1998 Bondi Exhibition Catalogue Essay: An Essay on Sculpture by Tom Bass

Posted: October 8, 1998 / Bondi Exhibition Catalogue Essays, Essays

Laurens Tan, ‘Adapt Enforce XII’, Sculpture by the Sea, Bondi 1998. Photo Clyde Yee

The idea behind the event of Sculpture by the Sea deserves to be supported by all those who see sculpture as a significant part of the life of our society. In the exhibition, Sculpture by the Sea, sculpture is being seen in its rightful place. For so long, in Australia, sculpture has been relegated to and locked up in museums. Now it is being seen where it should be, under the blue sky in public places, close to the life of the community.

In Australia there is an abundance of light and space. We need sculpture to occupy and define those spaces and to reflect our light. This light has been likened to the light of Greece, which their sculpture reflected so splendidly.

I see Sculpture by the Sea as a positive sign that sculpture will take its proper place in the activities and the dynamic ferment of the life of the whole community. We need so much to celebrate and enrich the environment of our cities and towns, to create incidents in public places which will reconnect us with the things that raise our consciousness above the prosaic commerce of everyday lives.

We live in a world where we are constantly confronted with flickering ephemeral images and we need the things that are durable, that we can return to, to connect with another realm of thoughts and ideas, to enter into a world of imagination and dreams.

My friend the sculptor Lawrence Gundabuka has said this:

A people without their dreaming is lost,
The dreamtime is a parallel time to everyday time,
Sculpture is a way into the dreaming.

There are things that we need constantly to be aware of, there are values that we need to refresh in ourselves, things that are at the core of our society, that hold us together as a people, these things can be expressed as totemic emblems in sculpture. Albert Camus says it best for me in his essay, Man in Revolt:

“The greatest and most ambitious of all the arts, sculpture, attempts to fix in its three dimensions the fleeting figures of man to reunite the disorder of his movements in the unity of a great style. Sculpture pays not a little attention to resemblances (in fact it requires them), but it does not seek them above all else. What it has sought in the great epochs is the gesture, the expression, or the empty glances in the world. Its intention is not one of imitation, but of stylisation, to catch in one significant expression all the passing furore of the body and its infinite variations of attitude. Only then does it erect on the pediment above the tumultuous city, the model, the type, the perfect, immobile symbol which, for a moment, cools the incessant fever of man. The lover, robbed of love, can finally circle around the Greek Korai and gain for himself that which, in the body and visage of man, survives every degradation.”

Tom Bass, Sculptor

Tom Bass is one of Australia’s leading sculptors. He has contributed greatly to public sculpture in Australia and his work resides in many of the universities, churches and corporations of this country. The Tom Bass School of Sculpture has been running since 1974.

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