Four Adelaide Sculptures

Considering two sculptures at the Adelaide Station Environs and two in Rundle Mall. The former are two prominent local late-modernist sculptors; large sculptures focused on formal qualities. The latter are contemporary sculptures focused on facilitating interactions.

Robert Kipple’s Bronze Sculpture Number 714 1968 has a reflexive quality like all of Kipple’s mature sculptures; its subject refers to its own creation. An assemblage of wooden parts used for casting steel machine parts cast as bronze sculptures. The machine aesthetic of Dada and Surrealism played out a casual conglomeration.

There is a balance of tones, curves and straight lines in Akio Makigawa’s Elements and Being 1989. It is one of his largest sculptural groups with five separate elements: a column with a pillow on top, a square pavilion with a round roof, a curved form and two obelisks topped with a flame and a cloud. Lyrical, but its black and white stone appears cold and unapproachable.

Makigawa’s time in Australia reminds me of the end of the White Australia Policy (before that, Australia was an apartheid state like South Africa and now Israel). Makigawa was only allowed to move to Australia because the policy was officially over. For more on Makigawa, see my earlier post

People passing by barely glance at these sculptures. The Makigawa looks like it is part of the entrance to the Intercontinental Hotel. Both the Kipple and Makigawa sculptures project the statement that this is art, so do not touch.

Compare this to sculptures of the animals in the Rundle Mall: the four pigs and the pigeon. A bronze pig is going for bronze rubbish atop an actual rubbish bin. It is not high art, it doesn’t mean much, but it does a lot of work in the mall. A Day Out 1999 is the work of Sydney-based sculptor Marguerite Derricourt.

These are much-loved pigs; their noses and bodies polished by the hands of many people. Sat on by children and a few adults. The pigs were named by members of the public in 1999. Horatio, Truffles, Oliver, Augusta; plaques record the pigs’ names and the names of the namers. 

A boy runs up and taps the chest of the stainless steel and brass Pigeon before running back to rejoin his family; his younger sister follows suit. This is not some feral pigeon; the ring on its leg indicates it is a racing pigeon or a pet. The angular metal pigeon, geometric rather than realist, is a recent addition from 2020. It is the first public sculpture of Paul Sloan, not the American actor, director and screenwriter, but the Adelaide-based artist.

These are more than selfie-props; they serve as waymarkers, physical elements of the mall outside the commercial. Unlike Kipple and Makigawa, neither Derricourt nor Sloan are well known. The aesthetic difference between these four sculptures is reflected in a debate in the Adelaide City Council about replacing words in their public sculpture commissions from “cheeky” and “subversive” to “beautiful”. If they want “beautiful” they should quadruple their budget because it is that much rarer.

About Mark Holsworth

Writer, independent researcher and artist, Mark Holsworth is the author of the book Sculptures of Melbourne. View all posts by Mark Holsworth

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