Elaine and Jim
Wolfensohn gift

Travelling exhibitions | Introduction | Blue case | Red case | Yellow case | Melbourne cup

Yellow Case: Form, space, design

Neil Roberts

The space inside my fist

Neil Roberts The space inside my fist 1995 bronze National Gallery of Australia, Canberra Neil Roberts The space inside my fist 1995, bronze, National Gallery of Australia enlarge

Artist's statement
'My actions never deny the history and former function of the stuff with which I work, no matter how damaged. This is important to me - I want that "site memory" to reach across time and distance and make itself felt, however feebly, in front of the viewer. Because my actions are often so simple, it is a challenge to go further than just presenting these reclaimed materials. I try, through juxtaposition, association, unnecessary attention to detail and so on, to invest them with some new forms of meanings and significance.'

What is The space inside my fist?
Neil Roberts’ bronze sculpture explores the space inside a tightly clenched fist and what remains when the fist is uncurled – is it simply air or a memory of the gesture?

This small sculpture is unusual for this artist in that it is not a retrieved or found object; however, it does attempt to make meaning from something transient. Like the soon-to-be-buried objects he reclaimed from tips, the shapes and spaces made by his own body are fleeting moments. The artist rendered one of these moments in bronze, a very permanent and traditional material, and so gives weight and substance to what would otherwise be just air and memory.

This sculpture is made using a very simple and direct process. Roberts squeezed lumps of hot soft wax with just the right amount of pressure to capture the space inside of his hand in all its shape and detail.


  • Create your own sculpture using clay or wax, by squeezing it and applying pressure with one or two hands. Experiment with different shapes.
  • Make a fist with your hand; draw all the spaces you can see inside.
  • Can you think of other ways we try and remember fleeting moments?