Public art gaining attention in Sydney Reply

by Sally Mannering

Sculptor Peter Lewis won this year’s Transfield Award for his polished stainless steel work, Graffiti Moonstrike.

Sculptor Peter Lewis won this year’s Transfield Award for his polished stainless steel work, Graffiti Moonstrike.

The Sydney Sculptors’ Society is enjoying an increased interest in public art with attendance at its annual exhibition and awards up by 20 per cent from last year.

Sydneysiders are certainly talking about sculpture. There has been much controversy surrounding the City of Sydney’s commissioning of  $9 million dollars worth of art, including the much talked about 13.7 metre milk crate to be installed in Belmore Park.

The Lord Mayor, Clover Moore, says initiatives like this will “cement Sydney’s reputation as a capital of culture and creativity”.

Feyona Van Stom, president of the Sydney Sculptors’ Society, says having accessible public art is very important because  “it makes people talk and consider the ideas and beliefs of others”. Ms Van Stom says that while public art needs to be of a very high technical and aesthetic standard, controversy around art is not necessarily a bad thing.

“It does not matter in the least if I like a particular work and you don’t; what is important is the conversation that follows,” she says.

Visitors at the current Sculptors Society exhibition at Darling Park agree with the need for more public art. Kate Kilby, a sales manager from Corrimal, says, “I come to this particular exhibition every year. I’m certainly a fan of more public art in Sydney. We have a rich culture and breathtaking backdrop that would really allow us to make a name for ourselves in this space.”

Ingrid Maack, of Girrawee, used the Sculptors Society exhibition to introduce her sons to sculpture. “We are really very lucky in Sydney to have access to some great public art, both permanent pieces and access to exhibitions like this,” she says.

The Sculptors Society exhibition offers several prizes each year, including the prestigious Franco Belgiono-Nettis Transfield Award. This year’s winner was Peter Lewis whose polished stainless steel work,  ‘Graffiti Moonstrike’, depicts three small dancers. He says he was “surprised but elated” to take out this year’s top prize. Mr Lewis was recently been commissioned by City of Sydney to create a 3.5 metre high bronze sculpture representing the changing face of the inner-city suburb of Green Square.

He says Sydney is catching up with Melbourne. “Sydney is recognising the value of public art and placing more importance on enriching the city through art.”

This year’s exhibition was launched and judged by Elsa Atkin, AM. Ms Atkin organises one of Sydney’s other premiere sculpture events, the annual Sculpture at Sawmillers exhibition at McMahons Point. She is also the former CEO of the National Trust. “This particular exhibition is a collection of works of a fantastic standard,” she says.

Ms Aken is a keen advocate of public art and, in particular, sculpture which she believes is an overlooked and underutilised art from.

“Art can inspire and liberate, it feeds our spirits,” she says.   “We need to buy it, place it where people can easily access it and bring art to the people – that’s the right thing to do.”

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