Compared to other countries, Australians can seem a bit sculpture mad. Many cities and towns boast any number of public art sculptures, from the hero on a horse variety to modern and abstract to the utmost in whimsical. War memorials to generals and combat soldiers, Australian explorers, rugged miners, Australian dignitaries and celebrities, Australian indigenous animals and just about anything else are honoured in sculpture. From the country’s earliest days, Australians made note of important events as well as common items used in their daily lives by creating sculptures. Today, one can see sculptures everywhere in Australia’s cities, harbours, public squares, parks, gardens and buildings.
Famous Australians are honoured in numerous statues and memorials, as are adventurers, explorers, ship’s captains, government figures, kings, queens, governors and regular, everyday people. Cats, dogs, cows, dolphins, penguins, wombats, kangaroos, pigs, swans, geese, horses, fish and koala bears are all depicted in sculpture. Bright pink fiberglass pigeons dot the trees around Melbourne in a whimsical touch. Abstract, modern statues bedeck many public spaces, annoying or entrancing passers-by. A giant potato, trout, banana and pineapple reveal that food received equal statuary attention. Statues of saints, sinners, street performers, politicians, naval captains, businessmen who brought their own lunch, pioneer women and children, famous authors, boys and girls and people historical or mythological abound in Australian parks and public spaces. Many statues reveal a deep and delightful sense of the absurd, while others depict a solemn or romantised interpretation of historical people and events.
Abstract representations of philosophical concepts are not lacking either with names such as Time and Tide, Distant Conversations, Beyond the Ocean of Existence, Cultural Rubble and My Mind. Then there’s Goodbye Cruel World I’m Off to Join the Circus, but I Missed the Last Train, which, as it happens, is a simple statue of a clown near a public bench in a Sculpture Park in Mundaring, Western Australia. Australia, then, thoroughly embraces sculpture as art, as honoured memorial, as social commentary, as philosophical statement, as humour or simply as decoration. From a talking rubbish bin to the finest classical war memorial, Australian sculpture leaves no stone unturned in its three-dimensional representations of life.