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The Living Desert and leaving Broken Hill.

Road Trip Day 8: 30th May 2007

It seemed like every artist in Broken Hill has had a go at painting the Living Desert Sculptures. I'd seen it in so many artworks, including The Big Picture, that it almost felt like there was no need to go and see the actual sculptures.

Today we were supposed to leave Broken Hill but after yesterday's down pours the morning greeted us with blue skies so Rose and I took the opportunity to make our final stop in Broken Hill a trip to the sculptures.

The Living Desert is actually the name of the flora and fauna park located near the Sculpture Symposium Park but the name Living Desert Sculptures seems to have caught on. Located nine kilometers from Broken Hill you can drive all the way to the sculpture park if you obtain a gate key from the visitor centre in town. Alternatively you can go to the second entrance that gives you access to the flora and fauna park and the sculptures via a 20 minute walk trail (up hill).

Rose and I opted for the walk trail entrance so we could head out of Broken Hill without any further stops. If you're fit then it is worth taking the trail as it offers some spectacular views of the landscape (which you will notice on the way back).

Having been unimpressed with the Barossa Sculpture Symposium and didn't have high expectations of the sculptures at Broken hill - especially as I had some idea from the many paintings of the kind of contemporary forms that had been created.

This Symposium seems to have been created at the whim of sculpture artist Lawrence Beck whom noted that Broken Hill had some of the best painters in Australia but no sculpture. Beck put the idea to council to create the park using Wilcannia Sandstone and in 1993 the project went ahead with council funding and community support.

Twelve sculptors from various locations around the world were invited to create a sculpture inspired by the environment, their own ideas and carvings created 30 000 years ago by local aborigines.

The centre piece sculpture (see photo right) is called "Bajo El Sol Jaguar" (Under the Jaguar Sun) by Antonio Nava Tirado from Mexico is surprisingly not in the centre. In fact the whole park is not laid out in the straight line that it is often depicted in paintings. This particular sculpture is arguably the most striking and contemporary and has become the centre piece because it looks great at sunset (for the brochures - you can do a sunset tour of the sculptures).

Rather than describing each sculpture, some are clearly more to my taste than others, I thought a comparison between this symposium and the one in the Barossa might be more worthwhile.

As a whole the Broken Hill Sculpture symposium works well and is quite a spectacular display. Where the Barossa Symposium struggles to make use of the sweeping vista it competes with, Broken Hill uses the view to enhance and compliment the art. It is very hard not to take a photo of each individual artwork without including the vast view behind as a backdrop. These works don't compete with the view, they are inherently part of the view.

All of the Broken Hill sculptures are quite close together forming a whole where as in the Barossa the sculptures are scattered and isolated. Many of the Barossa's sculptures require you to look back at the hill rather than out to the view thus making the art feel less monumental. No such problem exists at Broken Hill. Even the sculptures not to my liking still look impressive.

The Living Desert Sculpture Symposium is indeed as impressive and worthy of so many paintings. Artists in Broken Hill have clearly embraced it as an icon (it's a shame the Barossa Art community doesn't feel the same about their park). Rose and I didn't think we'd get to see it but thankfully we did. Another MUST SEE if you're planning a trip to Broken Hill.

With that our visit to the 'Silver City' was over and we undertook the drive back, en route to Whyalla. Tonight we've made it as far as Peterborough stopping at the Peterborough Motel. Tomorrow we're going to head out as early as possible heading for our detour to Laura (for the photo opportunity with the C. J. Dennis statue) then full steam ahead to Whyalla, our next major stop.

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