Challenging the Boundaries between Art and Nature

There is something wonderful about having a sculpture exhibition in the area, and recently I went along to explore Sculpture at Scenic World at Katoomba. From mid-April to mid-May, 38 sculptures were on display along the winding boardwalk through the Jurassic forest. The location provides an amazing backdrop to some incredible sculptures, and the exhibition prides itself on having a 0% ecological footprint. There is much collaboration between the selected artists and Scenic World to manage the creation and installation of the works.

Access to the boardwalk is via the scenic railway, which was originally used for coal and shale exports. I had forgotten how steep the incline is (52 degrees – claimed to be the steepest passenger railway in the world) and it is a short but invigorating ride down into the valley. The layout of the exhibition along the boardwalk invites reflection and it was a delight to meander along and take in the wide variety of art installations.

One of the first pieces, Blind by Andrew Townsend and Suzie Bleach, is part of series using the figure of a horse to explore themes of the human condition. Forest Emoji by Aldo Bilotta explores the evolution of language. A number of the pieces resonate with the immensity of time and space. A recurring theme is sustainability and waste: several sculptures feature repurposed materials.

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One of the black cockatoos created by Barbara Hamilton as Casuarina Dreaming II

An example of this is Casuarina Dreaming II by Barbara Hamilton which features discarded umbrellas and recycled bottles fashioned into black cockatoos. Hamilton wanted to raise awareness of these endemic birds, who are relatively quiet when compared to the rowdy sulphur-crested cockatoos. The habitat for the glossy black cockatoos is under threat. I am fortunate to see them flying through the upper mountain skies with their distinctive, creaky calls.

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Close-up of some of the beautiful glass balloons featured in Up! by Kayo Yokoyama

One of the works which delighted me was Up! by Kayo Yokoyama. This was inspired by a desire to transform a temporary object into a semi-permanent one to capture a moment. And there is something joyous about balloons, associated with celebrations and happy times. For Yokoyama, sagging or deflated balloons remind her of sadness. There is a universality to the memories and emotions linked by balloons, and I loved this piece.

Humour is evident in some of the blurbs which accompany the sculptures. For example, the description of Mega Pixel Power Plant by Tom de Munk-Kerkmeer advises that the creation is a close relative of Instaneous Gratificaticus and that perhaps it originated from the Silicon Valley area. The fruit resembles the sweet and rather addictive Licorice Allsorts.

Environmental awareness and climate change are recurring themes. Overconsumption is displayed clearly in Freya Jobbins’ #OTT. The link between memory and sculpture is touched on through several of the works, including memories of lost forests in a ghost tree exhibit. There is a stunning nod to both nature and a community’s ability to recover and regenerate following bushfire in Anastasis by Caitlin Hughes.

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Choking Hazard by Rochelle Quantock: bright toy bricks bringing an element of playfulness to the serious issues of sustainability

A wide range of materials are used, including wood, plastic, light bulbs, ceramics, umbrellas, bumper bars, crocheted and woven plastic bags, stone, steel, bottle caps, glass, porcelain, sticks, souvenir koala bears and salvaged hard rubbish. Some of the sculptures used sounds or mirrors to offer different sensory viewpoints.

Sculpture at Scenic World is an amazing annual event, with several of the works staying in my mind for quite some time afterwards.

When was the last time sculpture snagged your imagination?

[Photo: a glimpse of the stuffed toy roof in #OTT by Freya Jobbins]

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Sculpture at Scenic World, Katoomba

Over the weekend I had the opportunity to join a guided tour of the Sculpture at Scenic World exhibition. This is the sixth year of the exhibition and there are 35 artworks on display, located along 2.4 kilometres of walkway. There is significant interest in the exhibition with artists from all over the world submitting concepts for sculptures and installation. The successful submissions are on show from 7 April to 7 May at Scenic World.

Illusion by Kayo Yokoyama

Illusion by Kayo Yokoyama

The exhibition is complimented by other pieces of sculpture on show at various locations across the mountains including the Carrington Hotel at Katoomba and the Hydro Majestic Hotel in Medlow Bath. There is also an exhibit of indoor sculpture by many of the contributing artists on show at the Blue Mountains Cultural Centre, Sculpture Otherwise.

Kangaroo with a Selfie Stick and Home is Where the Heart Is by Jimmy Rix

Each year the sculptures follow a theme with a chosen medium. This year it was timber and the wide range of sculptures offers a broad interpretation with materials including fabric, recycled tents, copper, pottery and glass, to name a few. There is colour and vibrancy, along with thought-provoking pieces as well as a healthy sense of fun.

Consumption by Louis Pratt

Consumption by Louis Pratt

Some pieces have direct references to the industrial activity on the site: Scenic World is located on an old coal mining site and the railway itself follows the track used to haul coal out of the valley.

3D Webs by Louisa Magrics with La Subida Rhizome (The Rise Rhizome) by Miguel Valenzuela & Francois Limondin in background

3D Webs by Louisa Magrics with La Subida Rhizome (The Rise Rhizome) by Miguel Valenzuela & Francois Limondin in background

As the boardwalk meanders round, there is the opportunity to view some of the works from a different viewpoint, offering another perspective. It was invigorating, delightful and surprising.

Kolorhaus by Selena Seifert & Chris Wellwood

Kolorhaus by Selena Seifert & Chris Wellwood

And all of this sculpture is on show against the backdrop of a Jurassic rainforest with steep cliffs surrounding the valley. The trip down into the valley on the scenic railway was stunning, and it is understandable why this has been a major tourist drawcard for over 70 years. We returned via the scenic cableway with stunning views out to Mount Solitary as well as vistas of the Three Sisters and Orphan Rock.

It is an amazing location and an extraordinary place to enjoy some wonderful sculptures.

Have you enjoyed an artistic outing lately?

[Photo: Corridor.of.tents by Georgina Humphries; created using discarded festival tents]