HEAVY METAL: Sculpture from the Permanent Collection is an exhibition of metal sculpture drawn entirely from Bathurst Regional Art Gallery's substantial permanent collection.
The exhibition features 20 leading Australian sculptors, which spanning three generations: the pioneers (Lyndon Dadswell, Margel Hinder, Inge King, Robert Klippel, Rosemary Madigan, Clement Meadmore and Norma Redpath); the established artists (Rick Amor, Geoff Ireland, Michael Le Grand, Nigel Lendon, Ian McKay, Campbell Robertson-Swann and Paul Selwood) and the mid-career artists (Angus Adameitis, David Horton, Brian Koerber, Kirsteen Pieterse, Philip Spelman and David Teer).
The 33 works in HEAVY METAL: Sculpture from the Permanent Collection came into the BRAG collection as either collection purchases, part of the Gwen Frolich Bequest or were given by a number of individuals e.g. Peter Jackson, Yvon Gatineau and Deodent P/L, Penny Coleing, Lin Bloomfield and Danny Goldberg under the Australian Government Cultural Gifts program. BRAG would like to thank these collectors for their contribution to the collection.
The exhibition showcases the growth of Australian sculpture post 1960s and offers insight into the development of Australia’s unique sculptural language through the abstract form. The evolution of this unique sculptural language can be traced through the lineage of Australian sculpture. At its core, Australian sculpture reflects the essence of the country, its landscape and its people. The story of how sculpture moved into this position features several key ingredients; Australian art history, arts education approaches and the art industry itself.
Australian Art History - Post 1950s
The post war era of the 1950s was a particularly fertile time for Australian art, and especially Australian sculpture. The period is characterised by a definitive drive towards a more modern, abstracted style of sculpture which was fuelled by access to industrial materials (metals, machine parts) and processes (welding) and specific developments overseas. These developments were generated by British sculpture superstars Henry Moore and Anthony Caro. Together their increasing influences were echoing across the globe via artists who travelled and studied abroad, and significant touring exhibitions in Australia, such as the Museum of Modern Art, New York Recent British Sculpture (1963) which showed at nine Australian galleries between 1963 and 1970.
The other significant imported influences of the time were minimalism, abstraction and Pop. The impact of these influences that came from America and Europe were felt in Australia in the late 1960s, when several ground breaking and popular exhibitions were shown in Sydney and Melbourne: Two Decades of American Painting (1967) toured by the Museum of Modern Art, New York, The Field (1968) by The National Gallery of Victoria, The Power Bequest Exhibition (1968) shown at Australia Square, Sydney and Some Recent American Art (1973) toured by the Museum of Modern Art, New York.
These imported philosophies and approaches were adopted by some artists and rejected by others, but more importantly they permeated the fabric of Australian sculpture and provided early 20th century Australian artists with a unique starting point, which allowed them to create the canon, identity and educational approaches we still value today.
Arts Education in Australia
Australia has developed over the years many quality educational institutions for artists. From the early technical colleges e.g. East Sydney Technical College (ESTC) to the more academic university based art schools e.g. Canberra School of Art, Australian National University (ANU). These institutions, staffed with inspiring teachers,many of whom were strong practitioners in their own right, advocated and contributed to the development of Australia’s burgeoning sculptural language. The diffusion of influences, styles and knowledge continues to create a web of connectedness between teachers, students and institutions. This has benefited all parties and resulted in healthy cohorts of artists who contribute back to the industry via skills sharing and innovation e.g. of the 20 artists in this exhibition 12 of them are, or have been, teachers. Lyndon Dadswell, for example, taught three of the sculptors (Robert Klippel, Ian McKay and Paul Selwood) who are also included in this exhibition.
The Arts Industry
Over the last few decades the Australia canon has been strengthened further by support from key commercial galleries (Rudy Komon Gallery, Defiance Gallery) and annual exhibition and prizes (Sculpture by the Sea, Helen Lempriere National Sculpture Award and the McClelland Award for Sculpture) which have facilitated the presentation of sculpture to the general public. These opportunities have not only created viable career pathways for sculptors but also raised the public profile of the medium ensuring a vibrant and viable future for Australian sculpture.
Emma Hill, Education and Public Programs Officer, Bathurst Regional Art Gallery
Curator, HEAVY METAL: Sculpture from the Permanent Collection