As statues of people have come into further question recently. What about public sculptures of non-human animals? Just them; not when they are with humans, like all the equestrian statues. Most of the animals depicted are not native to Australia. There are imperial lions and even a few unicorns and dragons. The symbolic use of animals in sculptures is an ancient tradition.
Melbourne and Bruce Armstrong were fortunate that his symbolic work, Eagle (Bunjil) from the Jungian collective unconscious, has resonated with local Kulin Nation mythology.
Aside from heraldic use as supports on coats of arms there are a few sculptures of native animals. There is large wooden wombat called Warin who used to live in the city. The extinct Tasmanian tiger can be found in Richmond, Anton Hasell’s Yarra Thylacine. A couple of stone kangaroos surmount the drinking troughs while the water spouts are emus on the nineteenth-century Westgarth Drinking Fountain at the Exhibition Buildings.
Fiona Foley, Murnalong, is not the only bee sculpture in Melbourne, there is Richard Stringer’s Queen Bee on the Eureka Tower, but it is the only indigenous bee sculpture. Ray Ewer’s made a plaque for a memorial fountain to Cookie the black swan. There are even animals most people wouldn’t even recognise, Alex Goad’s Tethya, the cells of a local sea sponge.
Pamela Irving’s Larry LaTrobe is located in the centre of Melbourne, outside the Town Hall; this ugly bronze dog makes a grab for being Melbourne’s most popular statue. The other dog sculpture in the fight is the Fairfield Industrial Dog Object (FIDO), and FIDO is a mighty big dog. There are more dog statues around, including this fine bronze greyhound resting soulfully on a tomb in Boroondara Cemetery.
There are sculptures by artists who have depicted other animals as the focus of their practice. Lisa Roet’s art reminds us that we are great apes, like our nearest relatives, the chimpanzees. Her work uses scale, notably the temporary, giant, inflatable statue of one of David Greybeard, a chimpanzee studied by Jane Goodall.
Les Kossatz is best known for his sculptures of sheep. The balance between the realism and the comic energy in Coming and Going at the back of the Arts Centre of the sheep coming and going through trap doors.
John Olsen’s signature image of a frog leaping was made into a bronze sculpture in a pond in Queen Victoria Gardens.
Where John Olsen’s Frog is a signature image made into a sculpture, Floyd’s sculpture is literally called Signature Work. Going down a rabbit hole of post-modern semiotics. Depicting a toy rabbit, a toy that represents an idea of a rabbit, or rather the repeated use of that image of it in Floyd’s art.
There are also a few horse statues, not surprising in a city so owned by the gambling industry that there is a public holiday for a horse race. I am not a fan of all these sculptures anymore than I’m a fan of all the statues of homo sapiens. Some are horrible, while others are just tasteless or boring. June Arnold’s Dolphin Fountain in Fitzroy Gardens with bronze dolphins, birds, sea horses, and starfish is Melbourne’s most kitsch sculpture.