The Shape Of Things

Blackman, Bowen, Cay, Gray, Halpern, Klarfeld, Piperides, Redford, Sheffer, Watson, West

October 19 - October 30 2019

The most obvious property of a sculpture is its ‘solidity' and occupation of real space. Just as in the very earliest shamanistic precursors, sculptures not only describe the shape of things observed but also intuited. The forms may emanate metaphysical and philosophical dimensions that transcend their physical matter. In this exhibition eight artists employing a diverse range of processes and media translate personal understandings of The Shape of Things.


Dean Bowen describes his works as evocations of optimism where inquiry, joy, play and imagination intertwine. 'I love the handmade, the outsider, children's art, naïve art, modernist and primitive art of all kinds,' the Melbourne artist discloses. His search is to create something profoundly human but with elements of humour that will counteract the prevalence of today's more sombre concerns. 'The bronze sculpture, Bird Lover, is a comment on mankind living in harmony with nature and is one of my favourite pieces,' says Dean. 'It is a portrait of a man supporting birds and wildlife. The birds rest peacefully on his outstretched arms and are free to fly off at will.' He explains the process of its making is quite complex, there being actually seven sculptures worked together into one. The man and the different birds were individually modelled in wax and then silicon rubber moulds were made of them. Reworking and refining ensued before the casting in bronze employing the ‘lost wax technique'. Finally the bronze sculpture was patinated in various colours and also painted with thin glazes of oil paint to create the chequerboard pattern of the man's attire.


Art, like life, is an undulating dance alternately radiant in possibilities, shadowed with limitations and then bright with resolution for Veronica Cay. The creative impetus for Veronica's recent ceramic works arose from a recall of past events, the eccentricity of forms and media externalising a sense of nostalgia. The Sunshine Coast artist tells that her latest figures now display aspects of her textile/embroidery background in their elaborate turban-like headdresses. 'I have always been a secret hoarder of vintage treasures, mostly discarded fragments of interesting fabrics and decorative trimmings sourced in garage sales and op shops, as well as certain clothes from my past,' she reveals. 'The combination of textile practices such as wrapping, stitching and collaging onto the clay adds a richness and variety to surfaces. It provides visual reference points and the forging of a different dialogue,' she continues. 'Each bundle of fabric conjures up a memory of time and place. Remnants are piled high on the ceramic heads - twisted and convoluted, their colours glimpsed through a layer of gesso are faded, like memories, but still within reach.' The work, blinkered in past history, exemplifies the creative utilisation of unexpected media. A glass-beaded veil covers the figure's eyes. Is it a blindfold or a motif of disguise? Suspended from her neck by an antique chain with lock and key hangs a most curious breastplate. Its base, fashioned from a vintage Meccano piece, is adorned with four tiny, limbless figurines. Veronica tells that they were ebay acquisitions: 'These are collectable bisque dolls unearthed in Thuringia, Germany and dating from the pre WW1 period between 1890 and 1930. The beautiful fabric flowers that crown them are also of German origin, c.1920/30. I find such objects' past history incredibly emotive but the viewer's own perceptions and life's experience will give rise to personal interpretation.'


Erica Gray has a very successful background in the fashion industry, her ‘wearable art' being featured in numerous national and international events. The highly technical construction processes involved in the making of those garments now invests her sculptural works. Gold Coast-based, Erica's assemblages are both a celebration of the vivid colours, intricate patterning and structural complexities observed in a variety of marine creatures and a lament for their threatened survival due to mankind's negligence. Although Erica says she is not an environmental artist as such, her personal concern is manifest. 'My works speak of the general disconnect I feel between humanity and the natural world,' she offers. The atypical format of the piece entitled, e.quatic.coral.cluster 1.3 obliquely references her first name's initial ‘e' as well as the electronic devises she uses in the making. Ecological factors are doubtlessly also implied. In this wall-mounted, mixed media sculpture, 'sea creatures are reimagined into a playfully distorted configuration with cured teeth, spikes and claws connoting a defensive stance.' The delicate filigreed forms have been painstakingly created with an extruder pen or handheld 3D printer pen utilising TPU filament


'For the last thirty years I have endeavoured to create work that will inspire, delight and surprise,' says Deborah Halpern. She describes her relationship to the world as multi-faceted, and this is quite literally demonstrated in the shapes and surfaces of her sculptures clad in ceramic and glass tiles. Deborah's exuberant, fanciful art forms are created within an enormous light-suffused studio at Warrandyte, Victoria. Her uncle Stanislaw Halpern also once worked there emulating the folk pottery of his Polish homeland. Deborah discloses that Stanislaw's small ceramic sculptures with their loose, painterly dabs of colour were a major influence on her subsequent oeuvre and attitude to art. 'They promoted an abiding excitement in the potentiality of colour.' She also cites Spanish architect Antoni Gaudi and the surrealist French sculptor Niki de Saint Phalle as inspirational in their adventurous use of the ceramic tile medium. Experimentation and the assiduous acquisition of the necessary technical skills enabled her to eventually realise her dreams of monumental, ceramic-tiled sculptures such as the renowned Angel. By necessity, Deborah's works for gallery exhibition are on a much smaller and more intimate scale.


Czech born Linda Klarfeld showed very early artistic talent, her work was exhibited in a national exhibition of exceptional children's art at Prague Castle when just three years old! Growing up in Australia, Linda was introduced to sculpture in her teens and after finishing high school in Sydney began a seven years' apprenticeship learning from various sculptors around the world. Linda mentions that she was much attracted to sculptors such as Rodin who had the ability to render the human psyche and emotions into solid material and wanted to capture the same depth in her work. Linda's many public commissions have won her international and national acclaim. She is best known for her life-sized figurative bronze statues including Dr Victor Chang, Mary MacKillop, Pope John Paul II as well as the portrait busts for the Prime Ministers' Avenue in Ballarat. However, Linda's oeuvre also extends to more light-hearted, subjective works. Cast in bronze and enamelled in striking colours, the attitudes of the small Lady Boss and Levitating Lawyer pieces perhaps reflect insights gained during her psychology studies at Macquarie University. Linda now lives and works on the Gold Coast.


One of the pleasures in viewing a Phillip Piperides' bronze sculpture arises from our understanding that a soft malleable material has been transposed into the solid and enduring personification of a mood or moment in time. Working from his Brisbane foundry, Piperides meticulously presides over every stage in bringing the mute, raw materials into a life-suffused, physical reality. Enormous skill is required in the lengthy and exacting processes involved. Put most simplistically, the pose of a live model is rendered in clay and a cast made which is then poured with molten bronze and allowed to cool. The cast is dismantled and after long hours of chipping away dross and polishing, the final patination is applied. Light gently caresses rounded volumes and lustrous, burnished surfaces. A union of ideal and reality, the figures convey a profoundly classical air. But beyond the anatomical perfection and sensitive play of light, the works engage the viewer at a deeper, more contemplative level. There is a sense of complete quietude to the self-sufficient repose of each figure. Free of restless energy, Piperides' bronzes seem to represent a state of being which defies all worldly concern.


Now resident in Brisbane, Scott Redford was born and grew up on the Gold Coast. He professes that his entire creative life's work has been influenced by that city's ‘cultural' anomalies. Scott recalls that in his youth, society's attitude 'was all about bringing culture TO the Gold Coast.' His contrary understanding was that culture already abounded, albeit in an unorthodox context. Having lived quite literally down the road from the Pink Poodle landmark, it had always resonated an iconic status for him. 'To me the Gold Coast is its own work of ART,' he adamantly asserts. Constructed from laser-cut acrylic material and coated with auto paint, the three signage sculptures in the exhibition are the models he submitted for the Gold Coast Gateway Public Art Project. They epitomise his ongoing intention 'to AMPLIFY what is already great about the Gold Coast.' Scott describes the works as prototypes for proposed 'big signs spaced along the highway at intervals to create a perspective ‘Gateway' driving experience.' Also in the exhibition are ceramic sculptures from Scott's renowned My Beautiful Polar Bear series. The irony of the creature's association with this part of the world is implicit in the colours and lustrous glaze. 'Those works are glossy for a deliberate reason!' he declares. 'All my Gold Coast work is a Pop version of Cultural Activism.'


Avital Sheffer's eloquent ceramic vessels are not made for functional purpose but rather, to initiate a contemplative response. The works have a weathered feel, their porous tactility evoking the primal nature of clay, fire, water and time. In the tradition of ancient ceramics, Avital painstakingly builds her ware with clay coils. From a predetermined base each piece develops gradually and intuitively to assume its idiosyncratic character. 'Initially, I am searching for lines of form and afterwards, the enhancement of that silhouette,' she explains. Following several firings and applications of dry glazes, the surface is clad with imagery and calligraphy, carefully developed and composed to visually integrate with the form it will inhabit. The vessel is then fired again, permanently embedding the silkscreen-printed artwork into the skin of the vessel. 'My latest vessels acquire subtle gesture,' imparts the Northern Rivers-based artist. 'The work Hadira explores the rhythm, proportion, repetition and principles of Islamic art that are an endless source of inspiration. Scars in in the form of botanical features play as seams of memory and zoomorphic elements make reference to ancient Middle Eastern vessels.' With anthropomorphic and symbolic intent, the long elegant neck stretches heavenward to receive an etheric bounty that can be stored and shared. 'It is about the vessel's ability to communicate the past with a relevance for the future,' says Avital. 'The richness of integration is the well I drink from.'


Deliberately ambiguous and manifesting an unsettling ‘strangeness', Carolyn V Watson's work propels the viewer into an inescapable visceral engagement. At once both intensely personal and universal in implication, her art seeks to question that which truly defines us. Enclosed in a specimen-like bell jar is the sculpture writhe. Its most intriguing contents are an assemblage of 42 hand-formed clay cocoons and a cow's rib. Tiny glass and porcelain spheres are embedded throughout the work connoting perhaps lamprey-like teeth or egg-like hatchlings. It is as if we are in the presence of something ancient and conjured from primordial depths. The Brisbane artist describes the work as 'a playful experiment in expectation.' She speculates about how the viewer might interact with a work when it occupies a space behind glass? 'Does it become an enhanced curiosity? Being presented in such a way, can it convincingly falsify its origin? On a closer inspection, what is the relationship between the bone and the forms, is it parasitic or symbiotic, does it provide clues to a nurtured regeneration or are we witness to a battle of wills?' Carolyn asks of herself and the beholder.


Now New Zealand-based Di West describes herself an incurable romantic who is strongly influenced by song lyrics, poetry and metaphor. 'In many of my works the title comes before the artwork then the words become pictures in my mind and the creative impetus ensues,' she reveals. Di's multi-award winning Star Man series derived its inspiration from a Stephen Bishop song. 'When I heard the line ‘ he takes a ladder, steals the stars from the sky...' it set my imagination alight with a flame that hasn't stopped burning since!' she declares. An experience in Morocco when visiting 'the obligatory rug warehouse' engendered the Star Finder sculpture. The sight of men racing up extremely long ladders to show the full extent of their wares immediately resonated, 'I could visualise my ‘Star Man' at that very moment - stretching himself to reach across the clouds to collect a fallen star!' Before being cast in bronze into small editions, each of Di's quirky figurines is initially modelled in wax, an incredibly responsive material where the artist's touch is retained.


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