A sculpture by UNSW Art & Design fine art lecturer and award-winning contemporary artist Peter Sharp inspired by the rugged landscape and complex ecosystem of UNSW’s Fowlers Gap Arid Research Station has been unveiled in celebration of the Station’s 50th Anniversary.
The sculpture features recycled wood from Walcha near Tamworth and a 1.5 tonne, 1.4 billion year-old stone that was transported from Fowlers Gap, UNSW’s 39,000-hectare research station 112 km from Broken Hill.
The University holds a lease in perpetuity on the station, which was established in 1966 and is used for teaching and research by University’s faculties of Science and Art & Design. Students make regular field excursions to the property.
“Fowlers Gap gave me my whole practice,” says Sharp, a celebrated landscape artist who has made 28 trips to Fowlers Gap since he first visited as a postgraduate student in 1991.
The lecturer coordinates the BA Fine Arts annual field trips to the arid research station which has seen 650 students draw, paint and experience the area’s unique environment over the past 25 years. The students work on preliminary sketches and undertake research which is then developed into a public exhibition on their return to Sydney.
“Fowlers Gap has given students space and time to be alone with their art, to really immerse themselves in the landscape,” Sharp says.
“It’s like an open-air studio. You are stripped back to your own resources. It’s just you and the landscape,” he says, adding that the remote location helped him develop different drawing techniques.
“I discovered a way of drawing there that you can rub in and rub out — you’re miles from anywhere so you can’t go and buy more paper or supplies. You just have to work with what you’ve got.”
When The Things You Pick Up 2 was first exhibited at the Art Gallery of NSW it was accompanied by 34 drawings that are now part of the Gallery’s permanent collection.
Sharp says the drawings were made at Fowlers Gap within view of the stone “which acted as a kind of witness to the act of drawing”.
He describes the wooden sculpture resting on the stone as a metaphor for how the Fowlers Gap landscape has been activated and studied for more than 50 years.
“When you travel around the property you will often find manmade objects that are the remnants of experiments or scientific studies — I wanted the viewer to experience this visual conundrum with the natural and manmade.”
The Things You Pick Up 2 has now been installed between the Chemistry and Business Schools at UNSW’s Kensington campus, as a reminder of UNSW Science’s 50-year relationship with Fowlers Gap, while sections of the 34 drawings have been redesigned and fixed to north facing windows of the Chemistry building.
“It feels wonderful to have the sculpture on site,” says Sharp. “It’s like a bridge between the faculties of Science and Art & Design; so many people from different parts of the University worked together to make this happen.”
Former Dean of UNSW Science and now Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Education) Professor Merlin Crossley; Gaby Caus, UNSW Science Infrastructure Manager; Keith Leggett, Director Fowlers Gap Research Station; Idris Murphy, former UNSW Art & Design lecturer and high profile artist, all played an integral role in making sure the sculpture was installed on UNSW’s Kensington campus.
The Things You Pick Up 2 is presented by the artist through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program, 2016 with assistance from UNSW Science and UNSW Art & Design.
More on Fowlers Gap Arid Research Station can be found here.