Tuesday, December 09, 2014

On discovering sculpture

My continuing efforts to document artists with New England connections led me to Bronwyn Oliver (Another New England artist – Bronwyn Oliver (Gum Flat via Inverell). This is an example of her work, Globe (2002) at the University of NSW.

Bronwyn Oliver is very well known indeed, both as a sculptor and for her sometimes troubled life. The fact that I had not heard of her is an indication of my own lack of knowledge of the field.

I came to sculpture quite late. Growing up, I had considerable exposure to art on the walls of family homes or at the nearby Armidale Teachers' College. However, the only sculptures I saw were in ancient history books, mainly Greek or Roman heads with staring eyes. I wasn't attracted, regarding them mainly as historical artifacts.

I didn't really discover sculpture until the opening of the Australian National Gallery in Canberra. Then I spent many hours in the sculpture garden, often eating my lunch while looking at the pieces. These were very different from the sculptures of the classical world. I would sit in one spot for a longish period just enjoying and then move. The lines fascinated me with their shifting perspectives as I shifted my position.

This piece, Song Cycles, is in the main street of Walcha. The Walcha Shire Council has been turning the whole town into a sculpture gallery. So far, there are 41 pieces on display.

Again, I have only just discovered sculpture Walcha. A while back, a friend and I stopped in Walcha on our way back from Armidale. It was then, walking the streets, that we found it.

We couldn't stop for long, but influenced by a recent visit to the National Gallery's sculpture garden, I thought and then wrote that Walcha should promote itself as the sculpture town. It was quickly pointed out to me Walcha was trying to do just that! Ouch!

 I said that I was fascinated by the lines. It's an addiction, but one that I value. Enjoyment of the addiction requires a number of things.

To begin with, you actually have to look. If a sculpture is presented to you, you know that you are meant to look. But lines whether in nature or the built environment don't always present themselves in obvious ways. It may be the tracery of the trees or some configuration of buildings or, indeed, a combination, but you have to look.

Then you have to pause and take time to absorb. I am constantly amazed at the way people living in what are, in fact, highly visual worlds just let the whole thing go by. They miss so much.  


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