Cleaning up the house, I found a Bicentennial Schools Memento belonging to my wife, a kind of medal, like a large silver coin. It was given to all Australian school students in 1988. The obverse was designed by M. Meszaros and the reverse by M. Tracey. I don’t know who M. Tracey is, but I know of M. Meszaros.
Michael Meszaros (b.1945) is a sculptor with half a century of work and an extensive portfolio of making public sculptures and medals. Sculpture is a tradition in the Meszaros family. His father, Andor Mészáros (1900-1972), was a sculptor and medalist, and his niece, Anna Meszaros, is also a sculptor. Michael Meszaros is still working in the same studio in Kew that his father built.
I have seen many of his public sculptures around Melbourne and some of his other medals at the Melbourne Museum. Making medals have been a constant feature of his career, the earliest was in 1963. His medals are somewhere between sculpture and jewellery, between coins and plaques. His design for the Bicentennial memento has a group of people moving to the horizon under the southern cross; the group of people is repeated in many of his sculptures. Groups of people and the connections between people are a significant theme in Meszaros’ art.
I haven’t seen his small private sculptures before the retrospective exhibition; “50 Years as a Sculptor”. The exhibition includes free-standing sculptures, wall-mounted medals, wall-mounted portrait medals, commissioned medals (including the Bicentennial Memento) and photographs of commissioned sculptures.
In August 2021, due to the last Covid lockdown, the exhibition at the Hawthorn Arts Centre to celebrate Michael Meszaros’ 50-year career closed after 3 days. The show could not reopen, but it was installed on Level 11 at Owen Dixon Chambers East in 2022. Meszaros’ sculptures were an appropriate scale for the wide corridors lined with lawyers’ offices and overlooking the dome of the Supreme Court.
His abstract sculptures were often made from brass and copper, trying to resolve the long tail of modernism in Australia. His most recent works, bronze trees, are an elegant compromise between his figurative and abstract work.
There are plenty of versions of interlocking figures on exhibition representing politicians through to lovers. The interlocking figures join the repeating patterns of fish, horses, sailboats, and trees. His work ranges between minimal elegant visual communication and obvious kitsch sentiment. Would I look at it if this was a drawing and not a sculpture?
How to access a lifetime of sculpture? Meszaros has thought of this: two small brass staircases in brass, one narrows at the top, the other at the bottom – Success and Failed Ambition.
I was surprised by how many exhibitions there were at Owen Dixon Chambers when I visited. I don’t normally look at art in legal chambers and here were three exhibitions. For as well as Meszaros on Level 11, there were two more in the lobby. There was a temporary exhibition by French photographer Mohamed Bourouissa (part of the Photo 2022 festival) and a permanent exhibition of portraits of lawyers by some notable artists, including one by Juan Ford and a video portrait by Sean Gladwell.