Friday, April 7, 2017

ASHBURN WILSON Official Unveiling

Saturday the 25th March 2017 marked the opening of the recent 3.3 million dollar expansion of the Roma Regional Airport Terminal in Central Queensland and the official unveiling of my bottle tree sculptures ASHBURN WILSON. This pair of 3.0m tall steel sculptures won the 2014 Santos Acquisitive Sculpture Award and after more than two years in fabrication and then storage, finally found their place astride the Airport’s main entrance.

Roma is famous for it’s abundance of Brachyciton rupestris, the Queensland Bottle tree. More than 90 of them line Roma’s Heroes Avenue, planted to commemorate soldiers from the region who lost their lives in the First World War. As 2014 marked the 100th anniversary of the beginning of WW1, I felt it was appropriate to revisit that symbolism, reinterpreting it in rolled steel plate. It was a wonderful design challenge and I am thrilled with the result.

Ashburn and Wilson are the first and last soldiers listed on the Cairn located outside Roma’s Post Office and the sculptures are named for these two. Like book ends, they stand for themselves and everyone in between. Two sentinels to remind us of the sacrifice of many.

Sandra MacDonald, past president of the Roma on Bungil Gallery Management Committee (the group that coordinate the annual prize) suggested the Airport was an appropriate location for ASHBURN WILSON. The original memorial begins at the Railway Station, the primary point of arrival and departure from the town at that time. Now a century on, Roma Airport is one of the busiest in regional Queensland, winning the Qantaslink award for most Outstanding Regional Airport in 2014 and 2016. For many locals and visitors alike, the Airport is their first and last experience of Roma.

Puddy Chandler from the Maranoa Regional Council officiated the opening ceremony and together Andrew Snars (Regional Manager of Santos) and I cut the ribbon. The ceremony was attended by many Local Councilors, Corporate representatives, the Roma on Bungil Gallery Management Committee and interested locals. One of whom offered to take me on a sight seeing tour of the region in his light plane. A definite highlight of a memorable trip.

This is Greg who offered to take me up for a ride in his Cessna 172. We flew North over Pony Hills, west to Injune and finally back to Roma. At around 3500ft we skimmed just below the clouds. The open countryside was green and all the dams were full. We flew over the feed lots, where cattle are fattened before heading to the sale yards, busier now than ever before according to Greg, We saw the gas fields and talked about their impact on the local community including the many benefits. Santos has been mining in this region or over 50 years. May locals are employed by Santos and a great deal of the local economy relies on their presence.

It seemed Santos had a good working relationship with the community here, no doubt a result of interconnectedness forged from long association. But the construction boom of recent years had apparently bought new players, many of whom it seemed didn't enjoy the respect of the community, nor done anything to earn it. Like so many human interactions, the current energy debate is a real hot mess.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Art is Work

I don't always take time off over Christmas, working as I do, a project based designer in industrial and commercial construction. You tend to work when the work is there and fret when it isn't. I can recall many years that I've worked right through the season. Public holidays don't mean so much to the self employed. The answer, I've discovered, is to book your trip regardless of how busy you are and find a way to make it work. Otherwise, some years, the break never comes.

This year we once again visited family in New Zealand, with a little time out to drive around the North Island visiting Rotorua and the Coromandel Peninsula. And once again I bought a fresh sketch book, confident the inevitable downtime of travel would permit plenty of free time for sketching. But in reality, we were having too much fun to bother with pencils and pens. Which reminds me of the maxim, 'Art is Work'  and sometimes, we need to rest.

Depending on which day you catch me, I'm either an Artist who works as a Designer to pay the bills, or a Designer who makes Art to fill the hole in his heart that protests the mediocrity of much of the work I'm engaged with. And some days I try to do both at the same time. At times it's exhausting. But I don't know what to do about that. Full credit to those with the courage (or luck) to kick the day job, because we all know talent isn't the only determinant factor.

So after nearly three weeks in scenic New Zealand, I offer three sketches. That'll have to do.

Monday, December 26, 2016

More Stacked Slabs

Thrilled by the way THE MONITOR turned out, I'm keen to pursue more cast concrete sculpture produced in similar fashion. Unlike the THE MONITOR however, I have decided to include a more easily recognisable figurative element in this work.

While the moulds for these stacked slabs will once again be made from waste packaging, one side of the finished sculpture will form a faithfully reproduced human face; the same theme, a human form described by the castoffs of consumption, expressed uniquely.

As a first step, I have reproduced the computer model in clay by hand, scaled appropriately to match the dimensions described in the digital maquette.

From this, I have cast a series of 5cm (2 inch) plaster moulds, each to be used separately for casting the individual concrete slabs. At least I will finish casting them once I purchase some more plaster. I ran out two sections before reaching the top and it's Christmas so all the shops are shut!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

111 George St

My recent sculpture THE MONITOR has just this week been installed in the foyer of 111 George St, one of Architect Robin Gibson’s iconic Brisbane buildings. The sculpture, standing 2.0m high is constructed of unfinished “black” steel and cast concrete slabs, common materials in the construction of the contemporary urban landscape. Each slab is cast using a mould made of waste polystyrene packaging, and so, the negative space once occupied by appliances, electronics and gadgets realigns itself to describe a human form. We are what we consume.

These devices improve our lives; enhance our ability to communicate and interact with each other; give us access to vast repositories of information; make life easier; increase leisure. Conversely, there is a sense that our reliance on technology somehow diminishes our humanity and the ever-increasing rate of technological development only further exacerbates the schism. THE MONITOR, cast from the packaging of computer hardware, patiently observes the change.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Ashburn Wilson Update 2016

After a year long wait, ASHBURN WILSON have finally been installed at the entrance to the Roma Regional Airport. Thanks you so Much Sandy MacDonald for the photos. Currently planning a trip that will see me out west some time around the turn of 2017/18.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

MONITOR disrupted humans

Casting is now complete on this piece "Monitor" which was begun several months ago. Each slab is cast in a mould made from waste polystyrene packaging. In this way, the negative space within the packaging, once occupied by consumer goods had come to describe a human form. You are what you eat, or in this case, consume. Which sounds like i'm being negative but only in part. I see this as an ambivalent work. 
Many of those things we buy are labour saving devices. They make life easier, help us communicate more effectively; more broadly, enhance our enjoyment and facilitate both our work and our leisure. As the increasing pace of development further increases our reliance on gadgets, to the point where they become seamlessly integrated into our lives and inevitably, our bodies, how we manage that consumption will most certainly be problematic. Potentially liberating while also quite possibly signaling our end as human.

The head itself is not free standing so I have designed a steel plinth to support it. Like the sculpture, the plinth is modular in design and bolts together like oversize Mechano. I have an opportunity to display some work in the foyer of an inner city government building toward the end of the year so I'm pushing forward my plans to finish this work so I can give it it's first outing in a very public place.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Change in Context

Earlier this year I cast a series of small figures in resin and plaster mounted on a variety of concrete bases. It began as an idea for a drawing. I often find myself thinking I should do more drawing. Not just sketching or doodling, which I do often, but something more deliberate and determined. I had been reading articles and social media posts about racial discrimination and this countries woeful unwillingness to reconcile with its barbaric colonial past. I imagined a white figure on black ground, “Where do you stand?”

But the longer I thought about it, the more appealing a sculpture became. There are times I love making slow pen and ink drawings. The repetitive mark making becomes meditative and relaxing. But the beginnings can feel a lot like hard work, in a way that sculptures seem not too. A personal quirk no doubt.

Once the figure was modeled I began planning a mounting for it and it occurred to me that it’s contemplative pose could do more than ask a singular question. Changing the base changed the context. The question it posed was altered and interpretation became open. Though a question is implied, it’s no longer a fixed description of my own feelings, rather, the viewer is invited to find their own meaning.

My mould making is getting better, but this one still isn’t good. The first cast was successful but many subsequent casts failed, at least partially. Still, that’s yet another opportunity for a change in context.