Noise from the traffic pounded my ears, heat from the pavement burned my feet and the sun’s rays bombarded my head. As the door of the gallery closed behind me my skin rippled to the pleasurable shock of the cold air. I had plunged naked into cold water. Melbourne streets on a hot summer’s day are not the most sublime of places but here in this sanctuary serenity reigned.
My watery feeling was confirmed and justified when I saw the green, organic, marinelike objects. There must have been about a dozen or more each on a substantial white plinth arranged spaciously within the generously proportioned room. The plain white walls were free of adornment, refreshing for a sculpture exhibition in a commercial gallery. Usually these galleries feel the need, if only commercially, to cover the walls with paintings thus detracting from and distracting to the sculpture. Here at Australian Art Resources in City Road, Melbourne sculpture is taken seriously and given its due. ‘We like to let the sculptures breathe’, the attendant told me; a sentiment I could relate to and for which I inwardly congratulated her.
This was the Flugelman exhibition; a rarity in Melbourne, Bert being a Sydneysider. His last exhibition here was in 2002.
His art career has spanned most of his 85 year lifetime and it shows. Each piece, of domestic table-top size and mounted on a white marble slab, exuded the intellectual distillation and technical mastery achieved only with the long passage of time. These are the works of a master of his art.
From a distance the unity of this collection of organic green forms is striking and unusual. Not that this has been achieved by repetition or similarity but by a close attention to the idea of theme, several pieces uniquely different in form but together forming a body of work unmistakeably united in their common aesthetic. Made from a simple material, thin copper sheet; constructed with a simple technique, soldering or perhaps brazing, and finished unpretentiously with a green patina, these sculptures are a testimony to all that sculpture aspires to, a manifestation of human understanding of the world.
Simple forms such as these often look spare, hurried in the making and sometimes unfinished as though the sculptor’s idea faded part way through the making; but not these. As a group they are impressive, and individually, and this is the test, each of these works stands alone at its own pinnacle of artistic achievement.
I inspected each work closely looking for, dare I say it, the flaw, deliberately put there, as by the old, Persian carpet weavers because only god can make something perfect; but I found none. Aesthetically and technically this body of work is perfect. McClelland gallery bought one; they must have been tempted to buy the lot.
The next show at Art Resources is the work of Robert Hague; but that’s another kettle of fish.