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Rupert Myer AM at the opening of the 2014 McClelland Sculpture Survey

Speeches and Opinions
Nov 23, 2014

Thank you Lyn Williams, for your introduction, and thank you for everything that you have done and continue to do for the visual arts in Australia.  And thank you to your predecessor Penny Fowler for lining me up some time ago.  For some decent time, it was the only commitment that I had for the whole of November!

Neil Balnaves, Robert Lindsay, Dr Liz Kreijn, Sculptors, other artists present, McClelland Gallery trustees, members and supporters, ladies and gentlemen.

I would like to acknowledge that we meet on the land of the Kulin Nations and I pay respects to elders past and present.

It is a real honour to be asked to open the 2014 McClelland Sculpture Survey.

On behalf of everyone present, I would like to acknowledge and thank McClelland gallery. This is a special and much-loved place nestled as it is in bush land between the city, the country and the sea.  It exists because of the vision of its founders, because of the generous and passionate support from individuals, especially of course, Dame Elisabeth Murdoch, local, State and Commonwealth government, philanthropic trusts and corporate partners; and because of its dedicated trustees, staff and volunteers.

Thank you for helping to create and sustain a truly significant part of the nation’s cultural infrastructure.  Your efforts continue to provide Australian sculptors with a place to show their work, and be acknowledged and rewarded through the awards to be announced today.

And you make it possible for local residents, Melburnians, Victorians, all Australians and visitors from overseas to enjoy the best of Australian contemporary sculpture.

Thank you to the sculptors whose work we are celebrating today. Without your imagination, talent and skills the sculpture gardens of the world would be beautiful but sadly empty places.

We need to remind ourselves more often of the strenuous effort and physicality involved in the construction of the more monumental pieces of outdoor sculpture. The blending of hard labour and selected materials with an artist’s soul and imagination often requires, perhaps more than in other art form, the resolution of a host of technical, engineering, spatial, materials and other issues, let alone display, transport, insurance and OH&S matters. All difficult, often expensive.

We are indeed fortunate that there are creative individuals who have weighed up the physical and financial risks and have emphatically chosen to express their creative talents through sculpture.  Of course, not all sculpture requires herculean physical efforts, although the practical, physical aspect of sculpture is inescapable.

The McClelland Sculpture Park is very special because of its outdoor setting.

Henry Moore once said:

‘Sculpture is an art of the open air…I would rather have a piece of my sculpture put in a landscape, almost any landscape, than in, or on, the most beautiful building I know.’

This Park is a perfect example of that sentiment.  There is something at once respectful, brave and defiant about solo pieces of outdoor sculpture in public places close to nature: taking on the elements, making us pause to contemplate the encounter, to ponder an artists’ intention, to consider an idea, a totem, an object of beauty, despair, joy or heartbreak.

I am truly fortunate to have grown up in such a place, watching the vineyard at Elgee Park become a place of sculpture and then more gradually observing the vineyard become the background to a sculpture park.

We are all greatly enriched by this public place, accessible to all. This wonderful domain, this arcadia, extends our imagination and it rewards our curiosity. Some of our most talented artists project onto the landscape great shafts of creative and artistic energy. Since 2003, the number of permanent sculptures in the grounds has quadrupled with now 112 major works on permanent display.

We are shortly to have a decent dollop of curiosity rewarded when we learn about the winners of this year’s awards.

The artists, including young emerging, mid-career and established artists, working in a variety of styles and mediums give the McClelland Sculpture Survey its very special importance. I would like to acknowledge their contribution and thank the 33 participating artists for their superb professionalism and imagination in the creation of the works in this exciting exhibition.  An important aspect of the McClelland Sculpture Survey exhibition, giving a valuable cross-section of contemporary sculpture practice, is that application to participate in the exhibition is open to all. And open to all materials.

As you follow the trail to see the works, you will find beautifully sited works made from fibreglass and aluminium, basalt and gold, marble and glass and shopping trolleys, cor-ten, mild and stainless steel, electrical wire and bitumen, gravel,paint and glycerine, iron dust, concrete, carbon fibre, bronze and water and colour-bond sheeting, sandstone and sound, ceramics, electronics and plantforms, wind-chimes and copper, and quite a few more.

The vision of this gallery, the visibility that it gives to artists, the opportunities that it provides to audiences and its amplification of our community’s creative voices form part of the culturally ambitious nation that the Australia Council seeks to reflect and support. These artists and this Gallery join others in that quest.

It now gives me great pleasure to officially open the 2014 Mc McClelland Sculpture Survey.

Rupert Myer AM
Chair, Australia Council for the Arts