Monday, 29 September 2014

Australia's more than kangaroos and great beaches...

Published: February 1, 2008 on Helium

Australia is a lot more than kangaroos with weird names like Big Reds and Greys to wallabies and potoroos or "rat kangaroos". Australia is far more than a string of exciting beaches along her coastlines from the Sapphire Coast in NSW, to Queensland's Gold Coast, to Cable Beach in the far north west of Broome. These are the usual tourist icons. But Australia is also a world of unusual art in unusual places. Try an outdoor art discovery tour!

Broken Hill, in western NSW, is one of Australia's oldest inland cities. It has become a symbol of Australia's outback. A drive here from the capital cities on the east coast is a great way to experience the panorama of changing Australian countrysides. The longest but most scenic route is from Sydney in NSW. Travel from the wonders of Sydney Harbour, across the magic of the Blue Mountains and then drive across the plains to Broken Hill. Melbourne offers the shorter route across the Victoria/NSW border in Murray River country. (Have a ride on a paddlesteamer while you're there!)

Broken Hill is surrounded by desert scrub and red earth. Annual rainfall is about 23cm. It has a strong population centre (about 25,000 in the township) because of the huge silver-lead-zinc deposits discovered there late in the 1800s. The centre of town is dominated by a massive slag heap; what was once the "Broken Hill" has been mined away over time. On top of the slag heap is Broken Earth caf, the Mining Memorial and the Visitors Centre.

Amazingly, here you will find 20 galleries including works by the renowned Australian painter Pro Hart. But just outside Broken Hill is the most incredible gallery of all. Silent, sculptured figures watch the desert and, in the setting sun on burning plains, they look eerily like legendary sphinxes. In 1993, a group of sculptors pooled their skills to create this art in the desert. The artists involved in the 1993 Sculpture Symposium were: 2 from Mexico (one an Aztec Indian); 2 from Syria; 3 from Georgia (in the Caucasus); and 5 Australians. The Australians included 2 Bathurst Islanders and an Aboriginal Broken Hill artist, Badger Bates.

And there is one more piece of quirky art in the desert gallery of Broken Hill. 3 teachers decided to build the Big Bench, right in the desert. It is like a huge park bench, taller than the average human and wide enough to seat at least 10 people. But you have to climb the bench to sit on it!

In Victoria, you can find art in the mountains or on a beach! William Ricketts created a rainforest sanctuary in his mountain home in the Dandenongs. Gracing all the walkways are "indigenous spirits" of the land. Many are carved into and out of the rocks. The atmosphere of peace here can only be described as magical! (More of his work can be found in the Seawinds Gardens atop Arthurs Seat, overlooking Port Phillip Bay!) And, on Rye Beach on the Mornington Peninsula each year, a sand sculpture competition is held. Each year, sand sculptures are created around a theme, attracting sculptors from around the world. Last year's theme was Myths and Legends.

In Western Australia, on a salt lake, north of the goldfields town of Kalgoorlie, stands 51 figures. These figures are the statues of Lake Ballard. They are black abstracted steel figures standing in a 7 square kilometre area of Lake Ballard. The statues were created in 2003 by UK artist Antony Gormley, as a part of the 50th anniversary of the Perth International Festival.

The 51 statues feature the residents of the town of Menzies. A body scan taken of the Menzies residents created a sculpture of the same height, but with only one third of the body volume. According to 'Inside Australia', the entire process of casting one figure took 40 hours of labour. A team of 18 volunteers took four days to install the statues on the lake working in temperatures of 46C.

So, if you'd like to travel Australia, with a particular theme in mind, try an art discovery tour and enjoy the changing landscape of the outdoors at the same time.

(And then there's the "fairy tree" in Melbourne's Fitzroy Gardens, or the Yengo Sculpture Garden at Mt Wilson in the Blue Mountains, or the outdoor art festivals at Caboolture and Mt Tambourine in Queensland)


On my Hub Pages

Australian Desert Art 1 - "Stone Souls and a Big Bench" - Broken Hill, NSW
Artwork in the Enchanted Adventure (aka Maze) Garden at Arthurs Seat
art of Funny, Weird and Wacky "kingdoms" in Australia

On my Panoramio

Montalto vineyard, Red Hill + art work
Egyptian style monument at Point Nepean
art of a natural rocky arch at London Bridge Ocean Beach - Portsea

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