28 Mar 2019

The shape of things to come for Brisbane's public art

A lack of finances in Brisbane's art scene means the city's creatives rely on generosity, frugality and a "make do" attitude that creates a community of collaboration, artists and architects say.

That generosity stems from before Expo '88, which helped place public art in Brisbane's psyche as a key part of civic living.

At a Committee for Brisbane architecture and public art forum held at the Museum of Brisbane on Thursday night, moderator and Brisbane Portrait Prize director Anna Reynolds held a discussion on how the city's art and architecture were going global.

Carolyn Karnovsky, the principle for creative strategy at UAP; Liam Proberts, the director of Bureau Proberts; artist Lindy Lee; and UQ School of Architecture lecturer Dr Susan Holden joined the panel in discussion.

The conversation focused on Brisbane's increasing identity on a global platform, of how Brisbane's artists and architects were collaborating with international companies, individuals and governments.

Panellists agreed the lines between architecture and art were "dissolving" as public art in civic spaces became increasingly large-scale, thoughtful and valued.

Along with governments, developers and private companies were investing in public art, creating an "equitable" place for all people to enjoy and benefit from art.

Lee, a renowned international artist from Brisbane, pointed to one example of a community artistic installation she led in the regional Victorian town of Avoca about eight years ago.

The installation told the history of the region's Chinese gold miners, who walked from Adelaide across to the mines generations ago.

"It was a wonderful experience for me because a lot of people then came up with stories of their grandmothers who were Chinese," she said.

"These really important personal and community stories started to arise and that is one of the functions of art, it … gives occasion for people to connect to place."

The Garden of Fire and Water was built to commemorate the Chinese gold miners and recognise their legacy in the region, bringing in community funds and frugality to make the installation work.

"It was a really fantastic occasion for community coming together and unburying the history that there was shame attached to, and that was the best thing," Lee said.

"That sense of connection - that’s profound, and that’s what art can do."

Karnovsky, who works for Brisbane-based artistic company UAP, said when she arrived in Brisbane she was struck by the sense of collaboration.

"What’s been really nice about now working in Brisbane and Queensland, is I really feel a very palpable sense of generosity and openness," she said.

Proberts noted the fact that Brisbane's art scene had historically been limited by what funding was available, both government and private.

"We’ve had to be pretty frugal … in Brisbane and Queensland for quite a while," he said.

"You have to collaborate, you have to put the right team together to get a project going.

"I think we’ve become more adept at it."

During question time, a member of the audience noted Brisbane's extensive history of public art, including the Expo '88 art trail - a project being revitalised by Brisbane City Council.

The council is bringing many of the art pieces from Expo '88 back to life, starting at the Brisbane sign in South Bank and ending at Frew Park at Milton.

Three of the Expo '88 art pieces -  The Drover and his Mate, Be Prepared and The Ramp - will be re-cast in bronze by local foundries and displayed permanently on the trail.

https://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/national/queensland/the-shape-of-things-to-come-for-brisbane-s-public-art-20190322-p516la.html

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