Farewell to May Barrie – A truly original Australian Sculptor

Posted: January 30, 2015 / News


May Barrie (Voorwinden) renowned Australian stone sculptor for over 75 years, died peacefully at age 96 on 18th December 2014.

To celebrate the remarkable life of sculptor May Barrie, the family invite all friends, supporters and associates to a memorial day at her home, farm and studio. There will be food, wine, stout (of course) and tributes:

TIME               from midday

DATE             Saturday, 7 February 2015

LOCATION     “Callemondah” 761 Calderwood Road, Albion Park, NSW.

Please contact Tori de Mestre for any enquiries: 0458 566 118 or [email protected]



Born in 1918 Barrie spent her early childhood living with her family on the North Coast of NSW then during her early school days the Barrie family moved to Duntroon in Canberra. Her father believed in the education of women, and so she moved to Sydney to enrol at East Sydney Tech in 1938. She was inspired by sculpture classes held by Lyndon Dadswell who had been teaching at the School for only 6 months and later became head of the sculpture department. Dadswell encouraged his students in carving into wood and stone.

When the 2nd World War was declared, Dadswell enrolled, as did Barrie’s father. Barrie’s sister was left to look after the family farm in her father’s absence, and on her sister’s death in 1941, Barrie returned to Canberra to look after the family property.

Barrie met and married a Dutch serviceman Willem (Wim) Voorwinden, and had four children. In a war-devastated Holland, Barrie didn’t see much sculpture but remembered a work by Lipchitz and was introduced to Persian rugs and antique furniture for the first time. This is one of her passions and she collected rugs, early furniture, jewellery and fabric over many years from many different cultures. Barrie travelled extensively and this was essential to feed her creativity and draw inspiration.

After Holland, they sailed on to South Africa but decided not to stay as they couldn’t accept an apartheid system so they returned to Australia. Barrie’s mother sold the family property in 1950 and Barrie and Wim bought ‘Callemondah’, a small timber cottage on a dry paddock south of Wollongong in Calderwood. Over the next ten years the making of Callemondah was their major project – rebuilding the house in local stone, creating a studio, and landscaping.

Barrie had an almost romantic relationship with nature and her home, which is was magical place, set into the hills and half way up a very dramatic Illawarra escarpment. She opened her workshop and home to other sculptors and her wonderful works are dotted around the property.

In 1958 Barrie met the sculptor Margel Hinder and joined the newly formed (1951) Society of Sculptors and Associates, based in Sydney. Great friendships developed with fellow sculptors. Barrie’s first Sydney exhibition, of small works, was in 1958.

In the early 60’s she moved into abstraction, allied to the ‘truth to materials’ creed which had previously dominated British sculpture. She continued to do representational work but mostly moved to the non-representational. Her work extended the creative process of nature. She gave a sense of life to an object, in that we can always see her hand, evidence of the quarry blasting process, the grinder, or chisel. You can see her personal response to the stone itself.

By 1966 Barrie’s work had increased in scale and confidence and she submitted a major three piece work ‘lunar aspirations’ in Moruya granite to the Transfield prize which was held in Sydney in Hyde Park. She very much enjoyed the success of the show which exhibited sculpture in an outdoor situation. This work was acquired by the National Capital Development Commission as public sculpture for Canberra whilst another five piece marble group ‘andromeda 1967’ was purchased by the NSW Department of Health and moved to Wollongong University.

During the 60’s Barrie held two solo exhibitions, one in Wollongong and one in Canberra. The work she produced during this period was quite tough, weathered feeling, and rugged.

In 1970 she was invited to exhibit at Habitat Gallery, Adelaide, in association with the Adelaide Festival. The Adelaide exhibition was expensive and was not financially successful. It was about this time that she decided to establish her own gallery at ‘Callemondah’ which apart from one exhibition at Bonython Galleries in Sydney in 1976 has remained the sole outlet for her work. Barrie’s work is very well known to a large circle of dealers, curators and collectors, who have been visiting her farm for decades.

In 2009 Barrie was invited to exhibit in Sculpture by the Sea, Bondi and that same year was thrilled to receive the Balnaves Prize for her sculpture titled “Time and Tide” (1996) which is now permanently installed at Mrs Macquarie’s Chair, Art Gallery Road, Sydney. Barrie also exhibited in Sculpture by the Sea, Bondi in 2010 and 2011 with another of her works from these shows in a major private collection in New Zealand.

It was a privilege and pleasure to work with May, who added much to our exhibitions and was a cheeky delight.





May Barrie with her sculpture ‘time and tide granite monolith II‘, which received the 2009 Balnaves Foundation Sculpture Prize.

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