Cones. Bert Flugelman (1923-2013) created them, and the National Gallery put them out under the blue Australian sky in the Sculpture Garden. Flugelman produced a number of stainless steel sculptures in Australia (where he lived), not to be confused with Austria (where he was born).
Children and adults alike love the 20 metres of image-distorting steel forms. You can be as thin, fat, short or tall as you want. Cones is a paradox, a totally unembellished minimalist artwork yet filled with detailed images. The seven iconic conic sculptures reflect this little bit of Australia, the sky and trees and flowers and dry sandy ground. And anyone standing around.
Today I was fortunate to find myself alone in this corner of the Garden to snap some photos sans visitors. My camera’s eye caught me in the stainless steel mirror, and my mind made a link to the nearby Portrait Gallery where I had just spent an hour, where I had seen a self-portrait of Bert Flugelman (it’s a sculpture), and now here he gives me my own self-portrait, an image of no one in particular. Indeed, it’s better (in my humble opinion) than the self-portraits by Ken Done and Sidney Nolan that really do look like no one in particular!
If you’re looking for some mild amusement, and you have an Apple computer, check out the Faces option in the ‘Apple Photos’ application. It collects images of faces, that is, anything that resembles two human eyes above a nose above a mouth. It doesn’t always get it right. Sometimes it finds sculpted faces, though they can look real enough, like these resting on top of the pond in the Sculpture Garden at the National Gallery, faces that produce a physical reaction in passers-by:
It’s not just 3D images it finds; even 2D painted faces are thrown into the collection with photos of real faces. Here it places two faces from For of Such is the Kingdom of Heaven by Frank Bramley (1891) hanging in the Auckland Art Gallery, New Zealand, next to my beautiful daughters-in-law:
How about this image of a sun sinking into the sea? I do love a good sunset, but if I’m looking for the reassurance of a human face, I prefer my son, not the sun!
But even more mysterious, curious and ridiculous, a photo of a kangaroo’s tail and back legs, sideways. I’ve looked at this circle with my glasses on and glasses off. I can’t see any face. But it’s good for a laugh!
It was truly surprising to see all the faces (recognised by Apple) from my photos. There were even some I had previously ignored for being too small or blurry in the background of another subject. As I was scrolling through them all, another son walked into the room and exclaimed his delight at all the faces of our family and friends appearing in a long stream across my screen. It was a bit of fun, and was fit fodder for the photo challenge this week.
I haven’t travelled far this month. But I have travelled. Just yesterday, for instance, I drove to the library, couldn’t find a place to stop, drove on to the lake, parked. From there I took the long way round to the library, first to the art gallery – ten minutes – in air uncommonly warm for the end of May. I wound my way through the sculpture garden and photographed dark forms.
I did some work at a table in the café overlooking the sculpture garden.
Then I walked to the National Archives – ten minutes – and read a file about a soldier who stowed away on a ship heading to World War One. At lunch time I walked to Old Parliament House – five minutes – and had lunch with a view across the lake and up Anzac Avenue to the War Memorial and Mt Ainslie.
From there I walked to the library whence I began – ten minutes – and read some police gazettes. I’d achieved much. But I had to walk back to my car – twenty minutes – under threatening skies with no umbrella. Back past the dark clouds over Old Parliament House,
back past the dark sculpture of a burgher of Calais by Rodin,
back past dark swans swimming.
At the art gallery I learnt that dark sculptures are my favourite; at the Archives, that my grandfather spent more time in France than I have (4 months in 1916, between Marseilles and Pozières on the Somme where he was gassed and sent home); at Old Parliament House, that the café with the fantastic view is closing soon and reopening in the viewless courtyard out the back; and at the library, that it was a crime in the 19th century to desert an illegitimate child. Hence my searching of police gazettes.
An altogether successful trip. I can’t say I never go anywhere.
Be sure to check out some of Marianne’s Spanish trips at East of Màlaga. Thanks, Marianne, for your idea that we take one trip EVERY month, and what a good one it is!
For a couple of hours every afternoon in the sculpture garden at the National Gallery of Australia, an artistic mist drifts over a pond, hiding the water and reeds and reflections and ducks and sixty-six sculpted heads.
When the mist clears it’s an uncomfortable experience to circle the pond, looking at the heads facing in many directions.
Dadang Christanto, an Indonesian-born sculptor now living in Australia, created Heads from the North in 2004 as a memorial to an Indonesian military coup in which his father died.
Beside the pond there’s a restaurant in a marquis. I couldn’t eat there.
Though I frequent the sculpture garden, I have, until today, always skipped quickly past this pond and over to the sculptures I understand, those I would have in my own garden (if I could), like Rodin’s Burghers of Calais. But this afternoon I twisted my own arm and stopped to look into the eyes of these drowning men. Now I see, in a small way, what a task it must have been for Dadang Christanto to create this work of art to honour his father.
Ailsa came up with this great theme of Sculpture. Take a look at her photos here.
Rodin’s Burghers of Calais (Les Bourgeois de Calais, Auguste Rodin, 1889) in the Sculpture Garden at the National Gallery of Australia here in Canberra is my absolute all-time favourite sculpture. For me, the burghers can make a bad day better. And a good day ticklish.
I sometimes come to the sculpture garden just to sit and write. Behind these gum trees there’s a lake and beneath them are bushes where blue fairy wrens jump and scrummage on the ground around the benches. Magic. I stop at Rodin’s burghers on every visit and think about the action and life he sculpted into inanimate rock. This is not ‘still life’ like most sculpture. I love that about the French.