It’s no secret I’m no aficionado of art. I don’t often see what others gasp over, nor do I always appreciate what the enthusiastic “oohs” and “aaahs” are about. But what’s not to love strolling through Manly’s glorious Q Station pondering sculptures which mystify and provoke?
Co-founder of Les Sculptures Refusées, (LSR) Tania McMurty, was my guide, talking me through artworks rejected by Bondi’s iconic Sculpture By The Sea, now proudly installed among the bushland and breathtaking views of Sydney’s harbour.
Imagine the delicious irony triggered at the very start, when bamboozled by seven 140 cm yellow towers, I learned Sarah Fitzgerald’s Crossing was inspired by pedestrian crossings, something very close to my heart since taking up a retirement job as a lollipop lady at a Manly school. Here was a distinct reminder of my daily responsibilities, albeit in yellow not white, completely lost on me at first glance.
Then there was Addiction by Andre Braun. Decorative doorways? Nah, smartphones. Colourful beehives? Nup, sea anemones by Simon Reece. There was a happy dance over award-winning Akira Kamada’s Requiem when I guessed the concept with no assistance from the QR Code, only to be stumped by Rosemary Stratchen’s Inner Beauty. Never would have guessed it, and no, I’m not telling.
LSR was initiated by Tania a couple of years ago, after she was rejected again from Sculpture By The Sea.
“You put a lot of energy into getting your art exhibited and the constant rejection just wears you down,” she explained. “I got a bee in my bonnet and wanted to do something like the Salon des Refusés for the Archibald, but with sculpture.”
With two of her sculptures A Terrible Beauty and The Fragility of Peace already permanently displayed at the Q Station’s Wharf Precinct, she approached them with her “crazy” idea.
“When they agreed I had to scramble around and cold-call people who I thought may have been rejected. That was a challenge.”
En route, she recruited help from Simon Hodgson, tossed by Bondi last year after enjoying a decade of inclusion, and there had to be an air of triumph when LSR debuted featuring seven artists and 11 pieces while Sculpture of the Sea was cancelled because of COVID,
The number of entries more than doubled this year, with 20 artists exhibiting 23 pieces, including Orest Keywan (Eastern Gate and Tamerlane –with thanks to Phillip) who has exhibited with Sculpture by the Sea every year since 1998, winning it twice, until this year’s rejection.
Among my favourites was Dean Winter’s Fission Chips, pretty self explanatory with a fishnet made of discarded electrical cables surrounded by waste, while After Chinati by this year’s LSR’s winner Anna Dudek, is there just to be enjoyed as rainbow colours splash through Perspex cubes.
Tania’s Shadow Lines requires a lot more thought. The rustic construction of burnt timber and steel represent her earliest memories of growing up in Northern Island, the trauma and dislocation wrought by images of burnt out buses and cars, while the shadows thrown out represent the divisiveness.
“Sometimes, your hands know more than your head does. You can have an idea and think about it all you like, but it’s not until you’re actually making it that the idea evolves. I got a stack of recycled hardwood before I had any sense of what I was going to do with it. I started playing with it in my driveway, stood all the pieces up, looked at them, then would draw, go back and move them. I had lots of bruises and splinters.”
While it would take just an hour to follow the sculpture trail, take your time. Apart from absorbing the surrounding natural beauty and historic landmarks Q Station offers, half the fun of Les Sculptures Refusées is arguing over what you’re looking at. And that can take a while.