Launched in 2000, the National Sculpture Prize set out to raise the profile of sculpture in Australia. Looking back it is gratifying to see that it has indeed achieved its aim and sculpture, in all its contemporary manifestations, is currently enjoying unprecedented visibility and recognition.
The three Prizes – held in 2001, 2003 and 2005 – have included an extra-ordinary range of works by a total of eighty-three artists from around Australia. The Prize has introduced emerging artists to a national audience and has exhibited their works alongside those of Australia’s leading sculptors. It has provided a vital forum in which artists have presented major new works – in some instances ambitious undertakings that would not have been realised without the stimulation of the Prize. With each exhibition there has been an associated program of public talks by artists and curators, extending the understanding and enjoyment of this art form amongst the wider community. The Gallery has forged lasting relationships with artists around the country and works from each Prize have been acquired for the national collection.
The National Gallery of Australia is proud to present the third National Sculpture Prize and exhibition. This event signals the Gallery’s commitment to exhibiting contemporary Australian art and this year’s exhibition will be the largest to date, featuring works by thirty-nine artists, and extending throughout the Gallery’s temporary exhibitions wing.
Over the past five years the National Gallery of Australia and Macquarie Bank have worked closely together in the presentation of the Prize. I thank Macquarie Bank for their generous and enthusiastic involvement with the National Galley of Australia, and for their initiative in extending the reach of the Prize by touring selected works nationally. The partnership between the National Gallery of Australia and Macquarie Bank has already achieved much, and I look forward to the continuation of this relationship into the future.
I would also like to thank International Art Services for their ongoing support of the National Sculpture Prize by again offering participating artists a generous discount on the cost of transporting their works.
I thank my fellow judges for the commitment and expertise that they have brought to their task, selecting a stimulating and diverse exhibition from the 636 entries received this year.
The exhibition of contemporary sculpture is a complex undertaking and I acknowledge the professionalism and dedication of staff from across the Gallery who have contributed to this project, including coordinating curator Elena Taylor, project officer Kate Buckingham and exhibition manager Beatrice Gralton.
Most particularly I would like to congratulate all of the artists selected for the 2005 Prize, and to thank all of those who entered for their continued support of this event.
Ron Radford AM
Director, National Gallery of Australia
2005 Winning entry
Glen Clarke, American crater near Hanoi #2
Macquarie Bank People’s Choice Award winner
Geoffrey Drake-Brockman, Floribots
It is five years since the idea was first floated within Macquarie Bank to establish a national prize for outstanding Australian sculpture. The prevailing view at the time was that sculpture lacked the support and recognition it deserved. It was, in effect, the bridesmaid of the Australian arts.
Macquarie took the concept to the National Gallery of Australia which, to its enormous credit, acted quickly to turn it into reality. Within a year, the National Sculpture Prize and exhibition was born.
Few could have foreseen the remarkable impact this prize would have, not only on Australian sculpture but on the art scene generally. Much of that success can be attributed to Australia’s sculptors, who entered the competition in unexpectedly large numbers. More than 480 entries were received for the inaugural Prize in 2001, while a record 636 artists entered works this year.
Sculptors have also embraced the unrestrictive entry conditions attached to the Prize, exploring the limits of their imagination and a diverse range of materials to produce truly innovative sculpture. Artists have used everything from bush turkey feathers to the air we breathe to bring their works to life.
Their contributions have been enjoyed by an appreciative public, making the National Sculpture Prize exhibition one of the National Gallery of Australia’s most popular. Selected pieces are also displayed in public areas of several Macquarie Bank offices, where they attract many visitors. Clearly, the viewing public is keen to embrace sculpture as a uniquely expressive art form.
There is no doubt that the National Sculpture Prize and exhibition has given new prominence to Australian sculpture. In addition, it has initiated many other lucrative prizes, further expanding its scope and dimension, and ensuring sculpture receives the recognition it deserves.
Most importantly, the Prize has given valuable exposure to Australia’s most talented sculptors, both emerging and established, and provided a strong platform on which to build their careers. Ah Xian, the Prize’s winner in 2001, has exhibited his work in New York, while 2003 winner Lisa Roet is due to have the first monograph on her work published this year. Timothy Horn, a finalist in 2001 now has a commercial gallery representing his work in San Francisco, while Alwin Reamillo and Roselin Eaton’s 2003 entry, Jandamarra crossing project, is now on permanent display at the Western Australian Museum in Perth. For many entrants being named as a finalist has marked the first major recognition of their work.
I would like to congratulate all of the finalists whose work has been selected for exhibition in 2005 and wish them all the best.
I also thank the National Gallery of Australia and its Director, Ron Radford, for the strong support and commitment that he and his staff have given the National Sculpture Prize and exhibition.
I hope you enjoy the exhibition.
Executive Chairman, Macquarie Bank
Since the revolution of Duchamp’s readymades and Picasso’s collages early last century, the very conception of what art can be has expanded and changed dramatically. Sculpture was at the forefront of this interrogation of the boundaries between art and life that characterised much twentieth-century art, and throughout this period the parameters of sculptural practice became increasingly fluid. While for a time in the 1960s and 1970s the sculptural object seemed in danger of dematerialising into the expanded field of performance art, happenings, installation, land art and conceptual art, currently the sculptural object again occupies a central place within contemporary practice.
A defining feature of this return to the sculptural object is a fascination with the physicality of objects, with their relationship to the world and us, and how ideas can be expressed and experienced through materials and process. While the legacy of conceptual art has meant that the physical aspects of an artwork were deemed irrelevant or viewed with suspicion, in much recent work concept and form have become inseparable. Artists employ an extraordinary and seemingly inexhaustible variety of materials, and a noticeable aspect of much contemporary sculptural work is the use of manufacturing processes that are time and labour intensive, often requiring high levels of technical and manual skill.
Since its launch in 2000 the National Sculpture Prize has taken a very broad view of what contemporary sculpture might be. In contemporary practice genres and disciplines cross over, and few artists identify themselves as ‘sculptors’, they are simply artists. The Prize does not attempt to be thematic or definitive, and it is characterised by an inclusive approach to contemporary practice. Artists in this year’s Prize address questions of form, content and materiality in very different ways. Yet while there is no single thread linking all of these works, there are surprising points of connection between even the most seemingly disparate works: shared sensibilities and points of reference, the questioning of formal sculptural concerns, and an engagement with broad social and political issues.
At a time when humanity’s impact on the environment becomes ever more problematic, ideas of the natural world and our relationship with nature are a central discourse in much contemporary art. The metaphorical associations of the cyclical and regenerative aspects of nature are explored in GW Bot’s Hillside, evoking a view of a delicate yet tough Australian landscape. Kirsteen Pieterse’s Canyon and Ravine describe the negative spaces of these natural features in the manner of an architectural model, reiterating the notion of the landscape as a cultural construct. Bonita Ely’s Bonsai landscape comments on humankind’s mistaken belief in its ability to control and order the natural world, and the disastrous consequences of this as evidenced in the 2003 Canberra bushfires.
Geoffrey Drake-Brockman’s Floribots can be seen as a manifestation of the ultimate fulfilment of this desire to control nature: a virtual garden of robotic flowers that endlessly move through the cycle of life, growth and death. Also exploring the interface between nature and technology, James Angus’s digitally designed and manufactured Manta ray is a futuristic merging of twenty-first-century technology with evolution, as though the principles of contemporary design have been applied to a manta ray to create a new and improved showroom prototype.
The extinction of species and degradation of the marine environment is the subject of Nicole Byrne’s Repetition, its intricate paper construction recalling organic marine forms. Maria Fernanda Cardoso’s Woven water: submarine landscape evokes the beauty of the underwater world, while its construction from the bleached remains of starfish reiterates the vulnerability of this environment and its creatures.
In Continuous moment Damiano Bertoli translates German Romantic painter Caspar David Friedrich’s The sea of ice 1823–24 – an iconic image of the helplessness of man in the face of nature – into the language of abstract Minimalist sculpture. The work negotiates a space between painting and sculpture, nineteenth-century narrative and twentieth-century abstraction, within an ongoing discourse of humanity’s place in the natural world. Recalling eighteenth-century philosopher Edmund Burke’s conception of the sublime, which proposed that the most powerful of aesthetic responses originates in terror, Mel O’Callaghan’s DVD The fall aestheticises the drowning death of a parachutist through the beauty of the billowing folds of the parachute.
The expression of a spiritual relationship to land is a fundamental purpose of traditional Indigenous art. The carved and painted imagery of Gunybi Ganambarr’s larrakitj Dhanbarr depicts designs sacred to his mother’s clan, while the traditional function of the larrakitj is as a ceremonial container for the bones of the deceased, which over time would decay and return its contents to the earth.
For both Richard Goodwin and David Jensz science is a path to the contemplation of the infinite. Richard Goodwin’s Moth is rich with metaphorical allusions to journeys and transformations, both physical and spiritual, while David Jensz’s Unbounded space takes as its starting point the desire to make tangible a conception of an endless universe as described by contemporary physics.
As a way of connecting to the divine principle, chanting is a central practice in Buddhism. In Nigel Helyer’s sound installation Chant, ten bronze Buddhas equipped with radio receivers and speakers endlessly repeat the sacred Mani mantra. The significance of pattern in spiritual art and repetitive activity as a meditative act is also explored in Juliana Bartulin’s Barcelona devotional, in which the artist transforms the modernist grid into a delicate radiating structure evocative of natural forms. Most specifically concerned with the creation of a spiritual art, in Buddha of infinite directions Lachlan Warner blends eastern and western elements to create a devotional image of the Buddha endlessly repeated within its mirrored setting.
Referencing archetypal forms and Greek mythology, Bert Flugelman’s Caryatid Minotaur resembles a ceremonial gateway, a place of literal and metaphorical passage. However, this gate is physically and visually impassable, with the upright forms set close together and its highly polished mirror finish reflecting back on ourselves.
Mikala Dwyer’s Selving utilises mirrored surfaces and transparent plastic to express concepts of impermanence and mutability. The work’s ever-changing contours frustrate attempts to define its form, its apparent weightlessness and formlessness in direct opposition to a conventional understanding of sculpture as an art of mass and volume. Similarly, the form of Fred Fisher’s Tilt is ambiguous, the optically charged surface of the work challenging the limitations of visual perception and disrupting our expectation of a rational relationship between structure and surface. Neil Taylor’s Virtual hermetic articulates a complex space that is at once inside and outside. Open-ended and potentially endless, its construction of open wire mesh allows the three-dimensional form to be read simultaneously as two-dimensional delineation. In Turbulence Paul Selwood presents sculptural form as essentially contingent. There is no fixed view of the work; rather it reveals an ever-changing relationship of geometric shapes and interior spaces as the viewer moves around the work.
The manipulation of scale and the inversion of the relationship between object and the body of the viewer is employed in works by Craig Walsh and Ruth Johnstone. Their works create a disorienting sensation so that, like Alice in Wonderland, we are alternatively shrunken and enlarged. Craig Walsh’s DVD projection Cross-reference disrupts the space of the gallery, simulating an open doorway through which can be seen the (big) participants in the Big Day Out music festival. Walsh attempts to connect both sites and engage both audiences in a consideration of the conventions of cultural practice. Ruth Johnstone’s The doll’s house gallery (boxed) – a detailed miniature replica of an eighteenth-century interior – functions as a kind of ‘micro-installation’: its small scale denying the possibility of the viewer’s actual experience of the room, the effect of miniaturisation triggering sensations of memory and experience.
Employing a meticulous one-to-one scale, Paul Procee’s still life Untitled – comprising two pairs of shoes and a handbag – alludes to the absent wearers of these items. Painstakingly fabricated from lead, the symbolic associations of this material are also suggestive of transformation. The function of clothing as a signifier of social status and gender is used by Mona Ryder in Les animaux sauvage. Ryder’s work employs the necktie as a traditional symbol of masculine authority and power to satirise the rituals of corporate culture and its impact on modern life.
The instability of individual identity is explored by Geoffrey Bartlett in Double self-portrait. In his work Bartlett refers to the doubling of the mirrored image and creates a series of juxtapositions to articulate that the presentation of self is composite and layered – the frame around the two heads recalls the psychologically charged space of Giacometti’s Surrealist sculptures. Jon Tarry’s Inversions one to two subtly refers to the body through the proportions of its two components. The close relationship between these two forms, one open and transparent the other closed and covered by a surface skin, is suggestive of two states of mutually possible existence. In Protrusion and Term Charles Robb invokes the stylistic conventions of the traditional truncated portrait bust. Robb’s disturbing realistic portrayal of these fragmentary bodies acts as a metaphor for the disintegration of humanist values.
Humanity’s propensity to violence is the subject of Ewen Coates’ Overground, an installation of twelve sinister, hooded heads. Within each are small dioramas depicting various acts of brutality and terror. Using suspended and folded Vietnamese and US currency, Glen Clarke’s American crater near Hanoi #2 replicates the exact dimensions of a specific crater photographed and measured by the artist. Clarke comments on the underlying economic causes of modern warfare, using the crater as a space symbolic of the devastating impact of the Vietnam War on the inhabitants of that country. Ian Howard’s The WOSP-EFC project is a continuation of the artist’s long-standing investigation of the relationship between military and civilian populations. Incorporating objects that have autobiographical, historical and cultural significance Howard’s work locates an individual life within the context of ongoing global conflict since the First World War.
The secret life of ordinary objects is explored in Wanda Gillespie’s Impossible flight, the fans apparently engaged in a futile quest to escape their earthbound existence. Christian de Vietri’s Einstein’s refrigerator 2nd law comments on our failure to address issues of environmental sustainability. In his work a refrigerator, a consumer good implicated in global warming, is subjected to the logical outcome of its own condition and is melting. The aesthetics of consumer desire are articulated in Christopher Langton’s Dolly and Built for comfort. Like the mass-produced inflatable toys they resemble, the works’ immaculate and brightly coloured surfaces are immediately seductive. Yet Langton’s work also reminds us that this attraction is only skin-deep and that the essential condition of such desire is to remain unfulfilled.
In Stack, a bookcase constructed from books, Patrick Hall creates a visual analogy for the way that individual meaning is generated through the arrangement and structuring of thought, lived experience and language; the form of the bookcase a literal and symbolic container of many stories. Also employing an aesthetic strategy of accumulation, juxtaposition and arrangement, Hany Armanious’s Turns in Arabba continues the artist’s ongoing fascination with the transformative potential of the casting process and the investigation of sculptural forms organised around a central axis.
Alasdair Macintyre’s The Art Park Project is a model of an amusement park devoted to art, containing replicas of iconic sites and work of art that the artist would like to see. The work questions the relationship of the original to the copy, and positions Macintyre within a peculiarly antipodean tradition where the artist’s initial knowledge of the history of art is primarily through reproductions.
The antipathy between pure abstraction and ornamentation is explored in Simeon Nelson’s Wall zip (for Brancusi and Barnett Newman). Nelson maintains the tension between both forms of abstraction, one in opposition to the natural world and the other informed by it, the modernist grid a hidden armature over which organic-based forms proliferate. In Monument to progressing thought (after Homer Simpson) Tony Schwensen refers to the origin of modern sculpture in Duchamp’s readymades, yet he has placed the wheelbarrow on car stands suggestive of a plinth, the essential condition of monumental sculpture whose rejection was a crucial part in the development of sculpture in the twentieth century. The absurdity of thus conflating the monument with the readymade is likened by the artist to recent suggestions to reverse the flow of Australia’s inland river system.
In Jurek Wybraniec’s Clueless Ø190 (silver) word and form seamlessly merge in a glittering, transparent sphere. However, as in the fortuneteller’s ball, meaning is not crystal clear, the work an elegant and enigmatic post-millennial postscript.
Within these highly individual practices, each informed by multiple preoccupations and operating simultaneously on several layers, there are also significant points of connection between works, common approaches and participation in the wider discourses of contemporary art.
Since the first Prize in 2001, the National Sculpture Prize has filled an important role as the most significant national exhibition of contemporary sculpture. The 2005 Prize is the largest exhibition of contemporary sculpture mounted by a public gallery in Australia for over a decade. Significantly, this year’s Prize also includes works in new media, including digital works, DVD projections and sound works, as well as large-scale installations alongside sculptural objects. Many works explore cross-disciplinary concerns and the exhibition includes works in which practices such painting, printmaking, video art and architecture intersect with particularly sculptural concerns.
Deliberately not attempting to illustrate predetermined themes or to be a definitive survey, the open nature of the selection process by a panel of judges has allowed for the inclusion of a broad selection of works. The exhibition invites comparisons and contrasts, the reconsideration and recontextualisation of works, and an unrivalled opportunity to encounter the possibilities of sculptural practice today.
Curator of Australian Painting and Sculpture
Julian Beaumont is the Chairman of the Macquarie Bank Art Collection. Mr Beaumont spent twenty-four years with Macquarie Bank and was Head of its Operations Group until 1996. He was also a development consultant to Accenture in the United States, involved in their senior educational program. He is currently Chairman of several toll road companies in Sydney associated with Macquarie interests. He is the Chairman of St Luke’s Hospital in Sydney and of a number of commercial enterprises. Mr Beaumont has had a long association with the arts in Australia. He began the Macquarie Bank Art Collection in 1985 and has remained its Chairman ever since. In 1996 Mr Beaumont became Chairman of the Foundation for Historic Houses Trust of New South Wales, a position he held for about five years, and in the same year was appointed to the founding Advisory Board of the National Art School, Sydney. He has been a member of the judging panel of the National Sculpture Prize since its inception.
Dr Anna Gray is the Assistant Director, Australian Art, at the National Gallery of Australia. She was previously Director of the Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery, University of Western Australia, and the Head of Art, Australian War Memorial. Anna Gray has written widely on Australian art and artists. Her publications include a major monograph on George Lambert, and she was the editor of the first volume of The diaries of Donald Friend (2001) and Australian art in the National Gallery of Australia (2002). She has curated numerous exhibitions, including The Edwardians: secrets and desires at the National Gallery of Australia (2004). She was awarded a fellowship at the Yale Center for British Art in 2005 and is currently working with Dr John Gage on a major exhibition on John Constable, scheduled for 2006. Dr Gray has served on many national and international boards and committees, and is currently a member of the Board of the Centre for Cross-Cultural Research at the Australian National University.
Dr Deborah Hart is Senior Curator of Australian Painting and Sculpture at the National Gallery of Australia. She was previously Director of the SH Ervin Gallery, Sydney, and has also worked for the Queensland Art Gallery, Wollongong City Gallery, Parliament House Art Collection and the University of Wollongong. She has curated numerous major exhibitions, including Grace Cossington Smith: a retrospective exhibition at the National Gallery of Australia (2005); John Olsen retrospective exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria and the Art Gallery of New South Wales (1991–92); Identities: art from Australia at the Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Taiwan (1993–94), and was part of the curatorial team for the Third Asia-Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art at the Queensland Art Gallery (1999). Dr Hart has written widely on Australian art and artists. Her monograph John Olsen, first published in 1991 and now in its third edition, was short-listed for a New South Wales Premier’s literary award for non-fiction, and her book Joy Hester and friends has been re-published in its second edition by Thames and Hudson in association with the National Gallery of Australia. She is currently on the Art Advisory Committee for the Drill Hall Gallery, Canberra.
* preselection judging only
Hilarie Mais is one of Australia’s leading contemporary sculptors. She was born in England and studied at the Winchester School of Art and the Slade School of Art, London. In 1977 she was awarded the Boise Scholarship and moved to New York, where she was awarded a Fellowship to the New York Studio School. Hilarie Mais came to Australia in 1981. She has exhibited widely in Australia and internationally, including the 6th and 7th Biennale of Sydney at the Art Gallery of New South Wales (1986 and 1988); Systems end: contemporary art in Australia in Osaka, Japan, and touring Asia (1996); and Southern reflections, Stockholm Kulturhuset, Sweden, and touring Scandinavia (1998–99). Mais has received a number awards, including the Australia Council Fellowship in 1993, the Blake Prize for Religious Art in 1994 and a Pollock–Krasner Foundation Award in 2000. Hilarie Mais’s work is represented in major public and private collections in Australia and internationally.
Ron Radford is the Director of the National Gallery of Australia. Prior to taking up this position in 2005 he was Director of the Art Gallery of South Australia from 1991 to 2004, and is an Affiliate Professor at the Adelaide University. He has worked in art museums in Victoria and South Australia for over thirty years, and has curated nearly sixty exhibitions, the latest being Island to Empire: 300 years of British art 1550–1850, presented at the Art Gallery of South Australia (2005). He has served on many boards and committees, including over four years as a member of the Australia Council and Chair of its Visual Arts/Craft Board. In 1999 he was appointed Australian Commissioner for the Venice Biennale. He was a Foundation Member of the National Portrait Gallery Board from 1997 and its Deputy Chair from 2001 to 2004. He is a Trustee of the Gordon Darling Foundation, a Board Member of Art Exhibitions Australia and in 2004 was appointed a member of the International Museums Directors Conference. In 2003 he was made a member of the Order of Australia.
* final judging only
John Stringer is the Curator of the Kerry Stokes Collection, Perth. He has worked professionally in the visual arts, both in Australia and overseas, for a period exceeding forty years. Previous positions have included Exhibitions Officer, National Gallery of Victoria; Assistant Director, International Program, Museum of Modern Art, New York; Director of Visual Arts, Americas Society, New York; and Senior Curator, Art Gallery of Western Australia. He was curator of The field, the seminal exhibition that marked the opening of the National Gallery of Victoria in 1968, and recently curated seeking TRANSCENDENCE: Edvard Munch, Mark Rothko, Ann Hamilton, Robert Irwin, Wolfgang Laib for the 2005 Perth International Arts Festival. John Stringer has served on various boards, including the Visual Arts/Crafts Board of the Australia Council; Artbank, Sydney; and Murdoch University Art Collection, Perth.