Sculpture is a Contact Sport?


I have always had a little inkling in the dim dark recesses of my mind that sculpture, performance and installation is different to any other visual art form. It often has more similarities in common with sporting physicality.

You may think I am joking, but after the recent Rylstone Wood Sculpture Symposium, I am becoming more convinced. After playing many years of good level field hockey (legally getting up close and personal with a big stick in the company of 10 other blokes working together), and sailing regattas at a pretty high level, I feel I am reasonably qualified to make this comparison.

Physically doing a sculpture, as compared to painting or photography, you can be put through the wringer. After a couple of hours of hard work, every bone in your body can be aching through the sheer material effort required on some jobs. Of course, the mind cops a good thrashing, continually thinking/analysing/re-evaluating/redesigning – but that is also common with the 2D formats. What I’m talking about is celebrating the beatings and injuries that you come out of the other side from and admire a satisfying job well done, and you carry the scars to prove it.

At Rylstone, this was taken to another level. Normally, we as artists work alone, but on this occasion, a ‘Symposium’ brings together a variety of quality sculptors in the one workspace all pulling together for a common successful end goal. Here, we had to get on well together working in such a close environment with some very dangerous tools. We needed each other’s respect and co-operation, which was shared in spades. We picked each other’s brains, we collaborated, we assisted, we pulled together to a new level as we each wanted to see each member of our ‘team’ excel. So much like a good sporting team.

Additionally, I was amused to find that I was wearing almost all my strapping that I required to function successfully over the last few seasons of sport (not getting any younger you know). From my mandatory wrist strapping, to elbow and back strapping, plus the protective gloves, face shields and masks, and glasses so I could see what I was doing - they all came out every session of every day. Then there was the ‘pre & post-game’ stretching I had to do to remain functional and mobile. Naturally, there was the ‘post-game’ quiet refreshing beverage with your teammates to reflect on the day’s endeavours. This was just like at one of the many tournaments and regattas I had been to over the years! And, I was just as exhausted after each day!

So, using a completely worn out cliché, after this ten-day tournament, hockey was the winner yet again ... oops, wrong mind-flip – after this ten day Symposium, Sculpture was the winner! You just have to look at all the media around it to see how true this became, for example:
And WIN News -

Seriously, this was soo much like one of the great State hockey carnivals or major sailing regattas I have enjoyed over the years: you meet and make great new friends, perform to your best, are physically and mentally exhausted after, and have done some great work along the way. Who says sport and art are not compatible in Aus???!!