Laurence Edwards in Australia

On 23 December 2017 a container left Southampton Dock on the Hyperion bound for Sydney for an exhibition that would open in 4 months time in a space that had not yet been found.

120 days later, at 12 Mary Place, Paddington Sydney Laurence Edwards’s exhibition “Part of the landscape: Evolution and Exploration” opened. The context of the building could not be more appropriate. 12 Mary Place has a reputation that is now part of Australian artistic folklore. It was the riotous centre for exhibitions that included Brett Whiteley, Sidney Nolan through to shows of seminal indigenous artists Emily Kame Kngwarreye, Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri, Kathleen Petyarre and Billy Thomas. Formally a factory, boat warehouse and chocolate factory over a history dating back to 1916.

It’s heavy timber beams lent themselves immediately to the sculptures by Laurence Edwards. “Sylvan Man” perhaps taking up the most immediate residency by way of context with times and vines encircled within. It was also one of the first pieces to sell before the exhibition had even opened.

The gallery is open Wednesday to Sunday and the exhibition runs until the 6th May. So following a successful opening night on Saturday assisted by London Gin Makers Sipsmith and a Sunday packed with visitors.

It seemed a good idea to head out of Sydney on Monday and Tuesday to view the location of for Laurence’s “Catcher”. The context for Laurence of the landscape in Australia has become particularly apparent in the time that he has been shown on the continent. The first time was in 2013 in Melbourne, the following in 2015 when “Crouching Man III” was exhibited in Sculpture by the Sea where “Upsticks” also won the Macquarie Prize. For those not familiar with Laurence’s work, he is a sculptor and bronze caster. His artistic process is unique in that his artistic intervention occurs through the sculpting process into the Wax (the intermediary moment between clay and bronze) and then the bronze finishing- called chasing. At all points decisions can be made that inform the outcome of the sculpture and it is the resultant vitality for which Laurences’ work is best and increasingly widely recognised.

By the chance that only adventure can bring, we met philosophic wine makers Dan and Philip Shaw and as well as collectors of Laurence’s Sculpture – there are probably less than 50 in the entire country at the moment- whilst on travelling the Blue Mountains. Friends who would travelled to Sydney to hear Laurence talk on later that week.
On the way out of the Blue mountains we stopped to secure some works by Ros Auld for our forthcoming Australian exhibition and by Harrie Fascher, a sculptor and horsewoman who will be in our next show on Horses in 2019.

Meanwhile back in the gallery scene, interest amongst collectors was growing for Laurence’s works and we met over 30 who came to lunch in Melbourne to meet Laurence and hear the about some of the paths that He and his work had taken to get to this point. Who knew for example that the Creekmen (2008) – now something of a cult video in it own right – was originally a protest by Laurence about being excluded from an outdoor art exhibition. These orkish figures literally rising up out of the reeds with the tide to confront and lay siege to the show. Unsurprisingly they became something of the star attraction for his work and the start point for a remarkable commission that will shift cultural awareness in Suffolk and the context of art and the landscape.

Or that a series of miners heads, wrought in wax in intense sessions of observation would be the start point for a commission in Doncaster that would follow the curatorial equivalent of a coal seam to return to Australia and Broken Hill.
Laurence and I have travelled for over two weeks together on a tour of Australia’s cities and countryside. It has been fascinating to see how his work has evolved since last time it was presented here. The context seems so appropriate now. There is a rawness to the Australian landscape where adaptation is required to survive. It is a kind of vitalistic energy that is also implicit in Laurence’s works. When Laurence’s works are created it is often at the point of complete collapse of the sculpture, and by an act of rescue in transformation into bronze it brings with it a sense of reverence for the survivor.

The show runs until the 6th May at 12 Mary Place and then travels to 409 Malvern Road, South Yarra, Melbourne, VIC, 3141 Private view 12th May.

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