Memorialised the Rich and Powerful
An incongruous disruption to the landscape in form, scale and colour.
Several months ago I was commissioned by Urban Art Projects in Brisbane to develop concepts for a piece of play based sculpture as part of a commercial development adjacent to the local Airport. I put together several options, developing ideas and working through the design challenges presented by the brief. Ultimately however, the developer chose not to go ahead with my final proposal.
As disappointing as that was, considering my status as a relative newcomer in the field of public art, I was still enormously appreciative of the opportunity that had been presented to me. The process of designing and putting together a commercial proposal was certainly a beneficial experience. It also forced me to spend a lot of time worrying about how I might translate my small scale practice into a larger and to be frank, more broadly palatable format. And that’s not a bad type of worry.
While much of my recent work is colourful and at times cute, underlying it are themes of a more serious nature. Like many, I’m often disappointed by my fellow humans and the way we run things and I do wonder if we couldn’t do a better job of it. But how do you mash those kind of ideas into a bright, colourful, playful, safe, sentimentally iconic way-finder for tired shoppers and restless kids. Obviously the compromise would be unsuitable for many but surely, like choices of material or finish, the necessity to layer meaning into seemingly innocuous figurative motifs is just one more challenge to wrestle with in the course of reaching a suitably resolved outcome.
How successful I was in that endeavour remains for others to judge but I felt the proposal had merit enough to consider pursuing it further on my own. The major difference however, is that under the agreement with UAP, had the developer gone ahead with it, a team of fabricators and considerable budget would have been brought to bear on creating several of these large scale fish busts. On my own with a limited budget, skills and experience it was obvious the end result would vary somewhat.
This is the largest sculptural work I have made to date and for various reasons was completed entirely by hand without the use of dusty, noisy power tools and sanders. Instead of the imagined glittering metallic ruby red finish, I chose a less lustrous acrylic gloss which seemed vastly more appropriate for the substrate, splitting it into a two toned scheme which emphasises the cropped nature of the form.
From a thematic perspective, the work ironically enlists the practice of portraiture and its capacity to memorialise the rich and powerful. The great and the good whom we hold in high esteem but are sadly no longer with us and in light of the world’s current environmental trajectory, fish portraits seem entirely appropriate.
Alternatively, when viewed simply as a sculptural object in a spatial context, the absurdity of a bright red fish head placed in an idyllic country location is in my opinion a perfectly reasonable response to the challenges of a contemporary industrialised (and digitalised) society. Part of a dada anti-aesthetic tradition and an incongruous disruption to the landscape in form, scale and colour.
Sculpture on the Edge at the Spicers Tamarind Resort Melany opens Saturday 12th September and runs until mid October.