Australian Fine Artist

Archive for the ‘Sculpture’ Category

Geoffrey Bartlett

Exhibition at the McClelland Gallery and Sculpture Park
March 2015

Artist Talk

Courtesy of the McClelland Gallery web site I am starting off with a little out of Geoffrey’s biography:

In 1983 Geoffrey Bartlett was honoured a prestigious Harkness Fellowship and within two years graduated from Columbia University, New York with a Master of Fine Arts (Hons). This brief but significant period was instrumental in defining the future direction of Bartlett’s sculpture. His experimental and explorative nature coupled with the maturing effects of new experiences resulted in a significant and lasting shift in his work and was the foundation of a renewed and pure independent vision.

Working predominately within the language of abstraction Bartlett’s sculptures are spatially complex; they engage with the physical qualities of tension and balance and conceptually with the interaction of opposites from the inorganic and organic, external and internal through to ideas of the physical and emotional.

Unfolding the intriguing and unique correlations that have interwoven throughout the artist’s 40 years of making sculpture, this exhibition and accompanying major publication reassess works created by Geoffrey Bartlett during his time in New York in light of works produced prior to his departure in 1983 through to the present.

Geoffrey Bartlett began his arts practice in 1972 and has over forty years of experience in producing sculptures. Contrary to his parents’ ideas about a career, Geoffrey loved art. After studying at a rural technical college in Shepparton for a Diploma for a year he went on to RMIT in Melbourne where he further developed his love of making things, especially out of found materials. Like most students he was very short of funds, so a lot of his materials came from wreckers and scrap yards close to where he was living.

He was soon sharing a rented space in Gertrude Street where many very large works were created. Geoffrey was influence by the abstract Expressionist movement and used the drawings he made as inspiration for his demountable creations. Without any thought of a market, Geoffrey made his pieces larger and larger, making use of all his new contacts for materials which they happily supplied once they got to know him. In the shared space the artists all contributed to the tools required to create their work. This sharing of space and materials etc made it possible for all of them to work.

In around 1983 Geoffrey made some new break throughs in his work which until then had been rather two dimensional. After working in the uNited States on a fellowship he started looking into making his pieces work from every angle, not just as mirror images of the front for example, but as a new view from every side. He wanted his viewers to find something new as they walked around his work.

After this his work again started to become quite large and he started using a lot more variety in his maquette construction as well as the finished models. He included colour on to his bronzes giving them a spark and boldness they hadn’t had before. Geoffrey’s work now included natural wood, steel, bronze, found materials such as bolts which are a feature in his work as well as old car parts.

One of Geoffrey’s most well known works was installed in the water at the front of the National Gallery of Victoria, where I have seen it for many years, not knowing who the artist was that created it.

Geoffrey’s works at the McClelland Gallery show the development of his work over his career. From the framed affect of his early pieces to the organic and mixed media of his current sculptures and maquette he shows an example of an artist who is constantly looking for new materials, new subjects and more creative ways of making his work.

One other thing I noticed and Geoffrey was pleased that I asked him about, was the lighting and positioning of each piece in the exhibition. He took great care in where each one was put and the lighting on it (including the large sculpture outside the front doorway). The shadows and light showing on each work for him is as important as the piece itself. I asked, because the shadows were so interesting and beautiful, I had to know whether this was an important factor.

I very much enjoyed listening to Geoffrey talk about his life and career. Learning how an artist with such a huge body of work keeps fresh and creative is very inspirational.

April Art Chats

Next week McClelland Gallery and Sculpture Park have two art chats for you to attend.

Thursday April 18
at 11am

$5 includes a coffee and muffin at 10.30am.

A walking tour on the survey sculpture trail with artists: Zoe Amor, Antonia Goodfellow and Anton McMurray.
(wear comfortable shoes)

Sunday April 21
at 2.30 – 3.30

An art chat with McClelland Award Recipient 2012 Greg Johns.

I hope to be at both, so will be looking for some art students and professionals to come along!

HEIDE and Monsalvat


Liouse Bourgeois

Sculptures, Drawings and Prints – Later Works

Quoting the web: Louise Joséphine Bourgeois, was a renowned French-American artist and sculptor, best known for her contributions to both modern and contemporary art, and for her spider structures, titled Maman, which resulted in her being nicknamed the Spiderwoman.

I do admire a person whether male or female that can produce work to a week before their death. That passion to be creative all your life is a wonderful and inspirational thing.

The thing with looking at art though is that you learn what you like and do not, what appeals to you on an emotional level or an intellectual one. Hopefully as you keep looking and learning you develop an idea of your own taste and what “speaks” to you on some level. (or not)

With these things in mind I went along to HEIDE today to see all the work on display, as I have never been there before. Lack of funds for travel, no car to trust the drive to or before that long work hours have prevented me from following up on wishes to explore such places. That is the advantage of going back to study. The opportunity to finally get around to it with the kind support and encouragement of my husband who can now afford to help me to follow my dreams.

OK back to the art. I really did look at the pieces and tried to understand how they were created and thought about any impact they may have had on me. I can honestly say that I had no connection on an emotional level and the style was not to my taste at all. The more I look at contemporary paintings, sculptures and prints, the more I can honestly say that they really are not my “cup of tea”. Occasionally I will see lovely colour in one, or good texture in the paint, but on the whole, they do not interest me for long. I can see some technique as far as skill in building, stitching or finishing in some pieces but the composition and subjects didn’t hold me in front of them for long.

I admire Liouse for her long career, for her studies and for pursuing what she wanted to do in life. I just am not keen on her work.

I followed up by looking at Caleb Shea whose work I would have liked to see outside rather than on a floor. I think his bright symbols would look great at McClelland park on the lawn. I then had a look at Albert Tucker and decided that my impression of his work over thirty years ago is still the same. Not really for me.

I actually enjoyed the library in HEIDE as they had a huge selection of old books which I also like to collect when money allows (and also to read). I liked looking at the old buildings and the gardens and trees. The setting for me was more attractive than the art (sorry but it’s true). The artists who were able to work and live here supported by the Reeds were lucky to have patronage that helped them to produce their artworks, it would have been a great place to produce art, no matter what sort.


As we finished up fairly early I decided after a chat with a fellow student to go on to Monsalvat. Yet another place I had always wanted to get to but had failed because of the earlier stated reasons.

I have to say that it is a stunning place to visit. I started feeling the creative juices coming out of every pore as I wandered around the grounds. The buildings are beautiful, the gardens and trees very nice and the atmosphere of tranquility and being away from the rush of modern life comes over you as you go in the gate. I had a good time guessing where the building materials may have come from, with things looking like railway sleepers, poles from piers, bricks, carved sandstone and other materials, and windows etc from buildings originally in the CBD in Melbourne as they were replaced by modern office blocks. They all seemed to fit seamlessly into the site.

I had a look at the paintings on show by Justus Jorgensen and saw a lot of experimenting with various styles. It seems he was a student of Max Meldrum whose techniques are followed by many artists today. I also had a good look at David Moore’s paintings which I liked as well. His clean colour and sometimes interesting paintings of very simple objects done with simple quick brushstrokes caught my attention. I got a lot more out of looking at these than the works at HEIDE, even if some looked to me, a little “unprofessional or unfinished” in the case of Justus Jorgensen, or like works in progress. The story of Justus Jorgensen and his journey in the creation of Monsalvat by the way, is a good read and well worth it.

I enjoyed looking at the variety of works around the building as well as feeling like I was walking through something from 600 years ago. It was a tranquil experience. I sat in the chapel and looked at the religious art on the walls, walked around and checked out the artist in residence facilities which in same cases looked like they could use a bit of maintenance to be honest. Many were not open and I couldn’t see in the windows to see if work was in progress. It seemed a bit odd as I was itching to sit down on the lawn or somewhere and start painting or drawing, the place just brought that out in me.

Before leaving I did some shameless self promoting and asked about the artist in residence programs. They have the opportunity for a six week residency for artists to apply for in a couple of very nice spots on the grounds, which sounds quite attractive as a future project, even given the distance from Pearcedale! The exposure at such a highly regarded venue would be more than worth it. I left my business card and it was suggested that I email my interest to them when I am ready… well you never know!

To Finish Up

I don’t always like the type of art we go off to see. I try to glean what I can from it. What did I like, what didn’t I like, why did I have these reactions, was there any real connection at all?

I also if time permits, try to add more to the day if there is something nearby that I have wanted to get to. Today was like that. I got ideas and learned from a few areas, confirmed my ideas about others and followed up on other interests related to but not directly “arty”. I also talked about my own arts practice and direction – and people were interested and I felt confident which was wonderful for me. Then I got a few ideas for future directions which I may or may not take up, but at least it gives options that were not there before. All in all a good day out – again! Thanks Jon and everyone!

Volunteer Day at McClelland August 2nd, 2012

School Visit for Eight Year Olds
Creative Workshop in Sculpture Using Found Objects

Topic: Boggarts

It’s amazing what you can also learn when giving a workshop! Imogen at McClelland had prepared a great session for the kids and the studio was prepared with local clay from the McClelland Gallery Park dam and a table loaded with natural odds and sods from the grounds.

I had a little cheat sheet with pics and story about how Boggarts are little naughty spirits or elves that inhabit the bush and forests, creating mischief and trying to frighten people. That made it a lot easier to introduce myself and other volunteers and get started.

This was my first session and Imogen admitted that we had been chucked in the deep end, but with teachers, other volunteers and parents around for support I soon found everyone having a good time.

We had three groups one after the other in forty minute sessions. The plan was introduction, talk about what we were going to do, then out to find some extra materials and main sticks to build their little creations on. When back inside the kids had about twenty minutes to create their little Boggarts and I walked around helping them with modelling their clay and any tips on how to build up their creations so they wouldn’t fall apart. I also helped with tips on what they could use various bits they found for and encouraged them to be creative and have fun.

At the end of each session we had time for each child to talk about the little Boggart they had made, was it a boy or girl, was it a naughty or a good one and all the pieces they had put on them and what they meant. We then had just enough time to get hands washed and move the group on for the next one.

As I left Imogen had all the kids say thank you which was really nice, as I had enjoyed myself too. I have since had a lovely email from her which I will put in here.

Just a very short note to say thank you for all your help today! I know I threw you in at the deep end and the kids had an absolute ball!

 The same school will be visiting on Thursday the 23rd of August – different kids and more of them – 75 in fact! I will send out some info next week but we will run a very similar program.

 Thank-you all once again for showing the kids a fantastic time.


Imogen Good
Education Officer
McClelland Gallery+Sculpture Park

As you can see we are having another session in only a couple of weeks! I at least have experience now and will not be quite as nervous when I start off.

McClelland supplied a nice little lunch for us afterwards and I had a chance to walk around and take in the new sculpture exhibitions in the gallery.

If you like sculpture or do it as your art form I can really recommend attending them. Two of the galleries have Vincas Jomanis, Clifford Last and Clive Stephen works. They are mostly in wood, bronze and stone and very beautiful.

I liked Clifford Last’s works the best as they were very organic and curvy, the texture and colour of the wood showed and the shaped seemed to flow and move. Clive Stephen’s work is based more on a tribal theme from places like New Guinea and some of Vincas Jomanis’ work was more angular and abstract. There were some very nice drawings and paintings by these artists as well.

Well worth a look in any case, apart from the distraction of all the works scattered around the park outside.

All in all a really good day. The volunteering idea for me I think is a good one. It has the benefits for everyone as I had hoped, and I can only keep doing my best to keep it that way. Hopefully, more news about activities in the near future!

Hammering Into It!

After a challenge from Jon today, here are FIFTEEN ways to arrange two hammer heads to create a found sculpture.

I have my favourite, which is kind of naughty!

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My First Ever Bronze!

I am so happy that my little bronze dog has worked!

There is always a risk when pouring bronze that there may be a hiccup somewhere. You can get bubbles, or the cast may crack allowing bronze to go where you don’t want it. I really was so nervous as I cracked off the mould today and washed off my little piece.

This is the first bronze I have ever done so it was exciting and more than a little nerve wracking. I have no problem creating little pieces with clay, wood or even softer stones, or moulding in wax but this was all new and waiting is not something I do well – so the four days my piece was in the kiln were spent wondering and worrying.

Anyway here it is for all to see! The good news is we will be doing another cast next semester so I get another go at it! Let’s see if I can come up with another artwork that I am as happy with as this little guy!

Bronze cast from original wood and wax sculpture.

Bronze Pour

I have never seen bronze being poured for sculptures before so this was very interesting!

The teachers doing the pour are Jon and Nathan. We were told to keep a decent distance from them for safely reasons as a pour can go wrong with bronze “exploding” or spattering a good distance as it goes into the moulds, hence the reason for all the safety gear.

The little moulds which they are pouring into are made up of a plaster mix that was previously poured into plastic piping. The piping was in two sections and held together by strong tape to allow it to be pulled off the plaster before the bronze pour. Inside the plaster moulds were our sculptures. Mine was made up of a little wax component sitting on a box made of bark with small gum nuts as an addition. The little sculpture was constructed using hot glue.

When the sculpture was ready it was glued to a stand made of foam and a plastic cup with a straw on it to be used as an air line to help prevent an air bubble occurring when the bronze was poured. The sculpture was then placed into the plastic piping and the plaster mix poured in around it. When the mix was air dried for a couple of weeks, the plastic cup was removed and it was placed into a kiln for all the original sculpture to be burned out leaving the moulded shape created by the plaster mix. The process of burning out all the original sculpture was one of over four days in the kiln. They were then then taken out and allowed to slowly cool off in the open air. As you can see by the multiple moulds on the ground, the kiln was stacked up with quite a few works for this pour.

The now empty area left by the sculpture being burned off was ready for the bronze to be poured into. Most of the pouring for our sculptures was done on the one day which was a lot of physical work done by our teachers in addition to their normal teaching and administration duties. (thank you Jon and Nathan)

I am now looking forward to the plaster being broken off the bronze when it is set to reveal my little bronze sculpture all ready for me to tidy up and clean.

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Moulding and Casting Workshop

Materials Lesson in the Sculpture Room

Demonstrator: Steve Hans

The sculpture class this year has branched out into areas that I hadn’t even thought about before. We are experimenting with materials I haven’t touched for many years, or have no experience with at all.

I am not planning on taking my career in the specific direction of sculpting, but I have dabbled in the recent past mostly for my own enjoyment and it doesn’t hurt to not only get outside your comfort zone a bit, but also know that you have skills just in case you need them.

We had a visit from Steve, who has many years training and experience with various moulding and casting materials for artists. He demonstrated and explained a lot of materials that we had little exposure to and had not seen in class yet.

First he told us who the suppliers are in case we need to contact them. In Australia they are Gel Chem, Barnes and Solid Solutions.

Steve gave a demonstration of Dental Alga by casting a student’s hand in it. It was later filled with a solid casting material and allowed to set. Dental Alga is safe to use and breaks apart easily so the whole process isn’t too frustrating.

We were told about rigid and flexible moulds. Rigid moulds do not bend and flexible ones can be made of such materials as silicon or rubber and they can allow for undercut to prevent breakage as you pull your piece out of the mould.

There are also single or multi part moulds. The single part moulds (plaque mould) can be silicon and are usually one sided. The multi part moulds use what is called locators so that the parts can be made to line up with each other, a pouring sprew (an access hole for pouring in material) and holes for air to escape to prevent bubbles and air pockets)

Moulds can allow for multiple of original sculptures, they can be made of plaster bandage as well which has cut lines included so they can be pulled apart when set. These are useful when casting body parts.

We had a practical demonstration of how to create a flexible mould in Dental Alginate. It was interesting that it had to be done very quickly as the material sets fast after mixing.

We also saw how the Hydrastone was mixed to go into the hand cast. This material is based on gypsum and comes in a powder which is mixed with water and is very strong once set. It is up to five times stronger than normal plaster.

We learned that a mould that is cast and then smashed off the casting is called a Waste Mould.

We learned that a Ceramic Cavity is the name for casting things such as plates and other crockery and it is also called Slip Casting.

We were reminded that the best way to dry plaster is in the fresh air and not to try to speed up the process with a heater for example, as it will only make it crack.

We were given a demonstration of paint on latex and it was explained how time consuming the application is, requiring many coats to be painted on and drying time between each one. It was also explained that this material is very flexible and only has certain uses.

Steve had examples of how to make up the base, frame etc for a silicon mould and had brought along several previously created versions. He even gave us pricing on materials and drew up diagrams so that it was easy to see the methods and why they were necessary. The need for scales and accurate measuring was emphasised as if your quantities are wrong it will effect setting time or stop the material from setting at all. We were also told about the health risks for materials that were a bit more hazardous.

For much of the casting we were told to keep plenty of paper towel handy as keeping the work area clean is very important. Some of the materials set so fast that having an extra person to help is also very important.

We were told about the difference between Condensation Based and Platinum Based casting materials. Apart from the cost. They are:

Tin Based: Shrinkage is 1-5% so can shrink from 10-50mm per metre of cast, cures over most bases, shorter mould life, if you use more cat list you get a faster cure, less and you get a slower cure, approx. $50 per kilo

Platinum Based: Shrinkage of less than .5% which is less than 1mm per metre of cast, affected by substrate especially won’t cast over rubber, latex, epoxy, shellac and some paints, longer life mould, cure faster in heat and slower in cold, approx. $70 per kilo

We were shown examples of objects in resin. Many objects can be preserved for display using this method. (even leaves) We had a practical demonstration of how to mix and pour the resin. It was pointed out that there is a lot of work done after the resin is pulled out of the cast. To get a professional finish cutting and polishing is involved.

Other materials covered were Polyurethane which can take special colours to make the casts more exciting to look at. Clean Clay which is good for modelling as it isn’t as dry as most other clays once set, Scalpie which can be dried in an oven and is good for modelling and sculpting and a “Wound Kit” which anyone who likes special effects would love as it creates the most horrible looking special effects wounds for the human body.

The session was quite intense with information and went overtime but Steve was very informative and entertaining so I enjoyed the lesson and demonstration very much. I have more detailed notes in my journal for future reference including diagrams, so if I need the information it’s there ready to go.