CreditsDirector: Tim Burstall Original music: Don Burrows:
Catalog number # 635
30 minutes Color
Age Range: 12 to Adult
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BALDESSIN: I don't think there is a tradition in Australian sculpture. If there is a tradition it is in Australian painting, starting from the Port Jackson painters and right through, even to Sid Nolan. This tradition is probably the irrational imagery, the irrational content in Australian painting.
George Baldessin is a young Melbourne sculptor who works in the figurative tradition.
BALDESSIN: I'm interested in content in sculpture and for me it means the human figure and aspects of it. I was trained as a painter and I found that painting lacked the actual space that I was interested in, too. Going overseas was a very vital experience. And it was with Marini that I learned that the actual space and suggested space that you deal with in painting can be combined. This grew out of an etching based on the Kitchenmaid and I suppose it's really connected with the fact that as a student I worked for several years as a waiter at Menzies Hotel and I was at the receiving end of this thing: I know how it feels to have my personality pushed into the background so that all I consist of virtually is a hand that serves and a few odd related objects.
Paintings don't cost very much to produce, whereas a piece of sculpture cast in metal would cost anything up to six or seven hundred dollars. I did a whole series of etchings based on performers. All sorts of performers: Actors, circus people, travelling players. The public part of this "performer" is the body and it's seen in the round, whereas the head, which is symbolic of the mind is flattened down. Also you will see I'm showing more than one aspect of the head. This is the front and this is the back view. Personage, Window and Factory Smoke began as an etching. But in the sculpture I got involved with the space element. I thought of the figure as an office girl, a person whom people look at and see every day. But the only thing really that they're interested in is perhaps her breasts or her legs. No one's interested in her personality. Her reality virtually is what she's surrounded with, her environment, such as the window and the factory smoke.
I find that I'm trying to bring painting and sculpture together more and more. A truly formal piece of sculpture, a collection of half circles and what have you demands certain things from the viewer, but the thinking is done for him. But a piece of sculpture with a certain amount of content requires the viewer to think about it as well, he has to contribute a certain amount of thoughts.
NARRATOR: Most sculptors in Australia don't earn their living from sculpture alone. Lynden Dadswell is a teacher, Matchem Skipper is a jeweler and silversmith. David Toley works as a bass player in a Jazz band.
TOLEY: The human figure's been the thing which has, I found has been the basis of my work. Even when I've not been fully aware of it I found that at times I've taken forms from the human body and, and, used these in odd sorts of places in a sculpture for brutal or dramatic effect. In 'Amazon' I wanted to build some form of violent contrast to the human figure and one of the answers to this was to use strong rigid planes. I wanted female forms moving around these planes bursting out of them and climbing on, around them and so on, like a seduction.
Watching and Waiting is like a pre-birth thing: this tall form extending from at us, a symbol of looking around; this little head on the top, this sort of watching and waiting and hoping. At this time my wife was pregnant with our first child. Obviously this was a large event in my life. Following that came 'Lady in Waiting, with a pregnant belly and pregnant breasts and arrogant head and so on. The male, plainer forms in this are subordinated deliberately, and after that I made a little Family Group, a male form with the female quality forms riding on top of it, the baby form held up high, in exultation.
NARRATOR: The materials a sculptor uses exert a great influence on his work. Clay is shaped and modeled, copper is hammered and fitted, then welded and polished. Wood is carved. Vincen Jomantis comes from Lithuania, a country with a notable tradition in woodcarving.
JOMANTIS: Fifteen year ago when I got into Melbourne first, the position of worked sculpture was quite different from today. For example myself, I worked in a timbermill; I worked in a games or toy factory, spraying toys; I worked as a draughtsman, I always found that I got to spend, every night, no less than about four or six hours after the day's work.
JOMANTIS: I am fascinated by the existence of things and, the purpose of the things. They, they could be personalities, they could be people, but like Meditators. I feel that form and shape have that feeling of meditation. Who meditates? It wouldn't matter. I got through two versions of so called Wakening of the Giants. They started from a very small sketch, just a plain landscape and objects arising from the ground. I have that peculiar feeling that they, in a way, became somehow aggressive by this rising up. For example, "Meeting of Nobles". Each shape is, as people would say abstract. But to me, they are personalities and personalities of a very, very noble nature.
NARRATOR: The basis of Baldessin's and Toley's work is the human figure. And Jomantis, too, sees, pure shapes as if they had human personalities. But in the work of Steven Walker nature has replaced the human element.
WALKER: Probably the fact that I live where I do, out in the bush on the sandstone fringe of Sydney, is one of the beginnings of my ideas on form. I was rather interested in the natural form that one got in these logs that would drift down the river, not far from where I lived on the west coast of Tasmania, and then transforming the natural beginnings into some sort of specific personality. The figurative thing always interested me, where you did get a change from human into an animal form. One's thoughts on man and the world around him was contained within this sort of metamorphosis of one into the other.
NARRATOR: The forms of nature can be intricate and minute, or large and monumental. Norma Redpath's work is on the grand scale.
REDPATH: Australia's different from Europe, with its vast spaces and unique forms. The side of sculpture which I feel is very interesting has to do with the design of large monumental works, such as sculptural arches, columns and so on. Working as I do on large-scale sculpture I find it absolutely essential to work with a team of highly trained assistants. This was one of the very valuable lessons I learned from watching the Italian sculptors at work. They use assistants wherever and whenever they can.
REDPATH: "Desert Arch" was a form which evolved itself when I started thinking about the Australian desert:, with a viewing slot and a narrow chink which it is possible to walk through.
As a student I started working with timber, stone, cement. None of them really suited me, and it was when I went to Italy in 1962 I realized that bronze gave me the complete flexibility that I required. In "Horse, Bird and Sun" I've taken the sun and tried to give it a physical presence, quite a strong presence. "Immortal Warrior" deals with some of the epic qualities that I see in man. It's a somewhat rugged form, parts of it seem to have been torn, been through a battle. It's standing as if it's facing up to something, like a great wind force. The side of man that has always most engaged my imagination has to do with his epic qualities, strength, endurance, nobility. In 1964 I was commissioned to execute a fountain for Canberra. This work was designed and executed in my studio at the Fonderia Battaglie in Milan, one of the biggest and perhaps the most famous in the world. This fountain took five years to execute. It stands some 15 feet high and weighs four tons. There are 13 jets of various forms, all designed as extensions of the sculptural forms.
NARRATOR: Fountains involve hydraulics and engineering. But they are, first and foremost, works of sculpture. One of the most beautiful fountains in Australia is Margel Hinder's at Newcastle. Sculptors are also drawing on the machine world for their forms and often for their materials. Matchem Skipper uses scrap metal for his sculpture. Robert Klippel uses the cast-off parts from accounting machines. Like all Australian artists, sculptors have to decide whether they remain at home or go overseas. Colin Lancely, who exhibits throughout Europe and America now lives in London. Clement Meadmore lives in New York.
MEADMORE: I think art's become pretty much an international language these days, and I find that as an artist it's enough to try and get quality into my work without having to try and get some sort of national identity into it as well. Living and working and exhibiting in New York has really been a tremendous stimulus to doing my own best work.
NARRATOR: Meadmore's forms are based not on nature or a machine but on the forms of geometry. On cubes and squares and right-angle bends. He deliberately avoids expressive shapes.
MEADMORE: In my own work, which uses the rectangle as a basis, which is in itself a very neutral form and also lately the circle or segments of circles, I produced a series of pieces which vary from this piece over here which is very simple but it's presence comes from the way in which it's bent. The exact raise, the exact angle of the bend, the placement of it in proportion to the whole thing, are all crucial. The same bent square section has been used in this piece, except that I've used the same section in different directions and multiplied it so that it gives a completely different sort of feeling
The whole modern movement of sculpture is just coming to a point now where it's going to be possible to actually produce very large works that will fit into our environment.
NARRATOR: Ronald Robertson-Swann has lived in England for many years, but is now returning with his wife to Australia.
ROBERTSON-SWANN: Well, as you see, the place is in a hell of a mess; we're packing up to go home. We've got very mixed feelings about going home, we're very excited on one hand and we're a little nervous too, as to what sort of scene we're going to find there. We've been away for eight years now, but one thing we do remember very distinctly in our feelings as well as our memory is the space which is so important to me as a sculptor. England and Europe is very crammed and claustrophobic. Sometimes I think I've forgotten how to feel and how to use the open space that we have in Australia. My sort of sculpture needs to live in this sort of open space.
"Big Red" is about objects. It started with the wheels. The spokes fascinated me very much. The rhythm of the feet, walking, wheels moving in another way, it's own existence and it's physicalness is always the most important thing. There must be a direct feeling that only sculpture can give. This is 'Far Serese' It's to do with gravity and with axis and directions. This has nothing that is vertical, everything is of the axis. And you should be able to identify with that through your own physical experience and feelings.
In the "1st of September" you have these two ways of working. The idea suggested from the object and the physical identification with what it's doing; the way in which the disc is balanced, just that moment before it comes back and rolls over that wavy line and creates a movement, an optical movement. Now particularly that sculpture has been freed from the pedestal, this allows it to express new things and things more intrinsic to itself.
NARRATOR: Michael Kitching not only uses machine forms, his sculptures look like machines themselves.
KITCHING: I have always felt that art and science were related, in that they are both fields in which people are involved in discovering things and revealing them to other people. A scientist gives me some facts that he has discovered about stars and these facts awe me and inspire me to turn out work that is going to create in other people what this scientist has created in me by fact, only I want to do it through art. Over a period of years it is not only just my ideas, the way that I think, that changes. Changes are brought about by materials themselves. I used to use traditional materials such as oil paint, wood carving, stone work, things like that. Gradually, over the last few years I have swung away from those towards contemporary materials. They in themselves offer so much scope to your imagination. The perspex, for instance, the tremendous variety of coloring that you can get, the tremendous variety of forms that you can produce with the Perspex through molding, through heating and bending. I go down to the metal spinner's and pick up a standard spinning that they have on their shelves. I start with these forms already there in front of me, and in this way I can more accurately see their possibilities. Sometimes I go round to the Woolworth's chain stores and look around and see maybe these plastic balls which I see assembled together, I can build blocks out of these. It's all an assemble job. I pick up a standard product. About twelve months ago I had the idea of actually lighting a piece of sculpture from the inside instead of relying as traditionally from light falling upon a piece of sculpture.
When people try to involve me with an answer to the question of what do these things that I make mean, the only real answer I can give to that is the sense of putting these people in front of a sunrise, and when the sun comes up, saying to them: Well, you have a look at that and ask yourself what does that mean?
NARRATOR: Kenneth Reinhart has begun making machines that actually work.
REINHARD: Following the three-dimensional objects which looked as though they were machines without movement, nothing happened, the obvious step was then to make things in which something did happen, to have movement involved in it. It's because I am concerned in the use of other senses besides that of the visual that some of the machines also make noises and they emit perfumes and this involves various other senses as well.
A lot of the imagery derives from our contemporary mass-media, I like the sort of superficial, pseudo excitement thing. The photographs of the girls, their state of undress, their use of guns in their hands. But it does relate to experiences that all of us have had through watching movies and watching television.
NARRATOR: Tim Berryman is an aeronautical engineer with the Department of Civil Aviation.
BERRYMAN: The idea for "Sculptron 1" grew out of my background in electronic engineering and design. Asher Balu, who's a painter, and myself got together as a team and produced a combination of art and technology in the form of a sculpture. I've wired it up so that each of the eight cathode ray tubes is sensitive to sounds in different ways and produces different patterns
NARRATOR: The future of sculpture is an enthralling prospect. It has already entered the field of technology using light and movement computers and electronics. The possibilities are endless.
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