Sculpture Down the Lachlan

Driving from Grenfell to Forbes was an easy trip with one aspect being quite amazing, something I had never seen in Australia before. Every creek, stream or river contained water and in a lot of them it was swift flowing water. What’s more, all the billabongs were full and most depressions in the paddocks carried water. Quite a wonderful sight, put that together with green grass everywhere, very healthy trees and bushes and it is like you are in another country, quite an experience.

Forbes is on the Lachlan River but I haven’t met Clancy yet! The river runs beside the caravan park and is carrying heaps of water and close to the top of its banks. After setting up I headed off to Condobolin down the Lachlan River where around 10 sculptures had been erected. There are more sculptures around Forbes which I will visit another day.

The first sculpture was a massive Goanna, I think everyone who has travelled in the bush or been camping has seen goanna. The lace monitor is the common one in Victoria and the second largest goanna, growing up to 2 metres in length. The goanna sculpture was probably my favourite and it is massive. Called Varanus, it stands 5.5 metre tall, 20 metres from tongue to tail, and was crafted from 3.5 tonnes of steel and took over 3,500 hours to construct.

Glen Star is the man behind Star Steel Artwhich is based in Alstonville NSW. Glen is a multi-award-winning sculptor renowned for his large-scale steel designs.

Nearby to the goanna was another sculpture called Hunter, it is of a bird getting ready to strike, with wings curved for flight. At 4.2 metre tall, 2.5 metre wide this Corten steel bird of prey won first prize in the 2016 Sculpture Forbes Acquisition Prize. The sculptor is Damian Vick is a leading Melbourne based artist.

?The next sculpture was called Road Kill and it depicts a role reversal where a rebellious kangaroo takes its revenge on a busy stretch of road. People often complain about the damage done to cars after hitting a kangaroo but what about the kangaroo? This sculpture reverses the normal, in it the kangaroo messes with the road.

?The artist drew inspiration for ‘Road Kill’ following a trip to Forbes in 2019, at the tail end of a three year drought. The 3.5 tonne reinforced Corten steel plate sculpture took six months to construct. The artist is Jimmy Rix whose sculptures often relate to personal experiences and familiar objects.

From here it was to an Amazing sculpture, literally. “Amazing” is spelt out in two and half metre high red letters and it was the first large scale sculpture to be installed on the Sculpture Down the Lachlan trail. The letters are made from eight tonnes of steel, sub-framed with heavy plate and a 3-millimetre powder coated outer skin.

“Amazing” is an example of community enthusiasm and energy. This sculpture was designed by local artist Rosie Johnston, and fabricated and installed by local farmers, tradespeople and engineers who volunteered their time. ??It took three years between the construction of the first letter, ‘a’, and its installation along the Lachlan Valley Way.

From here it was to the Tower a sculpture that represents our need to control our resources. In many towns the old water towers stand as sculptural relics and reminders of what we leave behind in our attempts to meet the challenges of life on earth.

The sculptor is Stephen King who is best known for his distinctive carved timber structures that have featured in Sculpture by the Sea both in Bondi, Sydney and Cottesloe in WA for the past 15 years. Stephen was awarded the Helen Lempriere Scholarship at the 2020 Sculpture by the Sea and first prize at the 2020 Wollombi Valley Sculpture Festival.

I’m getting hungry by now but I still have four to go before a counter lunch at Condobolin, so I push on to Bird in Hand. This piece represents our responsibility of environmental preservation, sustainability and development. “Bird in Hand” is about the importance of the wetlands to the Australian environment. Wetlands act as flood mitigators, recycle nutrients into the soil, filter water and most importantly provide a habitat for a diverse range of wildlife.

The 6.5 metre, 3.5 tonne piece depicting a realistic hand cradling a great white egret was made from 1600 meters of 10mm, 316 marine grade, stainless steel chain, with 38 links per meter and 4 welds per link. This equates to just over 243,000 welds, taking eight months to complete.

Michael Van Dam is the Queensland-based sculptor of this piece, he is a well known for creating extremely strong and durable sculptures from marine grade stainless steel chain. Originally a Sheet Metal worker by trade, Mike was inspired to try his hand at sculpting in 2010 following a visit to Swell Sculpture Festival on the Gold Coast.

The next sculpture was Sonata depicting a girl playing a violin on the back of a large bull, it illustrates the delicate relationship between humans and nature. The bull represents the powerful forces of nature in contrast to the fragility of the child and her violin. It is as if the bull is held under a spell by her music.

Sonata expresses the need for an accord with nature; when properly appeased, the raging bull becomes surprisingly tender. It shows the delicate and careful balance required if we are to survive the challenges of climate change and a viral pandemic.

The figures were composed of hundreds of individual 3mm Corten steel plates which had been formed using blacksmithing techniques. Each panel was hammered or pressed to assume the desired form. The 800 kilogram piece took seven months to sculpt.

The artists Suzie Bleach and Andrew Townsend collaborate to make sculptures and installations in a range of materials featuring familiar animal subjects to explore themes of human history and the relationship between humans and the natural world.

The next sculpture was Within and Without and was my least favourite. There was no explanation of what it was about, maybe that says it all.

The next sculpture was called wandering and was a marvellous sculpture of an aboriginal warrior standing six metres tall. His stance and searching eyes cut a strong figure whilst suggesting that he is searching for something unseen, lost along the way, relegated to the past. ?

The one tonne Corten Steel sculpture explores the notions of strength, vulnerability and connection. The sculptor is Damian Vick who also sculpted the Hunter shown above.

Unlike the other sculptures that feature along the SDL trail, “Wandering” does not have a narrative. While the abstract piece was made in reference to the picturesque landscape in which it sits, it invites the viewer to create a narrative for themselves, so off you go!

It is interesting how the sculpture changes depending on which parts are in the sun and which ore in shadow. The sculptor is David Ball who was born into the Australian bush in 1958. The bush has provided him with everything he values as a sculptor.

The final artwork was “Utes in the Paddock” at Condobolin. Unfortunately there were earthworks in progress and I could only get within a couple of hundred metres. This photo from the brochure will give you some idea of the theme.

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There are some more sculptures in Forbes to explore on another day. Tomorrow I head off for some silo and street art.

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