'Sculpture is the exploration of form and space, it is drawing from a thousand different angles.'
- Inge King
Inge King made an extraordinary contribution to sculpture in her adopted country, Australia. Over 70 years of her working life, she developed a sophisticated style of abstraction that ranged from adapted animal and plant forms through to the rings and trajectories of the planetary system in the universe.
Committed to the medium of sculpture, she created many iconic public works in Melbourne, Brisbane and here in Canberra. They include the RAAF Memorial (1973) on Anzac Parade, Black Sun (1975) at the Australian National University, near University House; and the walk-through sculpture, Temple Gate (1976-77) belonging to the National Gallery of Australia and positioned at the entry of the Bowen Drive pedestrian underpass, Bowen Place.
Born in Berlin on 26 November 1915, Inge escaped Germany in 1939 and settled first in London and then in Glasgow. During this period her work oscillated between figuration, cubism and organic abstraction. In 1949 she visited New York heralding a new phase in her art– the adoption of steel, which gave her a new-found flexibility. She stated, using metal 'enabled me to let forms leap into the air, balance shapes or anchor them precariously'. Back in London, she meet Australian printmaker Grahame King and they were married in 1950 before boarding the Strathaird for Australia. After the excitement of Europe and New York, Inge King found Melbourne, in her memorable turn of phrase, 'like opening a can of flat beer', but she never regretted her decision to come to Australia.
Shortly after their arrival Inge and Grahame began to exhibit together and built a home, studio and garden in the bush setting of Warrandyte, Victoria. Here Inge fabricated the maquettes for some of her key large scale public sculptures such as Forward Surge, Temple Gate and Red Rings (in the National Gallery's collection). She often spoke of the impact of the Australian landscape on her work given it was so foreign to her eyes as an émigré from Europe.
Inge King with Temple gate, Realities Gallery, Melbourne 1977. Photograph: Richard Beck. Research Library, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
In 1984 Inge was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) and in recognition of her central role in raising the profile of modern sculpture in Australia, she was awarded the Visual Arts Emeritus Award by the Australian Council for the Arts in 2009.
In 2015, Inge gave a remarkable group of sculptures from her studio and garden to the National Gallery of Australia. As an artist of tremendous standing, her art was celebrated with an exhibition at the National Gallery in Canberra that year. Spanning seven decades of her work, it was evident in the exhibition that she had preoccupation with ideas of balance and movement and the ability of sculpture to enchant and amaze the beholder.
We will remember her great contribution to Australian art with deep admiration.