“EQUUS HOMO” – Horse Man or Man Horse. The very words might send a shiver up the spine of anyone familiar with ancient myths about man-animal hybrids or the Pale Horse ridden by the Fourth Horseman of the Apocalypse.
But to Canberra sculptor Stephen Harrison, who embraces those stories, the very idea of man and horse becoming one is grist to his artistic mill.
Soon, in a show that has resulted from his win in the Tuggeranong Arts Centre’s 2015 Exhibition Award, we’ll see the results of this vision.
Harrison has been busy for months pouring bronze after he was announced as a winner in AMP’s $1m “Tomorrow Makers 2015” project. That provided him with $10,000 to produce four sculptures of various sizes in bronze, a medium, he tells “CityNews”, that was “previously a bit unaffordable for me”.
When we caught up with him in full pouring mode, he paused to tell us that one of his “horse-men” bronzes had just been accepted in the 2017 Sculpture by the Sea in Cottesloe, Perth, the second time he’s been invited there, but the first with a bronze.
His Tuggeranong show will be called “Equus Homo”. Yes it’s Latin, “a nod to sculptures of antiquity,” he says. There are many cultures, Harrison says, and not just Greek and Roman ones, that have the mythology of a hybrid human animal, the centaur being the horsiest of those. In recent years he’s been taking his exploration of the human element in horses to the limit and, in 2014 with his installation “The Three Horseman Conference”, he won YASSarts’ 2014 Sculpture in the Paddock.
“Barrel and Dagger (Macbeth)”, the unsettling sculpture of Shakespeare’s hero as a horse with knife in hoof that won him the Tuggeranong exhibition award last year, is one of several anthropomorphic sculptures referencing the Bard – another shows two Hamlet-horses sitting with skulls by them.
In the Tuggeranong exhibition, he’ll be combining sculpture and photographs. There will be white plaster sculptures, but some of the bronzes, too, will be ready.
While he originally trained as a black-and-white artist with Petr Herel and was a cartoonist for Canberra’s “Muse” magazine for many years, later transferring switching to oil painting and finally retraining in sculpture at the ANU’s School of Art, few people know that Harrison likes playing around with the camera. “I’ve always taken photos, but I haven’t put them into shows,” he says.
In his view, photos are more user-friendly, because everyone can take a photo.
“They accompany the sculptures quite well, they tell a story,” he says.
As for the wild horses of Kosciuszko, he says: “On seeing those horses for the first time, the imagination starts.
“They, like me, are an introduced species to this country. And that might lead to an entirely new direction in equine sculpture.
“Equus Homo”, by Stephen Harrison, at Tuggeranong Arts Centre, October 6-29.