The new addition to Port Macquarie, Oxley Highway

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By now we’ve all seen the large, conical sculpture at the new entrance to Port Macquarie on the Oxley Highway, and most of us have probably wondered who created it and what it represents. Artist Rick Reynolds is responsible for creating quite a few remarkable sculptures throughout the Hastings and Manning areas … sculptures that leave a lasting impression and reflect the imagination of their creator. But as Rick explains, it’s really for the viewer to decide what symbolism and meaning to attach to each piece of art …

Please give us a brief bio of yourself as an artist ..

I moved to Elands in 1970 after attending the National Art School (East Sydney Tech). My interest in sculpture came from meeting Bert Flugelman, who was an inspiring teacher and taught me in my first year there.

I started making sculpture seriously about 12 years ago and entering competitions and shows when sculpture became popular and there were more opportunities to show the works. My first public sculpture was the Centenary of Federation sculpture in Victoria St Taree, Balancing Act 2001.

What type of artworks do you typically create?

I make sculptures in steel or wood and installations of short-term site-specific works produced for shows like ‘Sculpture by the Sea’ and ‘Aquasculpture’ etc. These are made from whatever material is available and appropriate: saplings, rope, nets, aluminium- foil pie plates.

How did the opportunity to create the large sculpture adjacent to the new entrance to Port Macquarie on the Oxley Highway come about?

I was one of four sculptors invited to submit a proposal to produce a work as a ‘Gateway’ to Port. We each created a model and responded to the brief. The models were presented to the adjudicating committee, we sold our ideas, and mine was chosen.

Describe the logistics of creating thepiece …
What was the inspiration behind this work … and what does it represent?

The brief was complex, and there were a lot of things the sculpture was meant to represent

– including the 2030 strategic plan for the shire. It’s typical of public art that it is meant to represent just about everything that is noble, civic, just and good, as well as being durable, maintenance free and graffiti proof.

The sculpture is a development of a series of works I had created using hardwood saplings. The brief stipulated durable, low maintenance materials, so the flagpoles were the obvious choice and suited the roadside site. The avenue of flagpoles is a common entrance strategy.

The sculpture is a unique welcome to this beautiful and sophisticated riverside city.

The symbolism in a sculpture is secondary to the actual experience of viewing the work, which is unique for each person. The sculpture is a response to the site i.e. the roundabout. It is circular, see-through and lightweight; it gives the illusion of movement as you drive past it.

The best interpretation of the symbolism I have heard is the Feng shui version: the upper cone reaches out to the Cosmos and draws in positive energy, while the lower cone holds that energy in place, thereby bringing wellbeing to the people of Port Macquarie (Bee Teck Lim). But it’s really for the viewer to decide. It is called the ‘Port Gateway’.

The sculpture was made with the assistance of a number of people: Rob Butler – tech and 3D drawings; Alan Taylor Assoc – engineering, RPE engineering; Ace Flagpoles – supplied and tapered the aluminium tubes; Decke Sheetmetal – the aluminium and steel fabrication; MVP – powder-coating; AJS Welding – onsite installation; RTA – funding; Hastings Council – administration; Greg Wilson – best boy; and special thanks
– Saarasa Madden.

I had the idea, did some drawings, made a model, liaised with the suppliers, woke at 3am worrying about it all, put it all together in the backyard, numbered the pieces, deconstructed it, and trucked it to the site. From contract to completion was about 10 months. Made of steel and aluminium, it weighs about 2 tonnes. It is fully demountable.

What was the biggest challenge for you in terms of creating the roadside sculpture?

The biggest challenge, always, is coming up with an idea that is worth the effort that goes into the making. The next biggest challenge was communicating with the collaborators.

How much did you enjoy creating the work, and did you learn anything from the process?

Each work is a learning experience. Lesson number one: don’t be too precious. Getting to the end of the job and seeing the finished product is pretty enjoyable.

As with all artistic endeavours, we have to be prepared to accept both praise and criticism for our work. How do you deal with negative feedback for your creations (if any)?

Negative feedback is just part of the deal and is often the result of misunderstanding the role of art in society – and a feeling that someone is trying to make a fool of you and you just don’t get it. There is no secret.
It’s just one more thing in the landscape … another piece of the jigsaw.

The signs on top of the Roadhouse, or McDonald’s, have a bigger footprint than the sculpture has. The difference is, the sculpture is not selling anything. It’s free! ‘And just a little bit classy’!

Some people resent the fact that Councils spend big on art, while the infrastructure crumbles. In fact, the funding comes from outside sources, so there is a net benefit to the ratepayers – and if more local contractors were prepared to play, more of the money would stay in the shire.

‘No Art’ doesn’t mean the roads will be repaired.

What other projects do you have in the pipeline at the moment?

I am doing oil paintings and making small sculptures for a show at Gallery Aloft in Rozelle in May.

Where can people view your other work?

There are Flood-markers in North Haven, Laurieton and Dunbogan (sculpted poles with steel fish and flood levels). The Windmill hill sculpture, ‘Foley’, AKA The Pencil.

There was (in living memory), a sculpture at the Sovereign Hills development, ‘the River’, soon to be relocated to a secret site outside the Shire.

Sculptures in Taree: Outside the Gallery, ‘The Weight’ and ‘Lizard Lounge’; and in Victoria St, ‘Balancing Act’.

My website is www.rickreynolds.info

Email:rick.reynolds@bigpond.com

Thanks Rick.

Interview by Jo Atkins.

This story was published in issue 78 of Port Macquarie Focus 

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