Public Art Like Nowhere Else
I’ve written before of how I’m a big fan of street art or urban art especially when it brightens up what would otherwise be a dingy laneway or when it shines a light on otherwise unused areas of blank urban wall space.
The other art that catches my eye when travelling are sculptures or statues. Not so much the historic statues of explorers or founding fathers sitting or standing in posed positions but rather the more modern takes on statues that are dedicated to citizens of a community or a way of life in a certain region.
Take for instance this bronze statue of a 1950s surfer in Yallingup. This 2.3 metre statue recognizes the origins of surfing in Western Australia. Reportedly the birthplace of surfing in WA, Yallingup became popular in the early to mid-1950s when people from the capital city of Perth were drawn to the area for its big waves. This sculpture was created by Cerys Allerton with the surfboard shaped by Mark Ogram of Yahoo Surfboards.
In this foreshore area you will also find these three unique surfboard shaped steel outdoor showers to spray the salt off after a day in the water. These were designed by landscape architect Bruce Thomas and are a very nice nod to the surf culture in the area.
Other statues we found in our travels through WA that pay homage to the local history included this one in Broome. This statue of a deep sea pearl diver pays tribute to the brave souls who founded the pearling industry in Broome. No visit to Broome is complete without visiting the Broome Historical Museum where you can find out in depth information on the harsh early days of pearling. It really gives you an appreciation of the towns multicultural past. The plaque near the statue in town reads:
‘A tribute to all those who sailed the sea and dived in search of pearl shell. Their endeavours and sacrifices laid the foundation of Broome, Australia’s first multicultural town. A community to which they would return to enrich at dives end.’
Another sculpture that speaks to our country’s multicultural past is in Wyndham in the far north of WA. With an eclectic mix of Indigenous people, Chinese traders, grocers and farmers, Afghan cameleers and European settlers (sparked by the gold rush in the mid 1880s) the port and pastoral industry of Wyndham was built. This silhouette sculpture of camels and Afghan handler can be found as you drive into town and is a tribute to the importance of their work and pioneering spirit in the area.
As with the Afghan cameleer sculpture some of our statues pay honour and respect to the importance of animals in our country’s landscape. For instance in Dampier WA there is a statue for Red Dog. This animal, also known as the Pilbara wanderer, was legendary in this region in the 1970s. A red kelpie cross, he was known to many who lived in the area as he hitched rides and travelled throughout Western Australia’s north. He was a friend to many and obviously had many traits that earnt him his statue in the eyes of the locals, things like a wandering spirit, a true and loyal friend and a lover of the red dirt outback area he wandered.
Another brilliant animal sculpture is in Cervantes WA. This big fish sculpture acknowledges the importance of fishing in the town (a big lobster industry thrives here) and also to remind everyone to conserve fish stocks and appreciate the environment. It was designed and constructed by Murray Ford from local recycled agricultural materials. Another unmissable entrance to a town.
In Perth the animal themes keep going with quite a few kangaroos popping up in the city park of Stirling Gardens. The western grey kangaroos are so lifelike in the positions they are cast in. The bronze statues were created by Charlie Smith and Joan Walsh-Smith and show kangaroos drinking, alert and in flight.
In Perth we were also struck by the stunning entry sculpture for the Western Australian Botanic Garden. Paul Johnson and Gail Mason were the artists behind this impressive eight metre high structure of aluminium panels with copper and glass highlights. It was installed in 2016 and is called ‘Symbiotica’. Its design was inspired by the relationship between plants and insects.
And on Botanic Gardens, in the Adelaide Hills in South Australia you’ll find the Mount Lofty Botanic Garden. The gardens provide a beautiful natural backdrop to a series of eight plant themed artworks on a lakeside trail. They complement the natural beauty that surrounds them.
But being Australia, humour is never far below the surface and shows up nowhere better than in Cowaramup in WA. Originating from a CowParade in the Margaret River region of WA in 2010, this standout piece formed part of this International Public Art Event. Ron Roozen’s piece named ‘Free as a Cow’ stands 20 metres in the air and can proudly be ‘a cow for the rest of the herd to look up to!’ You’ll find this beauty in Pioneer Park.
A shining beacon to all cows.