Bronwyn Oliver

Dirigible, 1989
45.0 x 35.0 x 25.0 cm


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Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney
Private collection, Canada

Bronwyn Oliver, Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney, 1993

Art critic Bruce James once called Bronwyn Oliver "Queen of the Uncanny", and the black copper sculpture 'Dirigible' (1998) is a wonderful example of her unique vision as a sculptor.

The easy, voluptuous curves of the work disguises the painstaking nature of the artist's process; twisting and welding the pliant copper wire to create the intricate metal weave. The microcosmic, complex surface of the work is an interface between the elegant form of the sculpture's overall shape and the internal cavity or void where the sculpture breathes. It is at once fragile and forbidding; crafted from metal and yet seemingly weightless. Oliver alludes to these intriguing tensions in the title of the work 'Dirigible' - a term for a blimp, or airship supported by its own buoyancy. The three dimensional presence of this work is so demanding that even the shadow that it produces is outstanding.

Hannah Fink wrote of Oliver's art: "It might seem facile to read her life, and her death, into the works, but she was so much like her work: simple yet complicated, fragile yet strong, eccentric though oddly straightforward."

  • Dirigible

Image courtesy of the artist's estate and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney

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When Bronwyn Oliver enrolled to study painting at Sydney's Alexander Mackie College in 1977, a computer error assigned her to the school's sculpture department instead. A fortuitous glitch indeed, since the young artist was not only instantly taken with three-dimensional media, but also went on to become one of Australia's most significant sculptors.

Oliver was an artist of unique vision, and had an extraordinarily focused commitment to her practice. When she died in 2006 at age 47 she left a legacy of nearly three decades of outstanding work, including both domestic sculptures and ambitiously-scaled commissions such as 'Vine' which spirals 16.5 meters from the ceiling of Sydney's Hilton Hotel.

After graduating from art school in Sydney, Oliver completed her Masters of Art at Chelsea School of Art in London in 1983. In 1993 she was selected for the inaugural Beijing Biennale, and in 1994 she was the recipient of the prestigious Moet & Chandon Fellowship. Her signature organic metal sculptures are now held in most major public collections in Australia as well as many important national and international private and corporate collections. A significant retrospective of her work was held at the McClelland Sculpture Park and Gallery in 2005, and in 2006 Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery held the memorial exhibition 'Bronwyn Oliver 1959 - 2006'.

Oliver said of her art: "When the ideas, the formal elements and the medium all work together a sculpture will 'sing' with a kind of rightness. It takes on a life, a presence, which is removed from this world. It belongs to a mythical other life, without a place in time."