'Continuum' Launch

A sculpture has to make a proposition. It has to speak on behalf of the time in which it is made. The artist carries the highest expectation of his community. He has the license to picture what it is to be alive, to show the degree of civilisation of which he or she is a part. A sculpture, by virtue of its place in the material world and in time is a bridge that carries the best values of the past with the hopes and uncertainty of the future.

I have had a serious opportunity here at Docklands with this sculpture. The Docklands area is full of history, but it is a new place as well. While we should not be arrogant about a special nature of our time, the first years of the millennium do seem to be to be a turning point. The twists and turns of the river here at Docklands are quite metaphoric.

I was commissioned by Bronwen Colman and Vicurban to make a piece that grew out of the multi figure compositions from my exhibition from that year here at Australian Galleries. We had in mind a piece that would reach up into the big sky and the figures could frolic and flicker there. The site seemed to offer an ideal context for the cut-out.

Circumstance often conspires against design. The prospect of an every five hundred year cyclone induced an unconceived opacity of the work. The sculpture evolved independently of expectation. Design and preconception often conspire against an easy growth of a sculpture and we needed to adapt to and accept changes as the fabrication process evolved. The beauty and challenge of sculpture is that material more often than not matches the volume of the artist's voice.

'Continuum' is essentially about the dance between people; the pleasure of weight and gravity, movement and rest, spatial relationships that grow out of human interaction. Our interconnectedness, the shapes that conspire out of those meetings are not often applied to sculpture. Western figurative sculpture has focussed on the heroic individual. Apart from depictions of war or religious narrative the multi-figure composition was more part of an Eastern tradition of art. Perhaps it is because we are acknowledging that, that we are part of Asia that I am able to devise such a picture now.

The statement I made before making the sculpture still stands, and I quote: "I first began to write these words when Docklands was emerging from its sleep; when tower blocks raked the skyline for the very first time; when memories of its former life still jostled in the minds of those who worked here on ships and wharves and sheds; when the wind and the bay and the sky would have the final say; when people first came from everywhere. Docklands was a far flung place and a stepping stone where journeys began and ended.

"Some time ago the inner city's outer limits burst and this place which always promised somewhere else was here and now, and full of life again. The changes and growth at Docklands impact on the community's sense of self and as a city undergoes change, the inhabitants undergo an internal shift: this is the continuum." End of quote.

We might have imagined a sculpture that was as big as this one is, to stand out more. For its scale and materiality we might have expected to be bowled over. This is not the case however. 'Continuum' is quiet and modest. It does not shout. It is not iconic. It’s not Take Away art. It does not burn into the retina; we are accustomed to being spoon fed with images. It has perhaps more like a presence which is absorbed into the landscape without fanfare.

I am pleased that 'Continuum' is quiet and in keeping with its namesake. I hope that the sculpture, rather than grab the community, slowly comes to be part of the fabric of the Docklands life. A sculpture of this dimension is always to some extent a collaboration. An artist has no voice without the trust of the patron. If there is any credit to be taken, Victoria should share that with me, with its history of serious support for sculpture. More specifically however, I would like to thank Bronwen Colman who had the confidence in me and my work and for her diligence and sensitivity throughout the project. I believe that Mark Haycox has created a sympathetic context for the sculpture. A site has been designed that will accommodate rather than repel time and age. Thanks to Owen Cavanough and Glenn Dixon who had the task of preparing a site where the sculpture would be stable and safe. I would especially like to thank Calbah who fabricated the work. Their practical and pragmatic work has brought the sculpture into the world with no loss of the spirit of the drawings and models and I think we should not take for granted, the miracle of construction, transport and erection. I would like to thank Lucy Vader for introducing me to an entirely new way of making sculpture which has opened numerous opportunities which includes 'Continuum' and finally my family and Jacqueline Gothe, who has made all this possible.

Michael Snape