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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Inner City Musings

Over the weekend I had the chance to have a wander around Leichhardt in inner Sydney. It is one of the many city suburbs that hums with life throughout the week and weekend with lots to see and do as well as outdoor cafes for simply enjoying the passing parade.

After an extensive and enjoyable trawl through a bookshop, we stopped at a cafe for lunch. I was struck by the sensory landscape: the traffic crawling past, low flying planes skimming the tops of the buildings, the hubbub of conversation. There was the clatter of crockery and clash of cutlery as the sun streamed in and around scudding clouds. The heady aroma of coffee – one my favourite smells. The chatter of children. The flash of a silver necklace adorned with fettered butterflies. People ambling past with the air of those with plenty of time on their hands, just a relaxing Saturday afternoon stretching out ahead of them.

The houses around the shopping area are a mix of old and new. The suburb’s origins as a working class area remain evident in the terraced houses and semi-detached dwellings. Space is at a premium, and there are several large parks which provide a green oasis of trees, grass and gardens around the streets and footpaths.

I have been lucky to live in a variety of places, from the suburbs of Sydney to miles outside of a small country town, to a large regional centre and now in the mountains. I’m yet to live in the inner suburbs and I can’t see that changing in the near future, but I can appreciate what it might be like to have the conveniences of frequent public transport along with a variety of shops and vibrant restaurant scene within an easy walking distance.

It was nice to visit and to imagine a different kind of life. It was nice, too, to come home to space and an abundance of greenery and views that still take my breath away.

Do you enjoy the metro lifestyle or do you prefer the quieter life?

[Photo: Sydney Harbour on Australia Day, 2014]