Today I made my first submission for a piece of public art in the Santos Acquisitive Sculpture Award. 2014 marks the fifth running of this annual award and each year a different brief is formulated to secure a new piece of site specific sculpture for the town of Roma in Queensland's central west. This year the site is a section of footpath at the front of the Roma Airport.
Upon seeing the call for entries I decided that I would make a real effort to put together a professional submission and set about working on some ideas. But after several weeks, I must admit I really didn't have much. I was struggling with the fact that I don't know much about Roma, what it's like to live there and what the people of Roma are all about. In my research I came across a description of Roma's Heroes Avenue where 93 Bottle trees were planted around 1920 to commemorate the locals who lost their lives in WW1. It seemed appropriate to reiterate this homage right now, this being the 100th anniversary of the beginning of that conflict. I thought of my friend and artist Adrienne Williams, herself a regional Queenslander but also because the Bottle Tree is a recurring motif in her work.
I approached Adrienne about working together on this project and sent her scans of the rough sketches I'd been making. She promptly threw them out and admonished me for trying too hard to come up with an idea that I thought they would like, "It's all about you," she said, "what do you want to do?"
So back to basics I went. My practice is largely about taking an idea, reducing it to a single symbol or motif and then having fun with it. The bottle tree remained a good beginning. The site faces east and is fully exposed to the morning and midday sun and for that reason alone, trees are exactly what it needs. I just needed to come up with a design that matched my skills, experience, sensibilities, desires and aspirations.
I settled on two trees for a number of reasons but largely because it seemed physically appropriate for the space. Also, considering their location between entry and exit points to the airport, two really is the right number. It references coming and going, arrivals and departures, a landmark for the return homeward or a reminder of a journey past. Like bookends they have been named for the first and last soldiers who appear on the commemorative plaque that is mounted to the cenotaph at the end of Heroes Avenue.
Adrienne helped throughout the entire process, making suggestions about finishes and council requirements, sharing photos and some of her knowledge of bottle trees, critiquing the aesthetic qualities of the various forms as the design evolved, checking spelling, formatting and helping to edit my statement. Her help has been invaluable and I am sure without it, I wouldn't have seen this process through.
Craig, the fabricator is one of my commercial clients and has helped with pricing and specifications for finishes. We've worked together for many years and I'm extremely glad I've also had his support throughout this process. And as a Quilpie boy, born and bred, he's pretty keen to get involved in this project.
Shortlisted submissions will be announced in a couple of weeks and a winners selected in a months time. I'll let you know how I get on.