A not-for-profit community art event in Dungog, NSW, is giving back in many ways to both the local community and Australia’s artists.

Story Ken Eastwood  Photo courtesy Sculpture on the Farm

A mountain biker slogs up a hill dotted with grey and spotted gums on Dungog Common. He’s watched by a small group gathered around a sinuous steel sculpture, installed the day before. While he goes on to ride and jump over some of the 22km of bike track in the 260ha common that was founded in the 1890s, the group will discuss artistic form as they visit other artworks in the park. 

Artist of this piece called Sowelu Two, Jen Mallinson, from Pambula, NSW, says she created it with corten steel, which should last forever. She treated it with a hydrochloric wash to create streaks that look like timber from a distance. Standing twice as high as her, it’s based on an ancient runic symbol that stands for wholeness, energy, life force and potential. “I’ve always loved organic forms, and my works have always been curvaceous,” Jen says. “I wanted to make a form that curved in every direction. It’s a nice size. My tools are large – I can manipulate the steel quite well in this size, and it has a presence, but physically I can’t go much bigger than this.”

Just down the hill, within sight of Jen’s work is another sculpture called Entwined by Bob Teasdale, of Bowning, NSW. An ephemeral work by Newcastle artist Gavin Vitullo – an improbably upright log in the common’s creek called A Thought is a Ripple – can be discovered by those who know where to look. At the visitor centre, a bronze kelpie by Central Victorian artist Jimmy Rix is being installed, and on a hill across town Braddon Snape’s large installation, Nothin’ but Sky, is available for everyone to stick their head inside and see 1.7 tonne of steel vanish so you see “nothing but sky”. 

All of these works are the result of a four-year-old not-for-profit venture called Sculpture on the Farm that has seen some of Australia’s greatest sculptors exhibit their work in the small Hunter Region town. After each exhibition, the Sculpture on the Farm committee offers to buy one work each for the council and Dungog Common. 

“Sculpture on the Farm has three aims,” says founder and chair, Philippa Graham. “To provide an excellent art exhibition, to donate works to Dungog and to provide education about the arts to the region.”

This story excerpt is from Issue #144

Outback Magazine: August/September 2022