Arts / Sculpture festival livens up the lake

Landscape architect Neil Hobbs outlining the festival

ALL eyes were on Lake Burley Griffin today (August 29) as long-time Canberra art collector, patron and landscape architect Neil Hobbs stepped up to the podium at Regatta Point to announce that the sculpture festival “Contour 556”, taking its name from the water level of Lake Burley Griffin, was about to become Canberra’s regular biennial festival of art.

Forty-nine sculptures will be temporarily exhibited on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin from Henry Rolland Park in West Basin, along the southern lake shore from Commonwealth Avenue Bridge to the Kingston Foreshore and on Aspen Island.

Hobbs and fellow landscape architect, Karina Harris, have curated an October festival in which artists will use performance, storytelling, song, poetry, projection, text as well as traditional sculpture to explore stories of Australian political, cultural and physical history.

At breakneck speed, Hobbs ran through the main features of the event, telling assembled media, sponsors and sculptors that this year 49 works by 60 artists from Australia, New Zealand and Hong Kong would be installed around the lakeside.

And, he said one week of the festival would coincide with the last week of Floriade, giving interstate visitors the opportunity to see Canberra at its best.

Among the notable Canberra artists involved would be sculptor and former “CityNews” Artist of the Year Kensuke Todo, film-maker Frazer Bull-Clark, whose film on Civic Pool would be a highlight, and sculptor Sian Watson, whose featured work, “Flooded”, would be shown at Canberra Airport.

Fiona Hooton, whose classical palace made out of hay was a standout during  the Canberra National Sculpture Forum in the mid-1990s, had joined Canberra artist Catrina Vignando to form the group “Localjinni” and took to the podium to argue that “walking is also a cultural and political act”, inviting the public to join them in twilight video walks filled with poetry, visual art, videos, animations and screenings onto footpaths.

Referring to the “sheroes” of the art and sculpture world – that got a laugh – Hooton said women had been dramatically under-represented in Australian public spaces but that Localjinni would take steps to change all that.

On hand to perform the official opening was Gordon Ramsay, recently re-titled Minister for the Arts and Cultural Events, who said, “the Canberra arts scene just keeps growing”, also declaring great pleasure that he had been retained as Arts Minister in last week’s reshuffle.

Mr Ramsay talked up the ACT government’s attention to making Canberra beautiful, noting that Henry Rolland Park had just been successfully transformed from a carpark into a community park. He also said the government had got behind artist workshops for all ACT school children during  “Contour 556”.

He praised Hobbs and Harris’ “enthusiasm and passion for bringing public art and performance to the community… manifested in this unique locally conceived and delivered event”.

The ACT government, the Minister said, had provided $30,000 from the ACT Event Fund and $30,000 from artsACT’s 2018 Activity Funding while the City Renewal Authority had also contributed $21,600.

“Contour 556”, around Lake Burley Griffin, October 5-28. All details at contour556.com.au

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