Identifying The Sydney School

Introductory Remarks Give Rise to The Presence of The Sydney School

In the process of my identification of Sydney School of Sculpture, I hope to clarify what ultimately constitutes Sydney School. While the rules for adherence to SSOS are strict, they are nevertheless quite open.

Elizabeth Farrelly's recent article in the SMH struck a chord. Her description (SMH, May 2, 2013) of ‘a ten metre section at the centre of the Devonshire Street tunnel where the air never moves,’ described a virtual sculpture . The photographs below illustrates as best I can what the words describe.The work draws me for particular reasons, which may come to represent qualities which other future works nominated, possess. Following is an extract from that piece.

"There is a 10-metre section at the centre of the Devonshire Street tunnel where the air never moves.

I formed this thesis one morning after following a fluoro-topped railway worker as he swabbed blood from the tunnel floor. Weeks later, despite the glum hordes who oscillate daily through, the antiseptic reek remained, strong as day one - and no, not through obsessive swabbing, since the blood also stayed.

A city lives or dies on the quality of its public spaces. Be they hard or leafy, accidental or designed, breeze-washed, grimy or secluded, a city's spaces make plain the delights and addictions of its citizenry. Together, the rhythms, pace and texture of this connective tissue frame the dance of the demos.

Public space is also a form of tax; redistributing the goodies.

Yet the Devonshire Street tunnel, more used than the Opera House, is like some chain store brandy snap. Cream goes in both ends but never quite reaches the middle. What does that say about us?"

Elizabeth Farrelly, Sydney Morning Herald 2 May 2013

I am drawn to the very particular dimensions of the work, framed as they are by the moving air either side of the still air. For its airlessness, it breathes air. While quite expansive and open, it is well constrained by not only its length but also by its inevitable height and width, being determined by the dimensions of the tunnel. This work has very particular sculptural rather than architectural dimensions. It is pleasing to apprehend a work which expanded arms cannot envelop! While it stands as a free standing work, it is also charmingly interactive by inviting viewers to walk through the middle of it. It transforms the space in which it stands, elevating what may have otherwise been an ordinary pedestrian tunnel into a concrete idea, with unique qualities. That the work exists as an idea of being a cavity born of the space created by the cream not meeting in the middle further enriches the work.

That one can walk through such a dense work, as if it does not exist, that is virtually not there, is also quite appealing. This quality does not necessarily mount an argument against  future identified works which may have a more pronounced physicality. The work is not only constituted of air and dimensions. It also possesses a random and changing density of mostly human bodies. These exist in stark contrast to the still air. No matter how much they may come to push and nudge the air through which they move with their varying density of natures, the air remains fixed. Each viewer adds to the work by leaving behind some of their exhaled air. Being as oxygen-depleted as it is, none of it is removed in their passage.

I think what I am looking for, or waiting to have revealed to me, are values which I could not have imagined.

Ultimately I believe works that satisfy identification as Sydney School show signs of life.

From experience we have learnt that life always takes us by surprise, so perhaps this is where we begin.

10 metre Section of Devonshire Street Tunnel