardens is a memorial to Lebanese immigration. The memorial fits in to my theory of a patchwork Melbourne where every group has to have a statue of their hero as a permanent marker of their existence. (See my blog post Heroes of Every Nation) The folly of this green statue overshadows Bush Projects Three Follies 2014, four brick arches that are installed also in Ray Bramham Gardens.
Michael Snape’s The Connection is out the front of the Preston Town Hall on the corner of High and Gower Street. It is similar to his sculpture at the Docklands, Continuum 2005, a curved steel form with shapes cut out. At the launch of Continuum on February 22, 2006 Snape’s said: “’Continuum’ is essentially about the dance between people; the pleasure of weight and gravity, movement and rest, spatial relationships that grow out of human interaction. Our interconnectedness, the shapes that conspire out of those meetings are not often applied to sculpture. Western figurative sculpture has focussed on the heroic individual. Apart from depictions of war or religious narrative the multi-figure composition was more part of an Eastern tradition of art. Perhaps it is because we are acknowledging that, that we are part of Asia that I am able to devise such a picture now.”