A self-guided tour of the public sculptures in the UNSW Art Collection
The founding Vice Chancellor, Sir Phillip Baxter, understood the importance of incorporating art into the University's built environment to lift the spirit and enhance campus life. In 1955 the first sculpture The falconer by Tom Bass, was installed on the facade of the University's first permanent building - Main Building - and since then the public sculpture collection has grown as the Kensington campus has developed; art has become an integral part of the landscape at UNSW.
[photography ©Terry Thorley]
AGSM Garden (map ref. F27)
1. James ROGERS
James Rogers: The bath (1990)
(born 1956, Australia)
The bath (1990)
Mild steel, welded, previously painted
215 x 91 x 46 cms
Purchased with funds from the U Committee, 1992
UNSW S 1992/0570 089145
The sculpture stands in the newly-landscaped garden beside Gate 11 entry.
In the 1950s a purely abstract form of sculpture developed under the influence of the British sculptor, Anthony Caro at the St Martins School of Art, London. It dictated the open spaces around a work's sculptural components were of the utmost importance and it was exemplified by constructions made by welding together ready-made elements of industrially manufactured steel. This new style was a rejection of the narrative ideals of Henry Moore and the traditions of modelling, hand-carving and natural forms.
James Rogers' work displays its influence, though he has not stayed religiously within its code. The bath is primarily an abstract composition, but it contains a narrative element in the curvilinear forms that suggest spraying water and convey the idea of a figure bathing. The use of recycled steel, which carries evidence of a past life in the worn painted surfaces, provides the work with a ready-made patina.
The Michael Birt Gardens (map ref. C23)
2. Ron ROBERTSON-SWANN
Ron Robertson-Swann: North Down (1992)
(born 1941, Australia)
North Down (1982)
Mild steel, welded, spray-painted
86.4 x 274 cms
Purchased with funds from the U Committee, 1991
UNSW S 1991/0587 052142
Robertson-Swann was one of the first sculptors in Australia to adopt the Anthony Caro style, which he introduced to Australia after studying at the St Martin’s School of Art, London in 1962.
This style championed the idea that the open space around the sculptural components was more important than the solid form. It rejected the traditional narrative ideals of Henry Moore and replaced modelling, hand carving and natural forms with the welding together of ready-made elements of industrially produced steel.
Unlike James Rogers' construction, Robertson-Swann’s work is refined and precise. His use of a satin-finished automotive paint draws the components together so the eye does not rest on one particular element, but engages the whole without distraction. He prefers to maintain a vision of newness rather than allow a patina to develop and distract.
The Michael Birt Gardens (map ref. C23)
3. Jock CLUTTERBUCK
Jock Clutterbuck: Parousia (1992)
(born 1945, Australia)
Bronze, cast, patinated
245 x 250 x 95 cms
Commissioned with funds from the U Committee, 1992
UNSW S 1992/0626 052181
In contrast to Robertson-Swann's work where the juxtaposed planes carry the eye over and around the shaped surfaces, the linear components of Parousia determine the extent to which the eye moves inside and outside the sculpture, by articulating the inner void and defining the outer space.
The method used to cast Parousia had been pioneered by Bert Flugelman during the mid-1960s. A full-size model was constructed from blocks of polystyrene that burnt out when the molten bronze was poured into the mould. The surface was left unpolished to retain the pattern of the polystyrene but was patinated to imitate the weathered character of an historic monument.
North Chancellery Lawn (map ref. B23)
4. Patricia LAWRENCE
Patricia Lawrence: Torso turning (1993)
(born 1930, Australia)
Torso turning (1993)
170 x 116 x 140 cms
UNSW S 1993/0652 033008
Lawrence, who studied under the eminent Australian sculptor, Tom Bass, is essentially a traditionalist in the choice of subject matter, materials and surface treatment she uses for her work. She relies upon the figurative shaping of closed, solid form in the manner of Henry Moore, and restricts her narrative to an abstract interpretation of the human body in motion.
Torso turning contrasts markedly with the other two sculptures in this precinct. Its solid natural form opposes the industrial abstraction of Robertson-Swann's; and the conventional treatment of the bronze counters Clutterbuck's preference for leaving evidence of the manufacturing process.
The Vice Chancellor’s Courtyard (map ref. B22)
5. Augustine DALL’AVA
Augustine Dall'Ava: Aspects from time (1981)
(born 1950, France/ lives in Australia)
Aspects from time (1981)
Mild steel, painted; stainless steel, river stones
210 x 503 x 60 cms
Commissioned with funds from the U Too Group and the Visual Arts Board of the Australia Council, 1981
UNSW S 1981/0144 082098
A visit to Japan in 1976 influenced Augustine Dall'Ava's work significantly, drawing forth an appreciation for the inherent beauty of found objects, both natural and man-made. Here the manufactured mild steel "screens" and stainless steel rods combine with such objects - including an anvil, a clock weight and river stones - to produce a Zen-like work of mystery and metaphor, which positions itself somewhere between the abstract and the narrative.
Aspects from time was Augustine Dall'Ava's first public commission and the first non-figurative sculpture acquired by the University. Dall'Ava selected the original location at the end of the Anzac Parade walkway in 1980, but due to the extension of the Mall in 1997 the work was moved to the Vice-Chancellor's Courtyard, where the seclusion and Japanese-style plantings better suit its aesthetic.
Morven Brown Courtyard (map ref. C20)
6. Tom BASS
Tom Bass: Joseph Bourke, first Bursar (1966)
Joseph Ormand Aloysius Bourke, first Bursar of the University (1966)
30 x 24 cms
UNSW S 1966/0240 082043
The Bourke Memorial Fountain was commissioned in memory of Joseph Bourke, a member of the executive who actively supported the acquisition of Australian works of art for the University.
It was designed by Peter Spooner, in collaboration with the sculptor, Tom Bass. Spooner, an Associate Professor in the School of Architecture, became the consulting landscape architect for the University during the 1960s.
Tom Bass produced the bronze relief portrait of Bourke, which is mounted on the central standing stone behind the pool. A screen of bamboo was originally planted behind the stones but was removed once it migrated into the pool. Located beneath the canopy of a mature jacaranda, the fountain offers a cool accent within this popular and quiet garden courtyard.
Goldstein Courtyard (map ref. C16)
7. Bert FLUGELMAN
Bert Flugelman: Untitled six figure group (1965)
Untitled six figure group (1965)
240 x 432 x 59 cms
Commissioned for Goldstein Courtyard, 1964
UNSW S 1965/0570 052164
When Bert Flugelman presented the maquette of this work to Professor Philip Baxter for approval, the Vice Chancellor smiled and remarked "I know every one of them, and the one in the middle is me".*
Flugelman created this sculpture using a method that was revolutionary in Australia at the time. Huge slabs of polyurethane were carved with a hot wire then directly cast in bronze, using a process similar to the lost wax method. Each figure was cast individually then all six were welded together.
Instead of finishing with a traditional polished surface the artist chose to leave the work in a roughened state. For the time, this approach to the material was innovative and resulted in an honest brutalism that suited the (then) raw concrete façade of Goldstein Hall.
(*Bert Flugelman in conversation with the UNSW Art Curator, June 1998)
International Square (map ref. H16)
8. Bronwyn OLIVER
Bronwyn Oliver: Globe (2002)
Marine grade copper alloy, bronze
Winner of the inaugural UNSW Sculpture Commission Competition, 2001
Commissioned for International Square, with the assistance of the U Committee, 2001
UNSW S 2002/094 100073
It is most appropriate the winning entry in the 2001 UNSW Sculpture Commission Competition for International Square is titled Globe. Located at the commencement of the processional approach to the John Niland Scientia, the sculpture formally completes the landscaping of this grand stairway.
The artist drew inspiration from both the natural plantings and the architectural geometry of the surrounding environment to propose a simple yet powerful statement for the site. Oliver foresaw that an appealing tension could be introduced to the entire precinct by juxtaposing the gravitational pull to earth and circular movement of a sphere, against the soaring lift of the Scientia's glass wings.
The sculpture was created using marine grade copper-alloy rods brazed into position over a mould, following an interlocking vein structure that creates the spiralling effect from pole to pole. This sense of movement continues as the viewer passes and the opposing sides appear to revolve against one another, suggesting a gentle rotation and truly, a globe for International Square.
The Chancellor’s Court (map ref. J15)
9. Tom BASS
Tom Bass: Fountain figure (1959)
Fountain figure (1959)
72 x 186 x 87 cms
Commissioned for the Chancellor's Court, 1959
UNSW S 1960/0266 082044
Within the peaceful Chancellor’s Court is another work by Tom Bass, who once said he devoted most of his life to public art commissions because for him, “sculpture made for personal reasons is much less satisfying”.*
A single reclining nude, face turned to the sun, dreamily rests on one elbow beside a small pool, while water trickles from a shell in her outstretched hand into a bronze dish. The figure typifies the Romantic narrative and the traditional ideal of sculpture and is a fine example of Bass’s early work.
Made of electrolytic copper on a bronze armature, it is hollow and consequently not as robust as it appears. It is the most popular and best loved work in the University's Art Collection.
The ashes of the first Chancellor, Charles Wallace Wurth, were scattered in this restful location.
*(Interview with Tom Bass, SMOCM Monumental Vol 3, March 1998).
Main Building (map ref. K15)
10. Tom BASS
Tom Bass: Falconer (1955) detail
1054 x 426 cms
Commissioned for the façade of Main Building c. 1953; installed 1955
UNSW S 1955/0267 082042
Falconer was the first work of art commissioned by the University for placement on its first permanent building. In the years after World War II, public commissions on this scale were rare, except in the case of war memorials, so it would have been an exciting time for an artist to be involved in bringing art to public places.
Despite "University of Technology" being the intended name for the new institution, Tom Bass suggested his sculpture could convey a far wider vision than simply that of technology. This was precisely the idea Professor Philip Baxter had in mind, as he had been worried about the connotations of the proposed name.
Tom Bass found his inspiration in Herbert Read's poem The Falcon and the Dove. As an analogy for the conflict between Beauty and the Intellect, it offered the artist some powerful images from which to draw. Bass envisaged the Horse as the emblem of Industry, looking to the Falconer who is the Technologist. The Falcon represents Reason and the Tree: fertility, organic life, primary production; the Sun and the Rain Cloud are the Elements. The Sun is also a central linking symbol of Enlightenment. The Arrow points to new directions of Thought, and the Constellation symbolises Research. The Dove is Beauty. The form on which the Horse stands represents the Earth.
Before the sculpture was installed the University's name was changed to the University of New South Wales.
Physics Lawn (Southern Drive boundary) (map ref. M13)
11. Andrew ROGERS
Andrew Rogers: Screen (2002)
(born 1947, Australia)
Bronze, cast (1/1)
250 x 230 x 20 cms
Presented by the artist through the Australian Governments Cultural Gifts Program, 2006
UNSW S 2006/0999 110719
Andrew Rogers is a sculptor who concerns himself with the land. His massive geoglyphs, created of local stone by teams of volunteers in vast desert spaces around the globe, attest to this preoccupation. According to Rogers "they form a unique set of drawings upon the Earth".
In Screen he appears to have worked in reverse, seemingly reinterpreting topographic diagrams; rendering them as disconnected slabs then overlaying them, one upon the other, to create this bronze relief of abstracted contours and hollows. The geographic references continue in the sculpture's colouration: one side is patinated an intense turquoise as if suggesting the Earth's formation beneath the oceans, while the verso replicates the green and ochre of dry land.
By inverting the whole to create a free-standing screen Rogers requires the viewer to question their perception of landscape.
Dalton Building - Cafe (map ref. G12)
12. Douglas ANNAND
Douglas Annand: Untitled (1958) detail
Glass mosaic tiles
four panels: 367.5 x 568 cms
UNSW DA 1958/0588 052144
The Dalton Building mosaics are some of the last examples of 1950s architectural decoration remaining in Sydney, as the majority of buildings from this era have been demolished. It is extremely fortunate these panels were included in the AICCM National Inventory of Outdoor Sculptures, Monuments and Cultural Material (1997).
After standing for many years open to the elements these important mosaics were conserved and restored in 1998, when the undercroft was enclosed. The mosaics are now appreciated as a distinctive interior feature of a popular lower campus café.
The artist, Douglas Annand was a graphic designer, painter, illustrator and sculptor. Some of his major commissions include the massive mural for Wilson Hall at the University of Melbourne, the Celestial Comet wall at Sydney International Airport, the aquatic mural for the ex-P&O Liner House and the constellation mural at Mobil House, Melbourne. Annand won the Sir John Sulman Award for his work in 1941, 1947 and 1951.
University Mall (map ref. H10)
13. Anne FERGUSON
Anne Ferguson: Waterfall (1977)
(born 1939 Australia)
190 x 67 cms
Carved in situ at the northern side of Anzac Parade Gate and presented by the artist, 1977
(relocated 1998, 2010 and 2012)
UNSW S 1977/0024 082126
During 1976 and 1977 at the Northern side of Anzac Parade Gate, Anne Ferguson created Waterfall in situ, kindly donating her time and skills, and a two-tonne piece of pink Tarana granite from a quarry near Orange in NSW.
In Australia at this time, it was rare for women sculptors to work in stone. By keeping to University session times, Ferguson gave staff and students the opportunity to see such an artist at work and to witness the emergence of Waterfall over 6 months. Carving vertical lines around the granite column she created places for rainwater to flow, in the same way "the wind and the rain carves grooves into the rocks in the bush".
Due to various lower campus developments Waterfall was removed from the vicinity of Anzac Parade Gate in 2012. Its new position at the eastern end of the lower University Mall was chosen because it best re-created the work's original setting: beside ivy-covered brick walls within fig tree plantings.
The Sir Anthony Mason Garden (map ref. G9)
14. Kate CULLITY
Kate Cullity: Seeing the Wood for the Trees (2007)
(born 1956, Australia)
Seeing the wood for the trees (2007)
Mild steel, concrete, granite, plantings
550 x 2500 x 1000 cms
Winner of the 2nd UNSW Sculpture Commission Competition, 2006
Commissioned for The Sir Anthony Mason Garden, with assistance from the U Committee and UNSW Faculty of Law, 2007
UNSW S 2007/1011 110732
In her winning proposal, South Australian artist, Kate Cullity, wrote: "Sir Anthony Mason's career exemplifies a great capacity for lateral, clear, rationale; an ability to creatively reinterpret precedent and apply new meaning. Like the forest that is closed to the eye but open to movement, Mason has the ability to "see the wood for the trees", to be able to navigate through what appears, at first, to be dense and opaque."
She envisioned the garden installation as a "forest of vertical, tapered, rusted, mild-steel forms arranged to allow a multitude of experiences of opaqueness and transparency." And Cullity has achieved this by planting 17 of these forms of various heights, embellished with lazer-cut perforations in patterns derived from the microscopic cellular structure of tree trunks, amid selected climbers and ground cover.
Pool Lawn (map ref. D4)
15. Geoffrey IRELAND
Geoffrey Ireland: The bridge (1981)
(born 1948, Australia)
The bridge (1981)
Stainless steel, welded
187 x 596 x 276 cms
Presented by the Monomeeth Association upon the retirement of Prof. Sir Rupert Myers (Vice-Chancellor and Principal 1969-1981) with assistance from the Visual Art Board of the Australia Council, 1981
UNSW S 1982/0112 082182
Traditionally sculpture has been placed on a single plane and generally on a flat surface. Ireland chose to challenge this placement by creating a work requiring a sloping site, so that it would emerge from the incline and move downwards, thus involving itself with the landscape.
The bridge was originally sited on a grassy embankment at the top of Library Road outside the Electrical Engineering building, but the construction of the John Niland Scientia necessitated the sculpture's removal in 1997.
Site-specific works can be very difficult to relocate, but happily this was not the case for The bridge. When the artist was asked to approve the new location on the Pool Lawn, he confided that it had been his first choice in 1981 when the sculpture was commissioned.