Art Chat by Anton McMurray, Antonia Goodfellow and Zoe Amor
Date: April 18 2013
Venue: McClelland Gallery
Today the wet weather cleared up just in time for us to enjoy a walking tour and art chat in the Survey Park with three of the artists who were selected to display for the current McClelland Survey Award.
It was a great pleasure to meet the artist behind my favourite piece which also happens to be the first one you see when you enter the Survey. The two majestic columns topped by organic upturned tree roots is a beautiful mix of the man made and natural worlds meeting. Anton McMurray, the creator of this sculpture told us the story of his travels through Italy and Europe after his father’s death. He was determined to use his inheritance wisely as his father wished, by experiencing the world. From his views of Mount Etna framed by Greek style columns, to the ancient tree roots on the sea shores in Canada the ideas for this artwork were formed.
Anton has had an interest in history all his life, as I am finding that many artists do, and was moved to create a piece that combined his interest with what he had seen. During 2009 and 2010 he began sketching his ideas and during 2011 had access to the tree roots that would form the top of his columns. About six people helped him to finish the various tasks involved in creating his sculpture. He learnt how to do the measuring and lathing out of the flutes around the columns, which also required research into how the ancient Greeks measured and carved out the original ones we see on ancient temples. The finish is aqua oil with a lime wash solution to give an overall unified look. “Seed 2012” looks like an arch welcoming you into the Survey and is very striking. I wish it had been around when I got married, as I used a garden arch which I would have happily replaced with this stunning backdrop!
Antonia’s work “Consilience” is the second piece in the survey trail. It looks like a huge rubber ball in the middle of the bush. It is actually made up of many bicycle tyres over a recycled wood substrate.
The textures of the tyres give this work a very interesting look, and it encourages you to get quite tactile with it. The idea came from a natural history publisher who talked about the decline of various species of animals and the impact of humanity on the environment. The aspect of what we do with our waste became a part of this and the subject of “dead space” was introduced when she read about rivers that now have no life in them at all and are called “dead”.
So what do you do with bike tyres, which come from vehicles being used in an effort to be more friendly to the environment? For Antonia, she began coming up with smaller ideas to use them to tell artistic stories about the environment, which eventually led to the creation of this large piece. In it you can see the micro, as in the patterns on a tiny plant pollen to the immensity of a planet. The story is for the viewer to interpret.
Zoe’s piece “29” (A memorial to all that is good in the world) is a bronze interpretation of a tree which stands about 2 metres tall. the upturned leaves make “cups” which can catch the rain to fill and spill over and also have beautiful individual etchings on the underside of each leaf. As she lives in central Victoria, there is a lot of the natural world around her as well as farming industries. Zoe takes the time to talk to everyone living in this area to learn about it’s past and what the locals know about the animals and plant life that was and is still there.
It was her wish to convey her understanding of nature, as a kind of memorial like we have for our heroes in society. People can come along later to see what we have and what we care about. Her love of ancient cultures such as Egypt and Etruscan art and architecture were a vessel for combining with the wish to tell a story about our endangered and protected wildlife. With the back to basics idea of the skill and shape of the human hand, Zoe formed her tree, it’s branches and leaves from wax which was then cast and welded together in bronze. The green patina is going to be allowed to age to give the work the ability to blend in with it’s surrounding.
I very much enjoyed today’s art chat. I learnt about my favourite piece in the collection and got the opportunity to meet the artist. He seemed very happy that I told him how much I love his work and why – and that I had taken the time to talk to him about it. I also got some handy tips about manipulating wax from Zoe.
Something that I notice when listening to more and more successful artists is their passion, not only for their art but for learning, for history and the natural world. They are passionate about combining their interests, some of which they have had since childhood. A love of ancient history seems to be common as well as the desire to keep discovering the world and protect what can not protect itself. They are very inspiring people and a morning in their company is time well spent.
Behind the Scenes Offer to Chisholm
As I am a volunteer at the gallery and a student, Imogen has suggested that Chisholm might like to bring the art students over for a Behind the Scenes tour of the gallery. This would take us where visitors are usually not allowed, and we would see archiving areas and what is done in the day to day running of a public space.
I haven’t had the opportunity to talk this over with any teachers at TAFE yet, but am hoping that when I do they think it is a good idea, especially as it is so close! I think it would be an enjoyable activity for the second and third years’ especially. Feedback about this is most welcome. Look forward to a blog about it if it goes ahead! (If it doesn’t I may ask if I can do it as a solo effort anyway as I am really keen to do it!!)