Friday, 29 April 2005

Statuary Friday #6

Ok, here's my project: or perhaps it's a meme: though I doubt anything qualifies as a meme if only one person is onto it. Well, anyway, every Friday I do a different piece of sculpture selected from the vast numbers littered around lovely Melbourne. My only criteria are: it must be outdoors, it must be more or less permanent, and it must be in a publically accessible location. (Suggestions, especially for sculpture in the 'burbs, are very welcome.)

Continuing with last week's theme of somewhat crap public art:

#6 The Pathfinder

Queen Victoria Gardens, St. Kilda Rd, City (opposite NGV International)

This is a bronze figure of a nude man, a bit bigger than life-size, and it is the work of John Robinson, an English sculptor specialising in sculpting knots and something called "sport art." It's one of several casts of this particular sculpture, and it's been in Queen Victoria Gardens since the mid-70s. According to the plaque, it's on loan to "the corporation of the City of Melbourne" from its owners, Conzinc Riotinto, which (perhaps unfairly) makes me inclined to hate it even more than I do already.

The local name for this sculpture (at least, the polite local name) is 'the hammer thrower'. And Melburnians will know just how inappropriate a name that is, because even though it is meant to depict a guy whirling round about to let go one of those weighted balls on the end of a chain or rope, as in the Olympic sport, the rope and ball part is missing. So what's left is just this off-balance fellow, on one foot, about to land on his arse, head thrown back, stretching out his arms in a very weird unnatural way. Tourists circle around the sorry little flower bed he stands in, scratching their heads. It's an embarrassment.

Here's a link to a photograph of another version of the same sculpture which still has the ball and rope part. Not much of an improvement, really, but at least you can see what it' s meant to be.

For a while there in the early 1990s I was going to uni across the road, and the ball and rope would sometimes be in place and sometimes not. I suppose it fell prey to one thousand undergraduate scavenger hunts and late night drunken office-worker stumblings to the tramstop across the gardens. Dorian says that his brother, who used to work with the landscaping team responsible for this park, for a while had the duty of detaching the rope and ball at Friday knockoff time and putting it back on Monday mornings. Somewhere along the way the park authorities stopped paying for replacement stolen ball-and-rope sections made of bronze and instead resorted to a bit of dowel and a softball, both spraypainted grey and verdigris green. It appears they no longer bother even with this. Can't say I blame them.

Much of the statuary in Victoria Gardens is weird and ugly, but the Pathfinder is surely the jewel of the collection.


Brownie said...

Another statue which 'gets the treatment' is Tommy Bent's outstretched hand on the highway at Brighton near Bay St. a large beerbottle used to be the standard addition.
Not strictly sculpture but I have always been fond of the George & Annis horsetroughs which are everywhere (One on Hampton St & Halifax St Brighton) and I wonder if there is a Master List of their locations and if anyone cares about them.

Le Driver said...

The only nice photo I think I've ever taken was of the water-nymph sculpture in the pond at the QV gardens there. Worrying thing... I was about 10 at the time.