M Snape 1984 'Sydney, City of Sculpture' (Detail)
This talk (below) was given at The Decade Club Dinner for patrons of Sculpture by The Sea 2012. Because of the positive reception to the idea of The Sydney School of Sculpture, I have undertaken this blog. I look forward to the discussion that follows.
Decade Club Talk by Michael Snape on 5th September, 2012
For about 15 years, a group of sculptors met for dinner once a month. For what seems like ten years we met here, at Buon Ricordo's, to discuss important issues around sculpture. We were The Sculptor's Supper Club.
People marvelled at our ability to be so consumed and persistent but for most of us, we looked forward to the dinners, to the company, to the food, and to the discussions we had.
Sometimes we would select a topic to which we would singly make contributions. At other times there were slide shows of trips. We had guest speakers. We had agreements and disagreements. No blood was ever shed but there were evictions and retirements. Being that the dinners went for so long, some of us died.
To set the record straight, the idea of the dinners started immediately following an exhibition titled Sculptors at The Table, organised by me at the Crafts Council Gallery in 1989. I was initially not part of the dinner group. I was perceived to be not serious or good enough, but I was subsequently invited after protesting about my exclusion.
I have felt both pleasure and pain at being on the margin of the group. One has a need to belong and also, perhaps, a stronger need to escape and to find a certain identification with principles, repulsive.
As a sculptor I have been identified in a broader artistic community as one of the steel sculptors. The sculptors have identified me as other than that.
This perspective of being at one and without simultaneously, has given me the ability to do as no-one has previously done, as far as I know, which is to formally identify the species of sculpture made here in Sydney over the last forty years. *
The Sydney School of Sculpture needs a name. I propose it be called just that, The Sydney School of Sculpture. In being named it might be better understood and I would leave it to others to describe the true nature of it. The naming of it allows it to be seen in the context of its time. The naming of it is a declaration, an outing if you will, to liberate it from the shadows and the shame of a perceived irrelevance that an absence of acknowledgement or naming inevitably brings.
For the vast audience that Sculpture by The Sea has attracted, its core has been the Sydney School of Sculpture. As much as David has done for sculpture at Sculpture by The Sea it would not have been possible without the engine, without the momentum of The Sydney School of Sculpture.
It may ultimately prove that the movement's edge was the most fertile part of it. I would for my sake hope that it is so and that the core of it was somehow hollow. The administrators of history are sluggish or asleep but I am sure that they will ultimately reveal what it is that The Sydney School of Sculpture is and or, was.
What remains is the ultimate reality, which is that for a period of time, at least as long as the movements of impressionism or abstract expressionism, the Sydney School of Sculpture has prospered. We will be forever feeble if we do not show our hand with this naming. Otherwise I am sure we will quietly carry on as we have always done.
In naming it I suppose is to bring the possibility of an end to it, but it has come to the stage where that risk must be taken.
In this context of longevity of the Decade Club, this naming seems fitting.
* Following the dinner I was alerted or reminded by Ron Robertson-Swann that Harry Nicolson had named the group in 1976, so my claim to have been the first to identify the group was not entirely justified.