Perhaps more than any medium, sculpture has the chameleon ability to look as comfortable in the brightly lit white spaces of inner-city galleries as it does in the outdoors. But it is not until you descend into the Jurassic-era rainforest in the Blue Mountains that you begin to appreciate the impact natural light and soundscapes can have on how art is perceived and enjoyed.
Now in its seventh year, ‘Sculpture at Scenic World’ (until 13 May) has developed into a showcase for predominantly New South Wales artists to respond to the landscape with site-specific works – complete with the added constraints that come with ensuring no ecological footprint is left by any of the art.
Not surprisingly, this year a number of installations address our relationship with the environment, but in vastly different ways. Simon Reece’s Neutron Waste is a series of metallic-looking ceramic vesicles that bubble up from the forest floor; while Gary Deirmendjian’s UNDIGESTIBLE is deeply unsettling in its simplicity – household waste and hard rubbish scattered everywhere, some of it cling-wrapped to trees like cancerous forms.
Barbara Hamilton’s Casuarina Dreaming II sees a flock of enigmatic glossy black-cockatoos created using discarded umbrellas, shredded to form feathers and simultaneously referencing the fragility of their ecosystem and diminishing protection for the birds. As with Hamilton’s work, Mitchell Thomas and Bronwen Williams’s Quaver uses sound which both enhances and distinguishes the forest noise, while Paul Greedy’s kinetic sculpture Pulse provides a moment of aural magic.
Along the walk, works such as Rochelle Quantock’s Choking Hazard, comprising thousands of primary-coloured plastic blocks stacked like Lego up a tree trunk, or Nick Warfield’s statuesque rendition of an enormous owl made from parts of car bumper bars, announce their presence clearly.
Others, such as David Jensz’s hypnotising and fantastically well-executed Ripple, or Mark and Hannah Surtees’s Geronimo! (which took out the major award), a LED light threaded through rope to make a forest swing, meld with the landscape.
But what ties all works more clearly than theme or intent is the ever-changing light that filters through the forest canopy. In the morning, it acts like hundreds of coincidental spotlights, highlighting colours and forms in ways that make some works feel completely different when viewed after the sun has dipped behind the looming sandstone cliffs in the fading afternoon light.
Claire Stewart, Katoomba