Mengler Hill: Barossa Sculpture Park Revisited

April 14th, 2009

After the some-what disappointing Step Back in Time, Rose and I decided to head up the road (and up the hill) to the Mengler Hill Lookout, home of the Barossa Sculpture Symposium. I wrote about these sculptures when Rose visited me back in 2007 and at the time was unimpressed with what I saw.

However, sometime during the year 2008 a new Symposium was held with a few more international sculptors being invited to contribute new works to the existing park. Hence, since we were so close, we thought we would have a look.

As near as we could tell about eight (possibly nine) new sculptures have been added to the park. Unusually we couldn't find any information about who made them or what each new sculpture was called (other than some pretty rough signature inscriptions into the sculptures themselves - one even had the artist's web address carved into the base).

All but one of the new sculptures were fairly simplistic abstract shapes much like the existing sculptures. The odd one out was only different because it had a simplistic female figure carved into the rock (see photo, right - Rose is the figure not made out of rock!).

In my opinion the new sculptures simply give visitors more to look at and do very little to enhance the park's experience overall. If abstract shapes and symbolism are your thing when it comes to art then put this on your MUST SEE list. Personally I'm not into it.

I know carving anything out of rock is a difficult ask but I can't help thinking many of the original masters (such as Michelangelo) did sculpture so much better with far more primitive tools than what is available to artists today. It's not like I want to see classical sculpture with realistic figures depicting bible stories, myths and legends but please, give me something with depth and detail that makes me marvel at the skill required to achieve such artistic excellence.

If you can't do that at least arrange the sculptures closer together so their combined presence makes some kind of statement as a whole. In this park the sculptures are just too far apart and don't really have any visual cohesiveness to each other beyond being sculptures carved from the same type of rock.

All of the sculptures in this park I feel I could create with a six week crash course in rock carving. It's a terrible generalisation akin to saying my kid could make that. Like the kid I probably couldn't make these sculptures, or if I could, would I think to make them? Probably not.

Perhaps the Barossa Council would like a giant stone carving of one of my cats?

6 comments:

  1. I don't usually comment first on my own posts but I wanted to add that while we were wandering around the sculpture park a large tour bus pulled into the look out. A few people got off to take a photo of the view but not one person came down to look around the park.

    Perhaps they were on a time limit but what does that say about the sculpture park if tour operators don't give their guests time to look around?

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  2. Thank You!
    I totally get what you are saying. These giant paper weights are very rarely appealing. There is some good contemporary stone sculpture out there but it's not that easy to come by.

    I am a stone sculptor and I work for a sculptor. Daniel SInclair, he is a real modern day Michelangelo or at least the closest to it. You can see his work at dmsstudios.com

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  3. Thanks for the comment wdandins. I did look at Daniel's web site and his work is truly beautiful and stunning. Great to see that classical stone sculpture work is still being practiced today.

    Whilst I wouldn't necessarily want to see classical sculpture on Menglar hill I'm sure there must be more contemporary stone sculpture that has that same breath taking 'wow' factor that I get from seeing classical work such as Daniels.

    Mengler hill has so much history surrounding it. It deserves something better than abstract symbolism and shapes that the local community doesn't seem to be able to embrace.

    Broken Hill has a similar set of abstract stone sculptures but done so much better. The arts community there not only embraces their park they paint pictures featuring it - over and over.

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  4. I like your post and it is so good and I am definetly going to save it. One thing to say the In depth analysis this blog has is trully remarkable.

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  5. The two main name plaques detailing the sculptors names and their matching artworks are set into the ground nearest the ramp access point. I believe the reason that Menglers Hill Barossa Sculpture Park does not have more appealing sculptures is that the area is not manned by security and that greater works or art are likely to be stolen or vandalised. And yes they were created in limited time frames. Lots of constant challenges for the parks' caretakers. Some-one has already tried to burn the large terracotta plaque and some-one has attempted to obliterate the wheat-sheaf on the adjacent carved stone panel. The road surface of the lookout is thick with tire marks from burnouts. Beer bottles have been shattered after being thrown from the lookout towards the sculptures. I'm with you, I don't find it appealing, but then stone is not my thing.

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    Replies
    1. I don't really buy that the quality of art has been affected by the potential for it to be stolen or vandalized. I doubt that even crossed anyone's mind. I also think the artists themselves would be offended by the idea that their work was considered of a lower quality for that reason.

      What really lets this park down is the disconnected nature of the art. Even if the sculptures are based around similar themes (which I think they are) they're placed so far apart that you can't really appreciate them in any other way than on their individual merits.

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