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Not quiet public art?

Artist unknown. Rock cairn, 2013

Artist unknown. Rock cairn, 2013

Not far from where I live is a narrow strip of bushland sandwiched between two neighbouring suburbs. It’s criss-crossed with fire trails, punctuated with sandstone bluffs and the remnants of a once enthusiastic creek. In many ways it’s an archetypal piece of Australian bush and lately it’s become the site for some very interesting public art.

Over the last couple of months a series of rock cairns have arrived. These are not your average rock cairn; neither marking the way nor signalling pinnacles conquered.

Far from it. These rock cairns are sculptures; pieces of sandstone stacked atop each other with deft mastery. They are truly site specific; sometimes nestled in a hollow, or stacked beside a tree stump bending in concrete mimicry, another wading knee deep in water. Always standing sentinel—calling our attention to both site and material. Bringing our minds into the present.

Some are stauesque; buttressed with chunks of rock, others willowy and stacked like a house of cards. There’s a baby one; she squats at the bottom of a gully, stacked with round, smooth stones and is crowned with a pebble no larger than my thumb nail.

These public sculptures suggest the peripatetic wanderings of artist in nature. They are truly, quietly public art. They appeared without fan fare, without banners or media releases—they exist without environmental monitoring, labels or curatorial statement. They evoke for me the Lascaux painters, huddled, collecting their ochre candidates and stopping, quietly squatting to paint.


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