Canberra sculptors bring colour to Mudgee event

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“Coloured Boys – A Post Modern Take on the Xanthorea x 5” by Trevor Dunbar and Dinah Vandermeys from Canberra

CANBERRA sculptors are to the fore in this year’s Sculptures in the Garden in the central west of NSW.

With a staggering 267 entries, the community-driven event in the Rosby Vineyard gardens, Mudgee, featured about every stylistic variation in modern sculpture, backed up with stalls, a children’s section, a wine bar, and catering provided by the Mudgee Support Group of Guide Dogs NSW/ACT.

Childrens’ sculpture section

Art lovers and visitor in socially-distanced droves took advantage of the fine spring weather for last weekend’s opening, which “CityNews” attended.

The good news is that the organisers have decided to extend the exhibition for another two weeks to ensure they don’t exceed the number of guests on-site at any given time, so there’s ample time for Canberrans to make the trip.

“Balancing the books V” by Stephen King from Walcha was the winner of the event.

First held in 2011, the event has been bringing more than 2000 visitors to the region each year, but with the extended season, they could easily top that.

In spite of the open-to-all feel of the show, artistic director Kay Norton-Knight and her team of seven local volunteers have been canny in their choice of front-runners, with seven of the main prizes being acquisitive, meaning that they stay in Mudgee, many in the grounds of the new Mudgee Hospital.

The winner of the main $25,000 Sculptures in the Garden and Mid-Western Regional Council Acquisition Prize was “Balancing the books V” by Stephen King from Walcha, an imposing single StringyBark tree trunk carved to give the viewer an illusion of multiple pieces in a stack.

“Helios” by Sian Watson.

The Moolarben Acquisition Prize went to Canberra sculptor Sian Watson’s “Helios”, made of cementitious grout, steel, sealant, and paint and described as “A meeting of the primordial in a changing environment”.

Sculptures Society Sensory Sculpture Prize “Mortuus Animalis” with artist Stephen Harrison

The Sculptures Society Sensory Sculpture Prize went to Stephen Harrison of Murrumbateman for his installation “Mortuus Animalis”, an “ode to all the dead and extinct animals of the world”, featuring a thylacine near a gravestone with a sad piano soundtrack activated when a person passes by. The piano is intended to introduce a sensory element that links to the guide-dog background to the exhibition.

ANU ceramics graduate Teffany Thiedeman has created a memento mori in “The Storyteller”, suitable, like much of her work, for exhibition graveyards and paddocks as well as art galleries.

“Soaring Eagle” by François Jaggi from Armidale

Winner of the Kate & Andrew Buchanan Artistic Merit Acquisition Prize was “Soaring Eagle” by François Jaggi from Armidale, which was one of many sculptures inspired by the mighty bird.

Many works reflected the outdoor setting of the show, like the winner of the James Loneragan Artistic Merit Acquisition Prize, “Symmetry”, by Peter Kasper from Emu Swamp, Friends of Sculptures in the Garden Acquisition Prize, “Connect”, by David Perkins from Gundaroo or  Emerging Artist Acquisition Prizewinner, “Soul Searching” by Bob Teasdale of Bowning, the kinetic sculpture “Room to grow” by Brendan Birks from Canberra and ANU school of art and design graduate Tom Buckland’s whimsical work, “Magpie Discussing the Finer Points of Local Politics x 3”.

Eclectic in tone, Sculptures in the Garden allows for some fun too.

‘Ship of Fools’ by Amanda Harrison

“Mother Earth”, a ceramic work by Amanda Harrison from Greenwich, NSW, won the Simon & Susie Bennett Artistic Merit Acquisition Prize for Small Sculpture, but it was her quirky piece, “Ship of Fools” which attracted more public attention. Depicting a half-sunken, drunken figure, the sculpture asks: “Are we just the foolish crew, drinking and feasting, and happily going down with the ship under the stewardship of a leadership ignoring fact and science in favour of votes and economic gain?”

Not in the sculpture prize, RSPCA mascot

One might have been forgiven for thinking that large RSPCA mascot at the entrance was part of the show. Not so, but “A Big Mob of Dogs x 13,” a deceptively-real collaborative work by Trevor Dunbar and Dinah Vandermeys from Canberra, drew considerable attention, especially since Rosby Estate’s clearly stated that no dogs were allowed on the property.

Sculptures in the Garden, large, open to all comers and full of rural community buzz, differs in tone from Sculpture in the Paddock at Cooma Cottage or its successor at Shaw Vineyards.

“A Big Mob of Dogs x 13” by Trevor Dunbar & Dinah Vandermeys

Let’s hope that the ACT venture can find a way of striking that attractive country balance between art and fun.

Sculptures in the Garden, Rosby Vineyard gardens, 122 Strikes Lane, Eurunderee, Mudgee, 10am-4pm, until October 25, bookings essential here.   

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Helen Musa
“CityNews” arts editor

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