Speaker: Charlotte Carter
Assistant Curator of the Vincas Jomantis and Clifford Last Exhibition at McClelland Gallery
Venue: The McClelland Galleries
Today I was following up on the exhibition currently at the McClelland Sculpture Park and Gallery with an art chat about the other two sculptors’ work on display.
It is one thing to go along and appreciate the artworks at a gallery but these art chats given by McClelland on a monthly basis (along with a very nice little morning tea) give more meaning and depth to all the pieces you may be looking at. Another good part is that extra things such as preliminary sketches can be seen, so as a practising artist you gain some insight into the creative process of these two important artists from Australia’s more recent past.
Clifford Last was the younger son of Nella and William Last born in England. After war service in which he lost his closest companion and was injured himself, he trained in art and emigrated to Australia in 1947, becoming a noted sculptor.
Clifford Last was a foundation member of Centre Five, a group formed in 1960 to promote contemporary abstract sculpture in Australia. The group, originally called Centre Four, was founded in 1953 by Clifford Last, Inge King, Vincas Jomantas, Teisutis Zikaras, Julius Kane and Lenton Parr. They shared common characteristics in their style and felt that exhibiting together and their aim was to foster the understanding of modern sculpture among Australian architects and the general public.
Lithuanian born Vincas Jomantas arrived in Australia in 1948 where he proceeded to work in a number of industries including graphic design before being appointed Lecturer and Sculptor at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) in 1960. Vincas lost family members during and after WW2 and as his country was overtaken by Russia his father was named an enemy of the state and he was sent to a labour camp. He eventually was able to make his way to Australia for a new start and it is here where he made his mark best as an artist.
Australia during the 1950s and 1960s was still culturally behind the arts developments going on overseas. The immigration of artist from Europe brought fresh approaches to the arts, although sometimes not appreciated at the time. What we can see with the benefit of hindsight is an injection of creativity and new approaches that broadened the arts and gave Australian artists new ideas to experiment with.
Even though a little different both in personality and method both these artists worked with materials such as Jarrah, bronze and newer materials that became available during the 1970s to make some amazing mixes of traditional icons, imagery and abstractions of figurative form. Walking around any piece, you see positive use of negative space, room for light to play with the forms and beautiful textures making best use of the materials. It is such a pity that you can not touch these sculptures, because their curves and textures invite you to do so.
Happy in their chosen country, both these artists lived and worked here for the remainder of their lives. Only Jomantis travelling occasionally to happily return as soon as he could. It seems for these artists there was enough artistic freedom and the lifestyle they desired for them to create the artworks we have now access to in galleries around Australia.
The Exhibition for Vincas Jomantis and Clifford Last will be at the McClelland Gallery and Sculpture Park until October 28 this year. The works are beautiful, organic, structural and imaginative. Well worth a visit for anyone interested in art or emerging/practising artists (especially sculptors).
McClelland Gallery and Sculpture Park is located at 390 McClelland Drive, Langwarrin.
Located approximately 1 kilometre past the intersection with Cranbourne Road on the north side of the intersection on the right hand side of the road, opposite shops and a restaurant.
Entry: By donation at reception.
Open: Tuesday to Sunday 10am-5pm
Phone: 03 9789 1671